Ralph Reinwald: 50 Years of Service to Friends Select School

Ralph Reinwald's commitment to both Friends Select and its math program is unmatched. In his early days, he shifted the focus of his advanced Math IV course to singlehandedly create the school’s first Probability and Statistics course at the request of the class. “I built the course simply because the students wanted it,” he explained. In addition to continuously teaching a standard math curriculum, Ralph has created an extensive library of courses—many of which were never offered at Friends Select before his arrival, and were inspired by the daily meaningful interactions with students who shared his passion for mathematics—including Linear Algebra, Number Theory, and Econometrics. “I began to feel really interested in developing the math curriculum beyond what was offered because I had students who wanted to be challenged and I was given the freedom to be creative. I don’t think I would have had that opportunity anywhere else,” he said.
 
In his five-decade career at Friends Select, Ralph has seen just as many classes graduate, taught countless students, worked under eight heads of school, and taught in almost every academic department. “I think I’ve taught in every department except physical education,” he said. “Although I did help with middle school swimming at one point, so perhaps there’s an argument there.” Ralph’s teaching repertoire includes electives, such as Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek civilization, and Ancient Egyptian history; he’s taught Native American Mythology in the English department, Technical Drawing in the visual arts department, and Introduction to Philosophy. “I even taught a Public Speaking elective, based on what I learned when I studied it in college. We used the Blauvelt Theatre and worked on developing various types of speeches,” he said. “Where else would I have this kind of job?”
 
Ralph reflected on how 50 years at Friends Select went by rapidly. “Time has passed quickly because each year is a new adventure full of excitement and possibilities, not least of which is the individual input of students,” he said. To fill the summer months, Ralph offers courses to students who want to continue their studies or supplement their work. “It’s hard to slow down after the school year, and the summer is a nice time to continue focusing on the subjects I enjoy because there are no meetings or assemblies,” he said. “It’s a time I get to do what I love, and then I feel renewed to come back for the next school year.” In 2010, Ralph was recognized by Friends Select with the Distinguished Teaching Award; and he was recognized by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an influential teacher in 2016, nominated by Wei Chen ’16 and Imon Rahaman ’16, both MIT students at the time.
 
One of Ralph’s favorite roles at Friends Select has been grandparent; in 2017, Ralph’s granddaughter, Kyra Stetler ’17, graduated from the school. “The proudest moment of my time at Friends Select was when Kyra was awarded the Amy Wolgin Wiener ’77 Graduation Prize,” he said, adding, “Amy was one of my first students, and I loved her to pieces.” Each year, the prize is awarded to a graduating student in Amy’s memory who, like her, is a kind, active, and engaged member of the Friends Select community. “When I found out Kyra was one of the students nominated for the award, I nearly passed out! And, I was so proud to be the one to give it to her at her graduation ceremony.”
 
Teaching virtually has certainly been one of the most unique experiences over the course of Ralph’s five decades at Friends Select. And while he misses being in the building, connecting in person with students, and experiencing the energy of the everyday occurrences in the hallways, he is impressed with the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The school took control of an unbelievable situation and the community really pulled together,” he said. “We are all working to maintain Friends Select’s exceptional academic program in spite of the global pandemic. And we can all be proud of that.” 

Join us for a virtual celebration of Ralph Reinwald and his 50 years of teaching at Friends Select on Friday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Julia Greenberger ’02, director of alumni relations, at juliag@friends-select.org.