Honoring Russ Messing


Russ Messing Celebration one three founders at Synergy School. October 22, 2017

Synergy’s foyer was humming with expectant energy on a sunny Sunday in October as people from all walks of Synergy life gathered to honor co-founder Russ Messing as he moves from 45 years of active Board of Trustees membership to emeritus status.  Eddie Taylor, a student in the very first class at Synergy School, brought his son with him from Oregon to see his former teachers and friends and to join in Russ’s celebration.  There were many teachers and alum students from the “old days,” some of whom have children now attending Synergy.  Russ’s three children, his four grandchildren (one of them a Synergy kindergartener) and his sister, long a Synergy supporter, were all here to participate in this joyful event.

In true Synergy fashion, the program began with a skit about the founding of Synergy in 1973 in a shell of a building that had previously been a diaper service (not dramatic invention… all true). A pick up band of current staff and alumni   singers and instrumentalists under Sam and Mahala’s direction performed several iconic Beatles songs, “Here Comes the Sun” and “All You Need Is Love” and the program was off and running.

Gratitude was the theme of the day.  Gratitude for Russ the visionary who, along with co-founders Katherine Czesak and Jill Goffstein Stocks, dreamed big.  Gratitude for Russ the gifted teacher whose love of teaching, whimsical imagination and empathy made him an inspiring teacher, and gratitude for Russ “ the chief engineer and chief champion of Synergy’s financial foundation” as alum parent Marilyn Bancel wrote in her letter celebrating Russ.  

Kevin White, alumni parent, spoke directly to Russ.  “Russ, I am so glad that you had the courage, naiveté, and gumption years ago to call Katherine and Jill and say, ‘Hey, I bought a building, we’re starting our school.’ And look what happened. You were a ‘disruptive startup’ long before any of us knew what that meant.  And for that my family is grateful. As I’m sure many of the current and alum parents and students here right now are as well.”

  Dario Abramskiehn, a member of the graduating class of 2002, recalled his experiences at Farm School, founded by Arlene Naschke, and held at the Naschke-Messing homestead of Deergnaw in Healdsburg until 2012,  “Farm School…. was a place to explore and make mistakes and be safe and loved and creative in this exceptionally beautiful place.”

Alumni Derek Rosenfield ’79 brought the uniqueness of this kind of celebration in a K-8 school home.  “My third and final child will graduate from Synergy this year. I’m grateful to Russ, and I feel fortunate in a particular way. There are other institutions in our lives where the founders are just pictures on a wall. I’m lucky that with Russ, who helped start a place that’s been so important in my life, I can hug him in my arms, because today is a time of living memory. How many people can say, ‘I know the ones from the beginning?’ They’re right over there. Today is a time of living memory.”

“All You Need is Love” could not have been more apt and all of us lucky enough to be present at this event could feel it.  Although it was late on a Sunday when the festivities ended, most people didn’t want to leave, savoring the conversations and connections as the light waned in the South Yard.

As Russ said, reflecting on the day, “It is fairly astounding that all those many years ago the three of us not only had the vision, but the divine innocence to create Synergy.  Look how it has prospered, has grown, has effected so many! Katherine, Jill, and I had an idea and worked hard and had some good fortune.  And, more than that, Synergy is what it is because of all of us/ all of you/all who have given our years, our faith, our sweat, our smarts, our expertise, and our individual and collective visions to making something excellent and enduring.” 


– By Elena Dillon, Synergy Trustee and Former Teacher


Recent News