When Marion “Taddy” Dann was growing up, the route between her Williamsville home and The Park School’s Snyder campus was mostly farmland. She often rode through fields on horseback to school, a practice that ended thanks to a comment from a classmate.
“There was a barn at Park that was kind of neat,” Dann recalls. “Until, in the sixth grade, Bud Tanner told me I smelled, so I stopped riding to school.”
No Park student has ridden a horse to school in quite some time, but Taddy Dann’s bucolic beginnings started a long association between the Dann family and The Park School. Taddy attended Park from kindergarten through ninth grade, before going away to boarding school in Farmington, Conn. She attended Briarcliff junior college for two years, before returning to the Buffalo area. She soon found employment when Park’s Head of School, Adolphus Cheek, offered her $5 a week to be a gym teacher and coach.
“We all totally admired Mr. Cheek,” Dann said. “He lived in that wonderful little house, the headmaster’s house,” in which Park's third grade teacher, Chris Downey, now resides. “He was our leader.”
Taddy and husband, Bill Dann, began coaching girls and boys lacrosse at Park. They had been introduced to the sport through friends who were Tuscarora Indians.
“Mom was very instrumental in bringing women’s lacrosse to Western New York," said Mike Dann, son of Taddy and Bill Dann, who graduated from Park in 1975. Mike Dann played on Park’s lacrosse team and was coached by his father.
“The Tuscarora Reservation was in Lewiston,” Taddy said. “They were instrumental in encouraging us to get going on lacrosse.”
Mike said they met several Native Americans through the Buffalo Lacrosse Club.
“We really got a lacrosse education from the Native Americans,” he said. “We got to know the families fairly well.
“When we went down there we were allowed to pick out our lacrosse sticks. There wasn’t a Dicks Sporting Goods where you could go and buy your lacrosse sticks in those days. We would go down there and they would hand us the sticks, and as we got a little more involved with the guys we could go down there and say, ‘Well, could you bend mine a certain way?’”
“They were all handmade, wooden sticks, which they don’t do anymore,” Taddy added.
In recognition of Taddy Dann’s pioneering role as a girls coach, she was inducted in 1996 to the Rochester chapter of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“It’s a super sport,” Dann says. “Girls lacrosse is very skilled; there’s not a lot of hitting and banging. Girls don’t wham each other over the head the way boys do.”
Mike Dann refers to himself as “a Park lifer.” He attended from kindergarten right through high school. Afterward, Dann attended New England College, graduating in 1979.
A talent for arts and crafts seems to run in the Dann family, along with a love of the outdoors. Mike is no exception. After college he became a ski instructor, working at Kissing Bridge southeast of Buffalo and at Sugarbush in Vermont. He spent some summers working on a farm in Rhode Island, others working as an apprentice in a shop where wooden boats were built in Rockport, Maine.
“Building boats is kind of our passion,” Mike said. “My dad got us into appreciating wooden boats and maintaining them.”
Dann has worked for the past 25 years at Hadley Exhibits in Buffalo, where he is an account executive and project manager. The company designs, fabricates, and installs exhibits for museums, corporations, and other clients.
“We've done work for the Smithsonian, the National Park Service ... and we just finished up the 9-11 Memorial in New York City,” Mike said. “We've done museums in just about every state. Working in a museum gives you an education in history."
Mike Dann said Park allowed him to develop communications skills that have served him well in his adult life.
“You were allowed to say what was on your mind at Park,” he said. “And I think through that, and through inheriting my mother’s skill for talking to complete strangers, I think that’s helped me a lot at Hadley. Whether it’s meeting new contractors, architects, designers, and being able to feel comfortable talking to them, it’s been a great help.”
Taddy Dann has served on Park’s Board of Trustees, as well as volunteering in many other capacities over the years.
“Park made me a happy, happy person,” Taddy said. “Every committee I’ve been on – I just loved the School. It’s a great experience for anyone who is involved. Park is special. And it’s wonderful to see what a beautiful place it is today – the pond, the woods, the new buildings and more."