Open Connections

  • alumni at Gala
40 Years of OC
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Open Connections celebrates 40 years of pioneering Partnership Education


Once upon a time, two young adults, Peter Bergson and Susan Shilcock, met at a creative problem-solving workshop in Cambridge, MA, and fell in love. They shared a dream and created a vision. Susan and Peter’s dream was to create an environment where experiential learning and individual development were valued over rote memorization, and where self-motivation was based on individual passion rather than a fear of failure. They developed a model that would utilize aspects of the creative group process techniques that they had first been exposed to at Synectics® and made it relevant and accessible to people, to nurture and protect the skills of Flexible Thinking, creative problem solving and collaboration.


In 1978, after three years of conducting workshops and consultations, Open Connections opened as a preschool/kindergarten program in Bryn Mawr, PA. Fast forward to the late 1990’s when they joined forces with fellow pioneers in the education movement Rick Barker and Patti Schaeder, and collaborated with fellow OC parents and philanthropists Leonard Haas, Nancy Haas, Jim Patton and Jeff and Jenifer Westphal to expand Open Connections and create a beacon for self-directed learners. In 2000, OC moved from a one-room school house to a picturesque 28-acre estate in nearby Newtown Square, PA. Today, Open Connections is a flourishing educational organization, that offers an environment where life and learning connect in a natural way. With an exceptional staff of 25 dedicated staff members, OC currently offers programs for approximately 125 youth ages 4-18. Co-Directors Julia Bergson-Shilcock (daughter of Peter and Susan), Mike Hilbert and Rick Sleutaris continue the legacy of Peter and Susan, while also working continuously to enhance and improve OC’s offerings.


40th Anniversary Gala and Festival: We had such an incredible, celebratory two-day weekend in October, 2018! With over 160 people attending the Gala on Saturday and 300 attending the Family Festival on Sunday, OC truly felt the love! Numerous individuals came together to make this weekend incredibly special—from the silent auction to the food and decorations, from the timeline and appreciation tree to the dedicated staff

who assisted with tours on Saturday and led activities on Sunday—we have a marvelous, collaborative community. And...the icing on the cake...we raised over $25,000 for the Sustainability Fund! THANK YOU to EVERYONE who was involved!