Mr. McCloskey and Mr. Hilles-Pillant Retire
by Rebecca Chernick on Friday, June 7th, 2013
Two beloved Milton teachers, Mr. McCloskey and Mr. Hilles-Pilant, will be retiring at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Mr. McCloskey has been working in the English Department for 42 years. He began teaching at Milton in 1971, when “the college job market had collapsed.” Mr. McCloskey took a liking to the school: “Milton was comfortable and reminded me of New Orleans. My wife and I loved being in the dorm—things were much looser then—and I stayed because I liked it.” He added, “I was given too much to do as a first year teacher, and I am not sure that I did any of it well.” Nevertheless, he has certainly been valuable to the Milton Academy, serving as a houseparent, English teacher, editor of the alumni magazine, and faculty advisor to The Milton Paper.
Though Mr. McCloskey has not really thought about his retirement plans, since he will continue to teach part time in the Spring of 2014, he said “I have considered writing a book about a teacher’s experience at a New England preparatory school. It would be a comedy of manners, of course. Not ‘School for Scandal,’ but more likely ‘The Way of the World.’” Mr. McCloskey said, “I will miss students and the people I work with in the English Department.”
Ali Edwards (I), who had Mr. McCloskey as both her English teacher and advisor, says, “he’s super easy to talk to and get along with. He’s always been super supportive of me.” In class, she says, “he really just gives us some prompting thoughts, and then lets us take the conversation wherever we want. He chimes into the conversation naturally, less like a teacher and more just another one of us trying to make sense of the book. He’s always straightforward and honest with everyone. He can be really funny, and, of course, he’s got the best southern accent.”
Nick Jiang (II) says, “he’s a fun teacher but strict enough to make you get your work done.” Nick’s fondest memory of Mr. McCloskey is “watching him scooter around the classroom on a Razor scooter that Geoff Owens (II) brought to class.”
When asked about Mr. McCloskey, Helena Thatcher (II) recalls a funny memory: “he once told me that ‘I could not throw a party, because one does not throw a party. One simply has a party; one THROWS a drunken orgy.’” She adds, “Mr. McCloskey doesn’t just teach English. He teaches life. Not only did I learn about Oedipus complexes or Homer’s masterpieces, but also I learned how to speak in an organized manner, and, more importantly, shout to have my opinion known!”
Something that the Milton Academy community may not know about Mr. McCloskey is that he wrote a historical romance novel, Risking Elizabeth, published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster. Nick thinks that Mr. McCloskey will be remembered as “that cool guy with a sword cane who wrote Risking Elizabeth,” while Helena thinks “he will be remembered as an amazing man with an incredible British/southern accent.” Ali put it most simply with these words: “Mr. McCloskey is the best.”
Mr. Hilles-Pilant, affectionately known as Mr. H-P, has been teaching at Milton since 1986, and he has taught in Japan and Italy with School Year Abroad (SYA) for the past three years. Mr. H-P is currently traveling the world and was unfortunately unavailable for interview. However, Heather Sugrue, Head of the Mathematics Department, says, “he is an amazing musician, a thoughtful mathematician who has taught across the entire curriculum, and a great colleague. We will miss having him on the faculty but know that he has greatly enjoyed his travels over the past few years at SYA.”
Brendon Piccinni (II) spent a semester at SYA Italy this year. Although he did not have Mr. H-P as a teacher, he did get to know him, and describes him as “very funny. His sense of humor was always up to date…the jokes he made were never off point.” Brendon added that, while at SYA Italy, Mr. H-P and his wife “have been excellent mentors for a local Italian faculty’s daughter to try and help her achieve her dreams of coming to Milton, which is inspiring.”
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