Students in Mami Takeda’s Positive Psychology class have been hard at work this trimester researching the nature of happiness and uncovering new ways to cultivate and share a positive outlook on life. Happy News, a newsletter produced by the class, builds on the themes of identity and gratitude that students have explored in class, encouraging them to use alternative forms of communication to find sources of joy in their everyday lives. In the debut edition of Happy News, students Rory Gallaher and Jared Goldsmith profiled Assistant Director of Student Life and former naturalist Greg Drossel.
Some people know Greg Drossel as the guy that catches you out of uniform, but he is so much more than that. From the Great Hall, in which his office is located, Greg teaches the Archery elective. Although he now does primarily administrative work, his past is just about as interesting as life can be.
Greg’s father was raised on a farm, and that love of the outdoors and appreciation for activities like hunting and fishing was passed through the generations. His parents regularly took Greg and his five siblings on trips, usually camping where the family fully immersed themselves in nature, and their home was a sanctuary for stray animals. Today, Greg’s children and grandchildren share his passion for the outdoors—something he appreciates, given how far he feels our society has strayed from valuing time spent in nature. Greg believes that we can learn everything from nature, from learning geometry by looking at a pinecone to learning physics by playing with rocks.
Before coming to Ross, Greg had an extensive career as an animal handler, and many of his stories are beyond belief. He recalled incidents when he was hired to recapture a pair of Egyptian monkeys that were loosed in JFK airport, wrestle alligators, and catch a mountain lion in an apartment. His favorite memories have been those he made while a handler for television. In order to demonstrate llamas’ efficiency as pack animals, Greg marched one down Manhattan’s 5th Avenue and into a television studio, where its packs were filled with breakfast for the show’s crew. His all-time favorite memory involved caring for monkeys used in a Saturday Night Live skit. As he was preparing to transport them back to their home, the episode’s host, beloved comedian Robin Williams, interrupted him, and the two of them walked down the center of New York City streets, going car to car and asking motorists if they wanted to purchase a monkey.
Greg was invited to join Ross School by its founder, Mrs. Ross, after spending 18 years working in a private zoo. He started in 2000 as the institution’s head naturalist, where he oversaw everything nature related. He held adventurous weekend camping and hiking trips for students. He even hid a pair of black bear cubs under his desk at the beginning of his tenure. Even now, in his role as Assistant Director of Student Life, Greg remains involved in projects that are nature related. He enjoys mentoring students for Senior Projects and worked with Isabelle Rowe to train a seeing-eye guide dog named Tucci, with Sam Kramer to train a hawk, and with Ella Gatfield to build a habitat and raise bees. Moreover, Greg designed the fish tanks that we all enjoy in the High School Building and takes care of the koi in the Center for Well-Being’s basement pond. He told us that he is also the man people call if there is an animal in any of the classrooms.
When asked his favorite thing about Ross School, without missing a beat, Greg answers, “The students.” Mr. Drossel might be the most interesting person in the world, but he still cares about his students the most. So next time he asks about your uniform, we suggest sitting down to talk with him—it will definitely be worthwhile.