Mark Niederer never thought he would be a teacher, but upon his retirement this year, he will have spent forty years at The Hun School. Mr. Niederer is a certified arborist and has always operated his own business, joining the School on a part-time basis after being encouraged by another Hun School legend, Frank Dippery.
“Frank was the one who told me about the part-time teaching role and encouraged me to take it.” While Mr. Niederer was hesitant at first, he quickly changed his opinion. “My business allowed me to take this on and I just fell in love with the place.” He also fell in love with something else—his wife, Joan, who was a teacher in the Middle School. They were married in 1990.
During his forty-year career, Mr. Niederer taught architecture, mechanical design, and various levels of woodworking. As an accomplished carpenter, he has always been willing to lend the School his carpentry skills. Over the years, he has built everything from theatre sets, props, and carnival games to display cases and classroom furniture.
Of course, no mention of Mark Niederer is complete without a nod to his trademark sense of humor. Former student Ed Haemmerle ’88 recalled listening to Pink Floyd during mechanical drawing class. When the students pulled a prank on Mr. Niederer by unplugging the radio, the unflappable teacher “retaliated” by forcing the students to listen to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack for the rest of the semester. To this day, when Mr. Haemmerle hears the familiar music, he thinks of Mr. Niederer.
Older students often remember Mr. Niederer’s devotion to former dining director Bill Arland’s chicken pot pies, so much so that he would construct a parade of wooden signs in their honor. In a nod to this fond memory, Co-Athletic Director Bill Quirk presented Mr. Niederer with one of his original signs at the closing Faculty and Staff Luncheon this June.
Mr. Niederer is perhaps most famous for installing a beloved Hun tradition, the Annual Bridge Crush. For many years, his mechanical design students constructed bridges as part of their final projects. The bridges had strict material and construction parameters, but ultimately, the goal was to see which design team’s bridge could hold the most weight. The entire community would file into the Student Activity Center to watch and cheer as Mr. Niederer piled weights on bridges via “the Crusher.” He would destroy each bridge one at a time, with fantastic drama, until a winner was determined. The School record stands at a whopping 1,200 pounds, held by Rich Woodbridge '95.
J. Michael Chaykowksy ’80, director of operations at The Hun School, was a senior during Mr. Niederer’s first year and remembers his teacher's precision. “I took his mechanical drawing class, held in the Art Studio, which is now the Hun Middle School. Among other things, he taught us how to turn the mechanical pencil to ensure the line widths stayed uniform.” As a colleague, Mr. Chaykowsky is still impressed. “I am amazed at the end products Mark's students have turned out, whether in architectural drawing or wood shop. He is a devoted educator who deeply cares for our institution and he has touched the lives of countless students and colleagues throughout his astonishing career.”
While Mr. Niederer will be missed, he will be very busy in "retirement." His plans include continuing to run his business, spending more time with family, and his flock of more than 100 chickens.