Director of Alumni Relations Brian Davidson visits with Stephen P. Toadvine III ’48 at Toadvine's home in Osterville, Massachusetts.
Nestled in the tranquil village of Osterville, Mass., just yards from the shoreline, stands Toad Hollow, the idyllic home of Stephen P. Toadvine III ’48, his wife, Harriet, and their spirited dog, Eliza. The house is filled with exquisite artwork, memorabilia from Steve’s time as a naval aviator in postwar Korea and, of course, a memento or two from Peddie.
“As I look back on my time at Peddie, what was most fulfilling was that the faculty spent three years trying to show me that I wasn’t on this journey alone. I had people I could depend on,” Steve reflected during a visit with Director of Alumni Relations Brian Davidson and Assistant Head for Development Karyn Vella P’21. “Though I remember I arrived at Peddie quite disoriented and very mad at the world."
Enrolled on the spot
Steve’s arrival at Peddie in 1945 was the result of a series of events that, unbeknownst to him at the time, would change his life. Growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., in a troubled home, Steve was sent alone by train at age 14 to live with his grandmother in Detroit, Mich., and attend public school. Five months later his grandmother passed away, and Steve had no choice but to return home.
His father decided that boarding school was the best option for Steve. Before he knew it, he was whisked away in a limousine sitting alongside his father and a family friend. After a day visiting area boarding schools, they pulled up to Peddie, both adults visibly impaired. Headmaster Wilbour E. Saunders took one look at Steve and enrolled him on the spot.
“I remember Dr. Saunders taking note of the situation and saying, ‘I really don’t care what his grades are,’” he said. “I was enrolled before I even realized what was going on.”
It was the best thing that could have happened to Steve, who entered Peddie as a junior. While he was cautious of his new environment, he slowly integrated himself into life at the school.
“I remember Peddie offered a trip to Nova Scotia that I didn’t pay much attention to, because at the time I was thinking, ‘Who was going to pay for that?’ Well, somehow, they found someone to pay for it, and I got to go on the trip. I went on a boat up from Boston, and I got to know a lot of my classmates. I was grateful for that.”
Despite making friends, it took time for Steve to feel fully adjusted to his new home. He was known by some faculty as being a bit of a troublemaker and always “fighting the system.” Eventually, it was suggested that Steve join the cross country team to run out some of his frustration as well as remain at Peddie for an additional post-graduate year to continue growing and learning.
An illustrious career
Thanks to the guidance and foresight of the Peddie faculty, Steve accepted an offer to Tufts University through the Holloway Plan, a college training program that provided students with the opportunity to attend one of 52 institutions of higher education in exchange for Navy service. At commencement, he was awarded the Ingersoll Prize, an honor reserved for the student who has shown the greatest improvement and development — a testament to the faculty who both pushed and believed in him.
“Peddie really saved me,” Steve said. “It came at a perfect time in my life.”
Following his naval duties and after receiving an MBA from New York University in 1964, Steve embarked on an illustrious career leading companies that supplied military aircraft components and electromagnetic shielding. He retired as president of Shielding Systems Corporation, a fiber optics firm, and spent the next several years consulting and teaching business ethics courses at Johns Hopkins University and University College in Dublin, Ireland.
Giving back to Peddie students
Reflecting on his journey and grateful for the compassionate faculty who taught him foundational values, self-discipline and responsibility, Steve began to look for ways to give back to Peddie. A longstanding donor to the Peddie Fund, in 2003 he joined the Bell Society through a bequest intention. Knowing he could do more, in 2016, he and Harriet made a substantial gift to establish the Stephen P. Toadvine III ’48 Assistant Head of Student Life Endowed Fund.
The student life program is a hallmark of Peddie. Comprised of the advising system, community life classes, residential life communities, class deans, counseling services and the health center, the program ensures that students are guided in every area of their personal, social, emotional and physical lives. Overseen by Assistant Head for Student Life Peter McClellan ’90 P’19 ’21, faculty and staff in these areas serve as mentors, role models and even surrogate parents, inspiring bonds with students that can last a lifetime. Through the Stephen P. Toadvine III ’48 Assistant Head of Student Life Endowed Fund, students have the opportunity to develop their values, build trust and share experiences in a supportive environment.
“At Peddie, no matter a student’s background, they become the beneficiary of the experiences, dreams and skills of other members of our community,” Peter said. “There is always someone to learn from and always someone to offer guidance.”
“The number one thing I took from Peddie was how the faculty helped shape a work in progress and how they understood that there can be a lot more needed for certain students,” said Steve. “I’m glad that can continue.”