Senior Master Ed Small Retires After 45 Years at Gunn

Senior Master Ed Small at Convocation in 2018

On June 10, Ed Small, the Anne S. and Ogden D. Miller Senior Master, shared with Head of School Peter Becker that, after 45 years of teaching, coaching, dorm parenting, and advising at The Frederick Gunn School, he had made the decision to retire.

“Ed has been an integral part of our community for more than four decades,” Becker said. “He and Peg have impacted the lives of countless Gunn students and we will have the chance to celebrate his service next fall. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Ed on an epic teaching career and thanking him for his friendship and colleagueship over so many years.” 

A graduate of Bowdoin College, Small arrived on campus on September 1, 1977, with his wife and childhood sweetheart, Peg. He was hired as a math teacher, one of 15 new teachers hired by then-Headmaster Burgess Ayres to join the faculty that fall, along with Pamela Taylor and Hugh Caldara. It was an auspicious time for the school. Their start coincided with the return of coeducation, and the arrival of the first class to include female students since 1921. Small’s responsibilities in those early years included teaching computer programming and Algebra II and serving as Head Coach for Boys JV Basketball. “I was the only dorm parent in Emerson. I didn’t get a day off until March,” he recalled in an interview for the Bulletin in 2019.

Peg Small started working full time as School Registrar in July 1978, after working part-time in various administrative positions the prior year. During their tenure, the Smalls served under four different Heads of School and contributed to every facet of life at school.

“Ed brought many skills to the school over his four decades but underlying all is his deep and abiding belief in the personal and academic potential of every student,” said former Head of School Michael Eanes H’90 P’90 GP’20 ’23 ’25. “In his own, sometimes taciturn (Maine!) way, he brought out the best in his math students, his athletes, and particularly his advisees. It is a testimony to his effectiveness as the quintessential boarding school teacher/coach/advisor that so many alumni have stayed in touch with him.”

As the parent of an alumna and a Gunn grandparent, Eanes noted Small has always been a favorite of faculty children — and campus canines. “Susan H’91 P’90 GP’20 ’23 ’25 and I are so grateful that our daughter, Laura Eanes Martin ’90 P’20 ’23 ’25, and two of our grandchildren, Luke Martin ’23 and Amelia Martin ’25, have had the privilege of being his students. We wish him all the best as he embarks on his next chapter, a well-deserved retirement.”

As a teacher, Small taught some 15 different math courses, served as advisor to the Mathletes, created the curriculum for the Operations Research course, and has been the only faculty member to teach it. Outside of the classroom, he wrote a computer program to maintain the school’s academic course schedule, he was a member of the Curriculum Committee and the Disciplinary Committee.

As Head of the Mathematics Department, he hired Alisa Croft, who at the time was a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut. The two remain close colleagues and friends, coached Girls Varsity Soccer together, and she succeeded him as Mathematics Department Chair. In an interview for the Bulletin in 2019, Croft was asked which faculty member had most influenced her. “Ed’s an easy choice,” she said at the time. “Ed hired me and has been a great mentor. The way he does things is very deliberate and thoughtful. He’s easy to emulate that way.”

This week, Croft said: “When I think about Ed, a smile comes across my face, and I imagine countless other students and colleagues have this same reaction when hearing Ed’s name.  For me, this smile comes from the years that he made me feel like family on The Frederick Gunn School campus and from the hours spent together discussing lots of life and school experiences. It is my hope to smile brightly in the coming years every time I think of all those lessons I have learned from Ed, and after I smile, I will think of the smile that he would have given me back if he were still on campus.”

Over the course of four decades, Small coached about 10 different athletic teams, and up until 2012, coached teams in all three seasons. He was the Assistant Coach for Varsity Football with “Cal,” his close friend and colleague for 37 years at Gunn. In recent years, Small was an assistant coach for Varsity Cross Country and Varsity Baseball, serving alongside Assistant Coach Richard Martin P’20 ’23 ’25 and the David N. Hoadley ’51 Baseball Coach, Jeff Trundy. Together, they traveled with the baseball team to Florida in March, for the team’s annual spring trip, the boys flocking to Peg’s SUV whenever they had to drive somewhere.

“Ed was with me from Day One, ever since I arrived on campus,” recalled Trundy, who has been coaching baseball and teaching science at the school for about 25 years, and said Small’s commitment to coaching baseball was born out of his love for the game itself. “Ed loves baseball. I thought that always came across loud and clear. He loved working with the kids and helping them get better. I counted on him a lot. He was ‘Mr. Organization.’ Whether in the classroom, coaching baseball or another sport, or planning graduation, it didn’t matter; he was just very organized. He gave so much to kids. I think a lot of his lessons became very valuable to kids as they moved forward in life.”

The annual trip to Florida is also something that members of the baseball team look back on with great fondness. “It was always a great time in Florida. We always had our laughs. Ed loved going to spring training games. It was Ed, Richard and I, and Peg, too. It was important to the team to have them both there. She was like the Team Mom. It was a special trip,” Trundy said, adding. “I’m happy for him and Peg. We’re all going to miss them. His contributions to the school are immeasurable. You can’t do something as long as he did without having a positive impact.”

Prior to Peg’s retirement as School Registrar in 2021, after 42 years of service to the school, the Smalls had served as dorm parents in eight different dorms, including Emerson from 1977 to 1983. They raised two sons on campus, Tyler and Brett, and are beloved by generations of Gunn alumni who as students sought their advice, encouragement and support, which often came in the form of Peg’s homemade peanut butter squares. Alumni will fondly remember Small was often accompanied on campus by one of his yellow Labradors, including Tucker and Huckabee, who were his faithful companions for over a decade, and in later years, by Buckaroo.

In 2014, following the retirement of his friend and colleague, Russ Elgin, Small took up the mantle of Senior Master. Small had the arduous job of moving the Commencement ceremony from the  Meeting House on the Green (with traditions first established in 1924) to the tent on Edward Wersebe Memorial Field, a necessary step to accommodate the whole school and the increasing number of family members who wished to attend. The Class of 2017 was the first to graduate in the new location, and that same year, through a gift from Dwight Miller ’55 in the name of his parents to honor the senior masters of the school, Small was named the first Anne S. and Ogden D. Miller Senior Master.

The Senior Master position, given to the faculty member with the most years of service, has been interpreted in many different ways since its establishment in 1938 under then-Headmaster Tertius van Dyke. Each incumbent has assumed more (or less) of the tasks of his predecessor and each has stamped the job with his own personality. Consistently, it has been the senior master’s task to carry the Gunn Mace. Small did so with pride and grace at Convocation in the fall and Commencement in the spring, an event he devoted many hours of careful attention and planning to, and which he declared his favorite Gunn tradition (with School Walk a close second). In the role of Senior Master, Small assisted in the presentation of awards at Prize Night, another tradition he led well, and he delivered the invocation and benediction at annual events from Convocation to Investiture, thereby invoking a blessing upon students and faculty at the beginning and end of every school year.

Asked in 2019 which faculty or students had the greatest influence on him in his years at the school, he responded, “Every student has an influence on you, good or bad. If you’re a teacher, you can learn something from every faculty member, too.” 

Additional Images

Top: Ed carrying the Gunn Mace at Convocation in the Meeting House on the Green, September 2018; Above, with the school's 2019 Commencement speaker, Wanji Walcott P’19, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Small with Mark Choi '18 at Commencement

Presenting Mark Choi '18 with The Gunn Cup at Commencement in 2018

Small at Commencement in 2015

At Commencement

Small in the classroom, 2015

Teaching math

Ed and Peg with alumni at the NWHL Connecticut Whale home game in 2019

Ed and Peg cheered Gunn alumni and faculty in a NWHL Connecticut Whale home game in 2019 (left to right): Morgan Dow '16, Samantha Walther '14, Sarah Hughson '14, former Gunn Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Coach Jamie Goldsmith, Kayla Meneghin '14, Amanda Sabia '16, and Emma Kileen '17.

Small with Garrett Coe '19

High-fiving pitcher Garett Coe '19, who now plays for the University of Connecticut

Small with Trundy at Convocation 2018

Congratulating colleague Jeff Trundy, who was named the holder of the Noto Family Chair for Dedicated Service at Convocation in 2018

Ed and Peg with their grandson, Aiden

Ed and Peg with their grandson, Aiden