Mr. Fossett Retires after Twenty-Two Years at Country Day


Nick Watts, News Editor '23

This 2021-2022 schoolyear will be the last for a legendary veteran of teaching at Country Day. Mr. Peter Fossett will be retiring at the end of this year. Many of us know Mr. Fossett as the jovial APUSH teacher who gives engaging talks on the history, politics, and government of the United States. To honor his service to our school, I recently sat down with him for a short interview.

It all began in 1975 when Mr. Fossett came to Country Day as a young 8th grader. For some perspective, President Gerald Ford was in office and Mr. Fossett was fully on board with his infamous WIN (Whip Inflation Now) program that was designed to appeal to every-day Americans to do what they could to curb inflation. Long story short, the program was not very successful, and much to Mr. Fossett’s chagrin, neither was Ford when he went up against Carter one year later.

Upon Mr. Fossett’s arrival to Country Day, he attended class with his favorite teacher, Mr. Bob Plummer, another veteran of teaching at Country Day who just retired recently. Mr. Fossett attended college for political science and went on to law school. After practicing law and working at a publishing company, he decided that neither job was for him. Luckily for us, he discovered a love for teaching and, according to him, “the stars lined up. I was able to not just teach at an independent school but teach at this one. It was like homecoming.”

22 years on, Mr. Fossett maintains that “the quality of my colleagues and the engagement of the students,” as well as “a general appreciation for education among the students and the faculty,” has kept him here. After all this time, it is certainly not going to be easy for him to just pack his bags and leave. Even if he wanted to, it wouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if we returned next year, and Mr. Fossett was still trying to organize all the papers in his office and take them with him. Regardless, he will be missing the classroom interchanges, working with students, relationships with his colleagues, and being able to work with American history.

When I asked about what he plans to do with his exorbitant (and scary) amount of knowledge about American history, he remarked that he “was going to use it for evil. I can maybe come up with a three-dollar bill with Millard Fillmore on it.” In a futile attempt to get me on board with his evil scheme, he went on to add, “maybe we’ll put Jimmy Carter on it.” His concerning plans for how he will be using his knowledge of American history prompted much bewilderment from me, so I decided to move on.

In all seriousness, he said that he does not plan on doing anything with American history, but rather that he “would like to get more involved with public policy.” He went on to add, “I don’t know if that means running for office at some point down the road, but I think serving in the statehouse would be a lot of fun. I’m not as interested in serving in national government now as I was 20 years ago. I think national government is wholly dysfunctional and serving in Congress, I imagine, would be very frustrating, but I think going to Columbus and working in the statehouse would be more productive.”

I then had to ask the question we would all want an answer to: which party gets Mr. Fossett? “I kind of feel like Eisenhower,” he said. A GOP savior or a liberal firebrand? I asked. He said that he didn’t “think Eisenhower would have been a liberal firebrand. Moderate republican, moderate democrat, I don’t know.” Does this mean that Mr. Fossett will be the next Dwight Eisenhower? That he will be the voice to restore sanity to either major party? The answer I got was, “that’s an excellent question. And we’ll have to wait and see.” I will make sure to keep everyone posted when we finally know the answer.

If Mr. Fossett does decide to run for office, it won’t be his first experience with the campaign trail. Back in 2005, while still a teacher at Country Day, he ran for Congress in the 2nd District following the retirement of the incumbent representative Rob Portman. Despite being a high school history teacher with virtually zero name recognition district-wide, he came in fifth place in a field of eleven. He raised $25,000 and had his students run his campaign. “It was pretty low key,” he said. “We didn’t really run for Congress so much as we jogged or maybe walked, fast walked for Congress.” If Mr. Fossett ever decides to fast walk for Congress, or any other office, again, I know that he will always be able to return to the Country Day community to find a strong base of support.

When asked to reflect on more aspects that he will miss the most, he said that he will “miss joking with students in the hallways and working with my colleagues. Unsurprisingly, he will also miss his loyal office-mate of fifteen years, Mr. Black. “I’ll miss Mr. Black. He’s been a good office-mate,” he said. “He sneezes loud though I’ll tell you what. He’s got a forceful sneeze.” In the interview, I learned that Mr. Black’s “forceful sneeze” had awoken Mr. Fossett more times than he would like to admit. He made a point to add, however, that spending long nights grading papers is one thing that he will not be missing.

Mr. Fossett loves the annual tradition of senior locker magnets and being able to see where everyone is going to college. He also thinks that the policy should return to requiring men to wear collared shirts and ties each day. He believes that “if you dress for serious business, you’re more likely to engage in serious business.”

When I asked what he hopes his legacy has been at this school, he told me that “I would hope that I’ve gotten some kids interested in the American story and in particular the political story. I guess I should say the philosophy of government, or I would hope that I’ve gotten kids into thinking about how our government has developed and how its changed over time and how important it is for all of us to participate in it and to make sure it operates effectively. If I’ve gotten some kids interested in that, that would be great. I’d like to be remembered for telling a good joke every now and then. I’d like to be remembered as able to make people laugh every now and then.”

I would say he has accomplished this. To his last point, I brought up a recent joke told in class that got many acclamations from my friends. When discussing the Marshall Plan and the idea behind its implementation, Mr. Fossett remarked that “communism is like a mushroom, it grows in dark, stinky places. If you can open the place up and if you can shine the sunshine, dry it out, and make it warm and comfortable, communism doesn’t have a chance.” That joke was very well received by many in his classes, including myself.

I think Mr. Fossett’s tenure at Country Day has been defined by his independent and intelligent voice of reason, with that same voice always being able to brighten the days of others with a joke or positive interaction. His remarkable service to our school has been invaluable to me and hundreds of other kids who have learned so much about the history of the United States and our government thanks to him and the quality of his classes. Mr. Fossett has undoubtedly impacted the lives of myself and many others for the better, and his will be big shoes to fill when he is no longer teaching here at Country Day. Thank you, Mr. Fossett. I sincerely hope that your three-dollar-bill scheme that I exposed in this article will not be used as oppo-research for your next campaign.