Modesty prevails for another one of Brunswick’s newest alumni, Nick Wolanske.
Asked to reflect on his Brunswick experience, Wolanske downplayed his achievements across the board.
“My legacy at Brunswick — lack of sports prowess, no engraved trophy, not an intellectual Titan,” he said in a phone call from Colorado after graduating from Brunswick.
Such humility is admirable, but entirely undue. It vastly underplays the reality of Wolanske’s contributions to Brunswick, and in turn, its influence on him.
Led by keen curiosity and not even out of high school, the young Wolanske went toe-to-toe with some of the intellectual greats of the 19th century, and came out shining. To wit, his senior paper for English XII: Soul on the Steppe plunged into the weighty philosophies of Transcendentalism on two continents, comparing Henry David Thoreau with Leo Tolstoy and drawing from them some lessons for the digital age.
The two writers, Wolanske advanced in his paper, “affirm the necessity to distance oneself from complex modern life, awaken the mind, and live for greater purpose.”
His conclusion: “They strove to live a life of meaning, to not waste a single breath, and show others how to live deliberately.”
Wolanske has taken those lessons to heart.
Straight out of Brunswick, Wolanske joined fellow classmate Nick Dow on a backpacking trip from Denver to Durango. Traversing 20 miles a day through the Colorado Rockies, Wolanske found a long-haul hiking culture that seems to bear out the lessons from English class.
“Everyone has a trail name,” he says. “It’s a really cool community that forms. I learned to love the mountains out here.
“Hiking in the morning, hearing the birds,” he says. “It’s a great time to be awake, experiencing nature. I’m living what I wrote.”
Wolanske landed at Northwestern after graduation, and he credits Brunswick with kindling the fires of a wide range of interests.
A senior-year Independent Study Project on Russian language grew out of a ninth grade Modern World History class that sparked his curiosity in Russia and the Russian language. Later, a Foreign Language Immersion Program in Buenos Aires was “captivating,” and a “cultural experience outside [his]comfort zone.”
And, an eighth grade Community Service project called Sweet Readers likewise led Wolanske into history, this time local and oral. The program sees students connect with adults struggling with Alzheimers. It ended in Middle School, but Wolanske continued volunteering throughout high school, and even served as hospice worker.
“I felt a connection there,” he says. “One of my favorite things is a group of older men I always play cards with. The stories they tell — it’s living history.
“It always gave me great joy to go over and spend time at River House,” he says. “From there, I kept on going. What I enjoy most is exploring.”
Wolanske was inducted into the Cum Laude Society for his scholastic achievement at Brunswick, and was one of four Brunswick semi-finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program for his accomplishments on the PSAT.
He was also a coder; with his team he placed 7th overall in the American Computer Science League All Star Contest, held in Wayne, N.J., in May 2019.
He won the Stephen A. Duennebier Prize for Social Sciences, which celebrates scholars with “range.” The prize is especially meaningful to Wolanske, as he tends to think of “range” as a particularly powerful asset, and he credits Brunswick with fostering it.
“Grueling as it is, the Brunswick curriculum asks one to think about a wide range of experiences,” he says.