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The Milton Measure

Departing Faculty: Brian Cheney

by Jack Sullivan on Friday, June 9th, 2017

Brian Cheney, Milton Academy’s longtime teacher of the visual arts, is known by his students, alumni, and fellow teachers as an innovative teacher and a master of his craft. Throughout his time at Milton, he has seen many generations of art students come and go and has helped form the visual arts program into the program that we know today. After 49 years of working at Milton, he will be retiring at the end of this year.

In addition to his work as an art teacher, he has coached soccer, wrestling, and track, has parented numerous dorms, and has represented the faculty on the school’s Steering Committee, helping to plan and construct many of today’s buildings, including the Kellner Performing Arts Center, the Student Center, Pritzker, the Arts and Media Center, and Forbes Dining Hall, as well as the Norris and Millet dorms. He has also advised Milton’s yearbook committee for 34 years.

On the Steering Committee, he monitored and gave feedback to architects who planned out the school’s buildings. He made the suggestion that the two newest dorms should not be constructed on the East Campus near Goodwin and Hathaway and should instead be nearer to the rest of the school. Boarders at Millet and Norris can thank Mr. Cheney for the fact that they don’t need to trek to school every day. He also suggested that the Arts and Media Center could be renovated instead of rebuilt from the ground up, and that renovated building is the one we are familiar with today.

Former Milton student Denielle “Den” Bertarelli Webb ‘91 fondly recalls her educational experience in Mr. Cheney’s Photography 1 class, which she took in her sophomore year. “From basic darkroom skills to advanced camera functions to artistic interpretations using light, patterns, and perspective, the skills I learned in Photo 1 have stayed with me through my life,” she says. “My subjects are now my three girls instead of my classmates on the quad, and thanks to digital photography, the results are now instantaneous, but my love of photography remains. For that, I can thank Brian Cheney.” Den now has an awesome job in the visual arts. She works in the media industry, and her past responsibilities have included work on zombie marches and organizing public relations for AMC’s hit TV show, The Walking Dead.

After graduating from Harvard in 1968, Mr. Cheney joined Milton’s Art Department, which then included only two teachers. With his help, the arts program expanded, and he founded Milton’s photography program, which has now expanded to a three-year visual arts course. He later founded a course on woodworking and has most recently taught architecture and 2D/3D engineering.

Tom Gagnon, a science teacher at Milton and Cheney’s colleague, praises Cheney on his work as a teacher: “He has the ability to coordinate really well, with both students and teachers. Through his work as a teacher, the host of a campus guest house, and a dorm parent, Mr. Cheney has shown a remarkable dedication to Milton.”

The arts program has come a long way since Mr. Cheney arrived. What started off with only two teachers is now one of the school’s largest departments, offering 21 different courses at a variety of school levels, and Mr. Cheney was there through it all.

Throughout the years, Mr. Cheney has seen good times and bad times, but he really believes that Milton is “a really great place to teach.” His fondest memories are of the connections that he was able to form with his students, and he loves it when old students get in touch with him. “I have taught the children of some of my oldest students,” he says. “I haven’t taught any grandchildren yet, but I might have been able to if I had stayed for a couple more years.” Three of his own children attended Milton, and one son, Ian, works as a documentary filmmaker.

Reflecting on his years of teaching at Milton, Mr. Cheney feels that the things that he will miss the most are the students. Each student that gets into Milton is “unique” and “great to work with.” Mr. Cheney has no doubt put a lot of work into the school. Whether as a memorable teacher, a great co-worker, a dedicated coach, or even a friendly dorm parent, he will be sorely missed. However, long after he leaves, his innovations that changed the structure of Milton Academy will live on.


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Posted by Jack Sullivan on Jun 9 2017. Filed under More News, News, Recent News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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