TASIS The American School in Switzerland held special Founder’s Day celebrations in the Palestra and the MCF Piazza on the afternoon of October 1, 2021, to commemorate the incredible life of TASIS founder and international education pioneer M. Crist Fleming. Both celebrations—one for the High School and one for the Middle School—can be viewed in full below, and a gallery of photos is available here.
Each assembly in the Palestra featured opening remarks from Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff, a wonderful video and slideshow created by Vitor Mendes, an outstanding performance of Matteo and Andrea Bocelli’s “Fall on Me” by Middle and High School vocalists, and four poignant speeches read on behalf of TASIS alumni who still feel a deep connection to Mrs. Fleming and her school. (These remarks can be viewed in either of the video clips above or read in full below.) Following the program of events in the Palestra, students and faculty members moved outside for the annual tradition of enjoying cake and tossing yellow rose petals into the MCF Piazza Fountain.
All of those who attended or worked in one of Mrs. Fleming’s programs were expected to receive the best care possible. Even when the number of people in her schools made it difficult for Mrs. Fleming to know all of their names, she worked hard to get to know and to show an interest in each student, teacher, parent, and staff member. If you were in a room with other people, Mrs. Fleming had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person present. Mrs. Fleming often reminded those she cared about that they had a responsibility to care for others.
11th-grade student Nina Mondin and 9th-grade student Giulia Mondin each read the words of their mother, Ana Cristina de Attayde Mondin ’99.
During my first week at TASIS, I felt an immense sadness in my heart. I was homesick, missing my friends and my bed, struggling to adapt to a new life living with people I didn’t know. Heading from the basketball court to Monticello one day, I was greeted by a kind lady who started a conversation with me. She kept things light, asked where I was from and what grade I was in, and somehow she read my unhappiness in my eyes and told me, “Everything will be ok. The first week is always hard for everyone, even students who are coming back. I know you’re struggling now, but talk to me in a month and I guarantee you’ll be telling me about the great time you’re having here.”
I didn’t know she was the founder of the school, but I quickly recognized great wisdom in her words and kind compassion for my feelings.
Mrs. Fleming was absolutely right. The funny thing about TASIS is how quickly everyone starts to feel like family. You may not always share the same opinions, but the TASIS spirit is strong and uniting.
In time I recognized Mrs. Fleming’s familiar smile around campus. I remember she always looked elegant, her thick hair combed backwards, beautiful lipstick, and an enthusiastic presence that moved all of those around her.
She often hosted events at Casa Fleming, and she knew all of her students’ names and where we were from. She could remember if you were a volleyball player, or a singer, or if you were in photography club. Of course, theater was her favorite! She always sat in the front row and attended every performance.
On Founder’s Day I like to remember Mrs. Fleming’s contagious energy. She was so involved in the School that she inspired us to be involved too, in the arts, academics, and sports. We were also inspired by learning from each other and teaching others about our cultures and experiences.
The most memorable moment of my years at TASIS was graduation, when Mrs. Fleming handed me my diploma and gave me a tight hug. She said, “You’ll always remember TASIS, and TASIS will forever be a part of you.”
On behalf of all TASIS alumni I can say that it was a great pleasure to know this phenomenal woman. We will never forget Mrs. Fleming.
11th-grade student Lea Stroppiana ’23 read the words of her father, Federico Stroppiana ’88.
I remember meeting Mrs. Fleming my first year. I was a middle schooler and still getting used to living away from home for the first time. There was an annual dinner that she hosted at Casa Fleming for all students. The house itself was already a mythical place, since we walked by it every day but had never been inside, and from then on we would only see it once a year! I remember her as so powerful and intense, standing above everyone there. Her presence was very strong and everyone gravitated to her. I was so very surprised that, even though I had never met her, she knew my name and where I was from. She had kind words for everyone.
Of course, at the time, the student body was smaller, but it is still impressive to understand the effort she made to find out about everyone. Her presence was felt everywhere, even though we students only saw her at functions and parties and on campus from time to time. You could feel that teachers and staff were always in contact with her and it was very clear that their actions were guided and modeled by her. There was a general feeling that you did not want to cross a certain line for fear of disappointing her, so we kept on our best behavior, or almost! Still, her philosophy came through. TASIS is a great legacy to leave behind.
12th-grade student Olivia Garcia-Atance Arimont read the words of her mother, Carla Arimont ’94.
Mrs. Fleming touched my life in many, many ways.
She had a grandiose personality, theatrical gestures, a very, very loud voice, heavy red lipstick, and wore tons of jewelry. She was larger than life.
She taught me to DREAM BIG. She was living proof of how important it is to follow your dreams. If you believe strongly in them, you can endure all challenges that may arise.
Creating TASIS, building this beautiful campus, forging a strong sense of community here: these were all part of Mrs. Fleming’s dream.
It all serves as evidence that with a clear vision, determination, and hard work, the sky’s the limit. That was her philosophy and modus operandi…and all of us who were blessed by her presence became absorbed by this same spirit.
As an educator, and leader, her greatest gift was precisely that: to spread the idea of empowerment and allow all of us to believe we could reach our dreams. This echoes the way Dr. Martin Luther King moved millions by saying “I have a dream”—not “I have a plan” or “I have a strategy.” It’s the dream that mobilizes crowds. It’s the dream that fuels progress. It’s the dream that makes the magic happen.
Mrs. Fleming also taught me to TRUST—both myself and others. Trust helps build confidence and generate empathy. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Trust is the backbone of any high-performing team, in athletics, the arts, academia, and in business. Without trust, credibility and respect cannot be built. Without trust, communication, collaboration, and cohesion cannot be achieved.
Mrs. Fleming blessed me with two gifts: the empowerment to dream big, and the courage to chase my dreams. These are two magical gifts, shared with us in a perfect setting, a safe space where we could explore, make mistakes, learn from them, grow, and, of course, have fun!
With this safe environment comes a strong community.
With a strong community come meaningful connections.
With meaningful connections come a sense of belonging.
With a sense of belonging comes a tribal bond.
The spirit of Mrs. Fleming represents this tribal bond: a nurturing community that encourages generations to grow and blossom.
Mrs. Fleming was enamored of Shakespeare, and she inspired us to “love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” (All’s Well that Ends Well).
The Dartmouth College Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate delivered a keynote address to TASIS students and faculty members in the Palmer Center on October 18 and spent two days visiting High School classes.
Among other highlights, current TASIS students read poignant speeches written by their alumni parents at special Founder’s Day celebrations held in the Palestra and the MCF Piazza on the afternoon of October 1.
Autumn Bachofen ’21 (USA) has accepted a Presidential Scholarship to attend the Kilachand Honors College at Boston University and will begin her studies in the fall of 2022 following a gap year in Paris.