Shattuck International House: Nurturing an extended family

Former Shattuck International House residents celebrated the 50th anniversary of this home away from home.

[ Winter 2011]

With no room left at his cousin’s house, Punyamurtula Kishore, MPH ’79, went searching for someplace to live in Boston. Kishore was a surgeon who had come from India to pursue his master’s degree at the Harvard School of Public Health. An administrator pointed him toward Shattuck International House, a complex of furnished apartments for HSPH students and families. It was a perfect match.

“You can’t beat it, especially for someone new to the U.S.,” says Kishore. “Without the camaraderie here, it would have been very hard to survive. We all studied together and had so much fun. I met people from 60 or 70 countries at a time. This became my family here—a family of choice.”

Shattuck House residents in 1967
Shattuck House residents in 1967

Kishore, now a Brookline physician focusing on addiction medicine, gathered with two dozen alumni, guests, and students on September 26, 2010, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shattuck House’s opening. The informal reunion capped Alumni Weekend and drew people from as close as upstairs (current residents) and as far away as London and Salt Lake City.

Over brunch, attendees traded stories of this home-away-from-home on Park Drive. Shattuck House residents mark milestones and holidays together, stage talent and fashion shows showcasing their diversity, and throw potluck meals featuring everything from homemade Japanese sushi to Mongolian meat stew to flaky Greek desserts. About 60 percent of its residents are international students from Asia, Africa, and Europe.

In the 1960s, when the class was smaller, the students enjoyed lots of interaction, with many taking the same courses. One alumnus (Royce Moser Jr., AB ’57, MD ’61, MPH ’65, and his wife, Lois, of Salt Lake City) did not live in Shattuck House, but he and his wife attended events there about monthly. They recalled the time a classmate from Kuwait arranged a lavish Middle Eastern feast, complete with his favorite chef and belly dancers flown in from other cities. “It was like a night in Arabia,” Lois remembers. “Royce and I were used to hot dogs and macaroni casseroles.”

Angeliki Lambrou, of Athens, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology and a resident community advisor at Shattuck House, led a tour that underscored how much has changed over the years, thanks in part to generous donors. The four-story brick building now has an exercise room, a computer lab with flat-screen units (“I stayed here once till 4 a.m.,” Lambrou confessed), a landscaped garden and playground, a well-stocked children’s playroom, a recycling center, and round-the-clock security.

What time hasn’t changed is the sense of social and intellectual community that Shattuck House fosters. In addition to exploring each other’s cultures, residents from different disciplines and life stages discuss issues and careers within public health.

Current resident Ramon Sanchez, SM ’07, an engineer pursuing his doctorate in environmental health, experienced that fellowship palpably last fall. After he and his fiancée, Ana, married in Brookline, they threw a small reception in Shattuck House’s Gund Room; residents helped with decorations, appetizers, and a wedding cake.

“We can’t have alcohol in common areas here, so we toasted with sparkling cider,” Sanchez recalls. “It felt like the best champagne in the world because we were surrounded by all our friends.”

Debra Bradley Ruder is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor specializing in health care and education.