Like many other classes, the George School Class of 1947 is a close group with deep bonds. In May 2022 they will celebrate their 75th reunion. John Orr ’47 spoke about his class, his ongoing relationship with George School, and the connection between George School and Pennswood Village where he resides with his wife Diane Siesel Orr ’52.
“I attended George School as a day student. At that time there were approximately eighty-two day students and three hundred boarding students,” explained John. “George School was a great educational experience for me and friendships within the class have gotten stronger over the years. I really enjoyed playing on the soccer team and as a third double for tennis. During winter term of my senior year, I started dating my first wife, Lenore (Lynn) Meyer Orr ’47 and we were married for over fifty years.”
A graduate of Cornell University, John received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1952. He worked as an engineer for General Electric and MDC Systems and retired as senior vice president at O’Brien-Kreitzberg and Associates. In addition to his engineering career, John retired with the rank of captain in the US Naval Reserves after three tours of duty and twenty-two years of active reserve service.
John has also provided many years of service to George School in a variety of roles. In addition to serving as a reunion volunteer, he served as the first president of the Parents Association when his three children—John ’73, Rob ’76, and Gary ’79—attended the school. John was a member of the George School Committee and served as chairman of the Advancement sub-committee. In addition, he served as a co-opted member on the physical plant committee for seventeen years and particularly enjoyed volunteering as a construction manager. John managed the steam line project which connected the physical plant with Walton Auditorium, the renovation of Central Main, and assisted with the Orton renovation in 2001. “I am proud that all these projects were completed on time and under budget,” said John.
John’s first wife, Lynn started working in the advancement office in the mid-1970’s and continued until shortly before her death in 2002. She styled herself as “the longest serving George School co-op ever.” Together, they worked on all the reunions for the Class of 1947 through 2002. “When it was time for our fifth reunion, Lynn and I got involved as reunion volunteer coordinators along with Gwendolyn (Gwen) Kerr ’47,” said John. Virginia (Ginny) Kauffman Schmunk ’47 has also served for many years as a reunion volunteer. Ginny hosted our 70th reunion dinner in her apartment at Pennswood Village.
John married Diane Siesel Orr ’52 in 2004. They met while serving concurrent terms on the George School Committee. Diane is also an active volunteer and is currently part of the group planning the Class of 1952’s 70th reunion celebration. Her children Conzilio Sodano Jr. ’82 and William Sodano ’86 also attended George School. The couple continues to enjoy attending student basketball games and theater productions at George School.
John and Diane reside at Pennswood Village, a senior retirement community guided by Quaker principles and traditions. Adjacent to George School, it is located on the former site of George School’s farm. In 1973 a group of Bucks County Quakers, including those from George School, envisioned a diverse, non-profit retirement community where residents could enrich mind, body, and spirit and be able to participate in intergenerational activities with George School and Newtown Friends School (pre-K through 8th grade). In 1980 the group’s vision became a reality.
“When I first moved to Pennswood, there were six of us from the Class of 1947 and it was like being at George School all over again,” continued John. Now, it is me, Virginia (Ginny) Kauffman Schmunk ’47, Arthur (Art) Henrie ’47, and Nancy Beairsto Haulenbeek ’47. I am still in touch with Barbara (Rocky) Strider Kuehn ’47 and hope to see Douglas (Doug) Campbell Jr. ’47 and David (Dave) Saxton ’47 and Robert (Bob) Saxton ’47 in person or by Zoom during our reunion this spring.”