Behind Annenberg Hall, there is a walkway that looks out over the athletic fields. It’s quiet most of the time. But around 3 p.m, the path livens up as students head toward the gym for their afternoon commitments. And in the early evening, as the athletes find their way to the dining hall or dormitory, the lights of Annenberg Library provide a warm welcome back to center campus.
In some ways, this serene space illustrates Peddie’s core value of balance: “attention to mind, body and spirit; time for work and play, a mix of mastery and experiment in academic, athletic, artistic and community pursuits.”
Youcef Soltani ’20 thought it was perfectly situated for a pair of gathering spaces to serve the Peddie community and memorialize a beloved member of his class, Malcolm Baldwin. Baldwin died in 2018 during his sophomore year at Peddie.
When Soltani, who has been involved in Scouting since first grade, searched for a capstone project for his Eagle Scout award, he knew that he wanted to do something for Peddie.
“The project is supposed to be something that benefits a community. I wanted to do something lasting and meaningful for Peddie that would also speak to my class. Creating a memorial to Malcolm just jumped out at me,” Soltani said.
Only four percent of Scouts are named Eagle Scouts, the Boy Scouts of America’s highest achievement.
Soltani came up with a plan to create comfortable group seating areas along the walkway. With approval from Head of School Peter Quinn and Director of Building Services John Newman, he worked with architecture teacher Claudio Middleton to measure the space and flesh out the details of his plan. Through various fundraising efforts, Soltani raised $2,700 to purchase supplies to build benches. By spring break, they were installed.
And then COVID-19 hit. Campus was closed.
While Soltani was disappointed that his class wouldn’t enjoy the new spaces during their senior spring, he thought it was fitting.
“In a way, I like that no one knew about it at first because one of the really important principles of the project is that you are not supposed to seek gratitude,” Soltani explained. “Coronavirus made that easier.”
Early in the summer, history teacher Austin Frank, Baldwin’s advisor, sent the Class of 2020 a message. In part, it read:
These benches look out onto the fields and athletic center where Malcolm once triumphantly roamed. They poetically serve as a bridge into the world of sport that Malcolm loved. Soon enough, these benches will be a place where future Peddie students will socialize, enjoying each other's laughter, making new friends; Malcolm would be so proud.'”