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James Ault Jim Ault

Profile Updated: March 19, 2022
Residing In:
Margaret Keyser (since June 2011)
Children:(Name, age, education. If applies NMH and year)
Henry, born 1992
My son, Henry, graduated from NMH in 2011. He played on the varsity soccer team More…that won the New England's that year (hooray) and was a Student Leader (aka Floor Officer) on the same floor in Hayden where Ray Hughes and I lived our senior year! He was recruited out of college at Emory to join a start-up in San Fran in 2014 and is now leading a successful, innovative company, Eco.com, as well as a venture capital company helping tech start-ups.
documentary filmmaker, author, scholar
Reflections on our 50th Reunion

Dear Mates,
Reunion this year seemed a special time to me. I treasured so many of the conversations I had, and noted several Northfield mates remarking about how "healing" this reunion was, in various respects.
So, thanks to all who put in the hard work to make it happen (Easty, Gail, Peter, Pam, et al.), and to all who took the time (and resources) to come. I also missed those who couldn't make it this year, like my dear friend Bruce Esterline, Jim Rubenstein, and others. Was glad to hear about you all, in any case (want to know what was said?) Look forward to being in touch and seeing y'all down the road!
All the best,
Jim (aka "Jimmy") Ault



What Was your Hometown While You Were At Northfield Or Mt Hermon?


Number of years you attended Northfield or Mount Hermon?

3 years

Dorms in which you lived:

Overtoun, South Crossley, Hayden

Most memorable N/MH experience/s: could be "feasting" on Saturday nights after lights out and/or sneaking out of the dorm or something like the thunder and lightning at Christmas Vespers or a significant athletic triumph. What do you remember that brings a big smile to your face?:

I would simply include my remarks at the Memorial Service for my "brother," Ray Hughes. I hope you recognize him and us in them:

Jim Ault

How great it is to see you all here--from different places, different lives--some not even knowing each other yet--yet all here because of the love we share for Ray. I expected it would be like this this past week when I found myself first feeling elated, but then terrified, by the awesome prospect of speaking about Ray. But somehow I knew all of you—and our love for Ray—would be here to help me through. And I realized, thinking about it, how happy it would make Ray to see us helping each other cope with this terrible loss in our lives, both today and in the days to come..That was simply how Ray was, what he expected from others and gladly did himself.

I first met Ray as a boy of 15 when I left home to become a boarding student at the Mt. Hermon School. It was 1961. It was the first time Ray and I, and most of the boys around us, had ever lived apart from our families. A boarding school of boys that age, I soon learned, can be a pretty barbaric place--Catcher in the Rye was no fantasy. But looking back, I believe that what civilized us most over those years were the tender relationships we formed with each other, as friends and, quite often, roommates. For me that special person was Ray. For 2 years we lived together in a room maybe 15 by 20 feet, where each day we shared the mundane struggles and absurdities of life, as well as our most intimate hopes, and dreams, and fears, and where each day we entertained, consoled and tormented each other. In this way Ray and I became family. And, naturally enough, became readily embraced by each other's families, spending vacations in each other's home and becoming, in the end, lifelong friends--like brothers, really--who would over the years rejoice in one another's new families and be frequent visitors in their homes.

This past October, for example--just 3 months ago--Ray and Patty stopped by our home in Northampton, Massachusetts, for dinner on their way back from Canada, and I remember how happy I felt watching my 12-year-old son, Henry, hug and hang on to Ray like he was some favorite uncle, while teasing each other mercilessly. In fact, a few years earlier, it was Henry who offered one of the most telling observations of what Ray meant to me . . . and to us "You know, Dad," he said one day, "Mount Hermon must be a good place to go to school . . . if you can find a friend like Ray there."

Earlier this week I was walking with two of my best buddies and we were in the thick of hilarious conversation, when I suddenly felt myself being like Ray: those moments in the joyful fray of conversation when he would smile broadly, his eyes gleaming with pleasure and his cheeks puffed up waiting eagerly for his chance to enter in, with a point of curiosity, a needling tease, or a stroke of side-splitting humor. The important thing, I realized at that moment, was that Ray was always THERE with you. He listened, enjoyed sharing life, which meant, of course, sharing what life was all about in the first place.

Ray could have been a stand-up comedic; he was truly a master at delivering a humorous line or story. At Mount Hermon, his humor, itself, became a powerfully civilizing force in our little community. Ray masterminded many of our most memorable skits and performances at important ceremonial moments in the school year. That was no small matter since that humor often worked to help us face our foibles and sorry states, while celebrating our life together. These rare gifts were recognized in the responsibility the school gave him as editor of our class' yearbook. That gave him the responsibility--awesome when you think about it--of choosing for each of us 150 or so graduating seniors a quotation to put under our picture which would express something true and meaningful about us. The one he chose for me, I must admit, nailed me perfectly. Not that I had the least bit of influence in choosing it. Ray approached this task with scrupulous integrity. Looking back, I appreciate the devotion and love he showed carrying out these duties, because Ray respected—perhaps even loved—even those he didn't particularly like.

What a guy! I love you, Ray, and miss you sorely. But I thank God for you, brother, and wish you well `til we meet again. AMEN!

Any secrets or stories you can finally divulge?

I'll have to think about that more. If I have any they seem to have slipped into that nether world of my 67-year-old brain. But, you all understand...

What do you remember about your dummy / work jobs... that you want to share?

My own experience, and that from many grads I interviewed for my chapters in NMH's history, LIFT THINE EYES, is that people learned quite a bit from their work job/dummy experiences, lessons that aren't always put into so many words. Just to cite a couple of my own lessons from working with Joe boning meat in the kitchen: how hand/eye work skills are learned and taught, in this case boning meat (but relevant for documentary film skills, as well, skills that prestigious academic institutions have a hard time handling), and how to deal with a difficult boss (Skib!).

Which faculty / staff members and coaches do you remember with respect and affection and why?

The care, concern and dedicated effort of so many teachers and staff members I had contact with is impressive when looking back and comparing NMH to other institutions. Above all, I remember TD and his wife, "Frau Donovan," but there are many more. Outside the classroom, Al Raymond and James Kelley are among those who I remember--but, again, there are many more.

Think about the highlights of your life since you left the hallowed halls of Northfield/Mount Hermon…tell us about yourself. Please write as much as you wish:

--Studying with some great thinkers on society, politics and culture at Harvard and then in the Sociology Department at Brandeis with some extraordinary fellow grad students at the time.

--Being a New Left activist involved in the anti-war movement, living in a Cambridge commune and being involved in the women's movement in the late sixties and seventies. (Sharing that with Joan Alexander at the time was a blessing, too!)

--Living and doing research in Zambia, as well as traveling through East and Southern Africa, thinking that the Vietnam War revealed how poorly we Americans understood politics and society in the, then, "third world"

--Being introduced to documentary film making by John Marshall, one of the pioneers in its more intimate cinéma vérité tradition and making my first film

--After being an atheist for twenty-some years (which will surprise some) finding faith in God again through a remarkable chain of events, a story woven in my book "Spirit and Flesh" (Knopf, 2004).

--Having my son, Henry, of course, and raising him for some years as a single Dad.

--My marriage to Margaret Keyser (a second one for both of us) connecting us in Northampton, MA, with the officiating pastor and her lovely family 8 thousand miles away in Wellington, South Africa, by Skype (a world first, if Google tells the truth!)

--Finally, through a Founder's Day talk I gave a couple years ago I reconnected with our school and got involved writing several chapters for its history: "Lift Thine Eyes..." I covered everything from World War One to the present--quite a lot of change to comprehend and get one's arms around! The exercise held some important lessons for me in understanding the ethos and culture of the school we attended--and that touched our lives, I am sure--and its continuity even up to its promising present. It also helped me better understand the decision to become coed and, thirty years later, to become a smaller school on one campus. Please give it a read.

(FOR EXTRA POINTS) : Tell us how the friends/education/lifestyle/traditions of the Northfield Schools impacted your life in 1964 and through the last several decades:

Again, I need more time for this one.... Later, then . . .

Where Have You Lived the Past 45 Years??

Ayee! London, Lusaka, Zambia, Cambridge, Northampton MA, NYC, San Diego, and, Northampton, MA, which I finally, and gratefully, call home.

Your Education after N/MH undergraduate Degree (where, when) Any Graduate/Professional Degrees: where, when, what):

A.B. Government with Honors, Harvard College, 1968. After some time studying informally at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies studying African history and politics (especially Zambia), and being an active member of the Marxist Studies Group there, I spent 6 months hitchhiking through east, central and southern Africa, thinking I might become a journalist. Decided, instead, to do graduate work in sociology at Brandeis (a great experience) where I was able to continue working closely with my great teacher at Harvard, Barrington Moore. Did a year's field research in Zambia and went to teach at Smith College where I completed a dissertation, instead, on understanding why sixties feminism (in which I was much involved) arose mainly in the white middle class and had little appeal to working-class women and women of color.

Additional recognition you may have received. Any Honorary Degrees or Awards? Any Certification, License, Ordination? Any Athletic Achievements? Any Military Honors? Any Artistic Works? Any Publications?

My first documentary film, "Born Again: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church," a national prime-time special on PBS and played around the world, won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival. My book on that project, "Spirit and Flesh" (Knopf 2004) was named one of the 5 best nonfiction books of the year and an Honor Book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. I just released a two-part documentary film series exploring Christianity's explosive growth in Africa: "African Christianity Rising: Stories from Ghana" and Part Two, "Stories from Zimbabwe."

Our 50th Reunion will take place Thursday - Sunday, June 5 - 8, 2014. We hope you will attend. Please answer from the heart.


As part of our 50th Reunion we will be printing a yearbook, using everyone's responses to the above questions. To help determine the appropriate quantity to print, we need to know now if you expect to purchase a copy ( approx. cost with mailing $40)


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Jul 08, 2024 at 1:27 PM

Posted on: Jul 07, 2024 at 8:29 AM

Happy birthday, Anne (belated)! Sorry I missed you at our 60th; was on a film in the UK that had to be then.

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May 20, 2024 at 11:08 AM
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May 20, 2024 at 11:07 AM
Apr 06, 2024 at 4:33 AM
Mar 18, 2024 at 12:45 PM

Happy birthday, Easty! I hope this finds you well, and wishing you a happy and fulfilling year!

Mar 16, 2024 at 10:43 AM

Hey Brucie! Happy birthday in advance! Hope this finds you, Diana and your kids all well! Let me know if you're coming this way sometime. Unfortunately, I can't make reunion this year. Have some filming to do in England and Scotland then. Love from the Connecticut River Valley!

Jan 16, 2024 at 10:45 AM

Yeah, happy birthday, Tom. I hope this finds you well . . . not something we can take for granted at this age. :) Have good memories of you back then!

James Ault Jim Ault added a comment on Profile.
Oct 10, 2023 at 11:03 AM
Jul 01, 2023 at 10:53 AM

Hey Anne, Happy birthday to you . . . in advance. I'm writing from my summer retreat in the Catskills, which I'm sure you heard about back then. Hope this finds you and yours well. If you ever head up NMH way, come and say hi in Northampton. Love, as always, Jim

May 31, 2023 at 11:09 AM

Happy birthday, Dave! Wishing you a happy and fruitful year . . . and beyond. Always remember seeing you sitting there in the church at Ray Hughes' memorial service in the video I shot that day. Keep missing him in my life.

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Apr 06, 2023 at 8:30 AM

Posted on: Apr 06, 2023 at 4:33 AM

Mar 26, 2023 at 7:34 AM

Happy belated, Brucie! Look forward to seeing you face-to-face sometime!

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Mar 26, 2023 at 7:12 PM

Posted on: Mar 23, 2023 at 5:20 PM

Hey Brian, happy belated . . . another day at our age doesn't count for much, does it? Have a great year, and more to come!

Mar 20, 2023 at 11:27 AM

Happy belated Jim! Hope all is well with you and wishing you more great years!

Mar 14, 2023 at 1:35 PM

Happy birthday, Pete! Hope all is well with you. Can't take things for granted at our age. BTW, had a nice reunion with Bill Green in Miami recently. Hadn't seen each other in 59 years!

James Ault Jim Ault posted a message. New comment added.
Mar 14, 2023 at 1:32 PM

Posted on: Mar 14, 2023 at 1:29 PM

Happy belated, Easty! Hope this finds you well. By the way, I just had a nice reunion with Bill Green down in Miami last week. Hadn't seen each other in 59 years!

Oct 25, 2022 at 8:05 PM

Happy birthday dear Marlboro Drive neighbor and touch football player from our jr high days! Hope this finds you and your family all well! And Wishing you a great birthday, a great year and many to come!

Oct 15, 2022 at 11:22 PM

Happy birthday, Pammy! Hoping you've had a great day, and wishing you another great year!! With love, as always, Jim.

Jun 02, 2022 at 9:24 AM

Happy belated, Dave! Hope all is well with you and wishing you a great year . . . and beyond!

May 27, 2022 at 5:12 PM

Dear Bruce, Came to the site to wish you a happy upcoming birthday! Have a good one! But, noticing your career as a middle school teacher, then principal, brings to mind a documentary film I'm just completing on the work of Esperanza in North Philadelphia focusing especially on its exemplary work with inner city youth. If you'd like to see the current roughcut, I can send the link to you. If so, perhaps reach out to me via email: james.m.ault@gmail.com Again, have a great birthday and year! Jim

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Posted: Jan 03, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Stories from Ghana - Open

For information about the release of AFRICAN CHRISTIANITY RISING: STORIES FROM GHANA visit our website page at jamesault.com/documentaries/africa-project/. From here the story goes inside Calvary Hill Christian Ministries led by Pastor Fred and his wife and music leader, Sister Rose.
Posted: Jan 03, 2014 at 11:36 AM

NMH `64's Fortieth

A taste of reunion at NMH.
Posted: Jan 03, 2014 at 11:40 AM

NMH `64-Remembering Ray

Posted: Jan 03, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Building the New Community . . (open)