Good morning, everybody. It’s so good to be here with all of you, and to be giving this first chapel talk of the new school year. As most of you already know, we will begin most of our days right here, listening to members of the senior class tell their stories. It’s my favorite tradition here at CA, a tradition that reflects this school’s respect for the individual, and the value that it places on the simple acts of speaking and listening.
Over the four years that I have attended chapel talks, I have been impressed by the quality of the messages from our seniors – their insights, their humor, their courage, and their compassion – and by the quality of the audience’s attention in this place. Having the chance to speak and to be heard is a marvelous gift, especially in a community like this one, which is so attuned to the written and spoken word, so I’m especially grateful to be standing before you today. I think that you seniors will likely feel the same way when it’s your turn up here.
This past summer gave me an opportunity to do some good reading, to attend a seminar, and with both, to step outside my comfort zone.
As I do every summer, I used the months between graduation and the start of school to read some terrific books: Dave Eggers’ new novel, A Hologram for the King; two detective novels (featuring a lead character named after a 15th century painter, Hieronymous Bosch) by Michael Connelly; and Zadie Smith’s newest novel, NW. I also decided to delve into subjects that I was not normally drawn to and about which I knew almost nothing. I read a book by Don Norman, an engineering professor, a book entitled The Design of Everyday Things, which gave me an introduction to some of the principles underlying design of everything from the controls on a kitchen range or a bathroom faucet. It also gave me an introduction to the way that engineers think and communicate – well outside my comfort zone, but interesting nonetheless.
I also read a book about marketing – definitely outside of my comfort zone – and I read it in part because of a conversation I had with a graduate at Reunion Weekend. This alum, from the Class of ’73, wanted to talk about the future of CA, and over the course of perhaps fifteen minutes we got around to strategic plans and teaching spaces. She told me about an interesting new building on her campus, one that she thought I might like to see. A couple of weeks later I took her up on the invitation and toured the new building, named Batten Hall, but known at HBS as “the Hives,” after its ten curved, modular-learning classrooms designed for small-group exercises and team-based learning. The spaces were reminiscent of ones I’d seen at a major tech firm’s headquarters in California, spaces that were flexible in their uses and minimalist in their design – very modern-looking, certainly, but possessing an elegant simplicity that I found appealing in part because I see that same quality in various places on our campus.
The people I talked to mentioned a professor named Youngme Moon, citing her as the inspiration behind “the Hives.” I wanted to learn more about this teacher who had begun to spur Harvard Business School, not an institution known for being on the cutting edge, to embrace new ideas, so I read her book, entitled Different, which was about how businesses and product-makers of various sorts manage to assert themselves – their mission and their value – in the broader world, and what we might learn from those that successfully demonstrate how they are “different” from the rest. This was no “how-to” book, but rather a reflection about how we might understand what “value” means, whether we’re talking about a computer, an airline, or yes, even a school. One of the most refreshing passages – at least to me – was a caution about the limits of empirical data:
“… [W]e can’t afford to disregard the data that market research presents us with; we need to gather it, sift through it, and try to make sense of it as best we can. However, once we have done so, we can’t assume that our work is done.Much better that we approach our craft in the same way that a baseball purist approaches the game. Wherein we respect that statistics matter, but we also respect the fact that to reduce the game to numbers alone is to divest it of its soul. If we only pay attention to things that we can measure, we will only pay attention to the things that are easily measurable. And in the process will miss a lot.”
That’s an important reminder for us all, I think, and one I hope we can remember in the days and months to come. Don’t misunderstand – data is important, whether we’re assessing students’ understanding of a concept, or analyzing our finances, or measuring our progress toward a goal, but data is not the whole story. For that we need experience, risk, doubt, challenge, and reflection, among other elements. In short, we need all of you.
In late June, I attended the Heads Equity and Diversity Seminar in Washington, DC, and I did so for two reasons: first, the topic is important to me, particularly since as a school we'll be undertaking the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism Survey this year; and second, I know that I need to deepen my own understanding about equity and diversity, in particular here at CA.
At our introductory session, we heard from John Chubb, the incoming president of NAIS. I had heard Mr. Chubb speak once before, when he offered some pretty generic thoughts in front of several thousand people, but this time, speaking to forty or so of us, he revealed another side of himself. He spoke about his experience with charter schools across the country, and he expanded on a simple theme that resonated in those schools, a theme that he and others drew from independent schools through research: that the key determinant in school success was not wealth, zip code, or the number of teachers with advanced degrees, but mission. Chubb said the research showed that a school's ability to articulate a mission and to develop practices that reflect that mission were the keys to success. Chubb told stories about the principals and teachers and students whom he had met and worked with; he spoke not about an unbroken record of success, but about struggles, about blind spots, and about lessons learned from others, and he kept coming back to that simple message: mission is the foundation of success.
I found myself reflecting about CA’s mission – to be a community that is animated by love of learning, enriched by a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, and guided by a covenant of common trust. I think that simple statement and our collective commitment to bringing that mission to life are the source of this school’s strength and success. This is an unusually close-knit school, one that inspires unusual intellectual engagement and passion for learning, that fosters deep and lasting relationships, and that demonstrates profound respect for individuals and for the community overall. You will note that, in stating the mission of the school, I used the words “to be” – because I believe we should remind ourselves that the statement is not a given; in order for us to fulfill our mission as a school, each of must take responsibility for doing our part to bring that mission into being.
Over the next two days, I stepped outside my personal comfort zone in order to engage in dialogue and to learn with and from others. We talked about why we had come to this seminar; we talked about our own background and identity; we talked about the opposing models of teaching and learning about equity and diversity – the “deficit model,” which assumes the negative – here is what you don’t know or can’t do, and you likely won’t “get it” even after you go through the experience, but you need to do it anyway; and the “asset model,” which assumes the positive – by living in the world and being aware of others, you already have a foundation for learning; now here are some skills that can be useful for you. We talked about how promoting a more diverse and inclusive community serves students better and prepares them for "what comes after CA" more fully. We reviewed research that demonstrated that the highest functioning and most successful organizations were also highly diverse. We talked about the many ways in which we can define diversity. We talked about being thoughtful and intentional in our actions and our statements, and we talked about listening as the most essential skill, since it allows us to understand and to learn from one another.
I thought about these lessons in the context of what we are able to do here at CA – to speak with and listen to one another, to collaborate, to solve problems, and to embrace the spirit of a community by being responsible and looking out for one another. I believe that those values, which have served us so well over these first ninety years of our history, are particularly vital now. Even as technology allows us to break down barriers of space and time, the broader world seems less and less equipped to communicate, less able to create understanding through dialogue, less willing to listen, to question, to sympathize, and to find common ground despite differences. More than ever, we need places like this school, places that allow individuals to tell their stories, places that teach us to listen to and respect one another, places that teach us what it can mean to be fully human.
I recall one exercise where the seminar leader asked us to find another place to sit in the room. Once we had found new seats – some had moved one seat to the right or left, or one row back or forward; I had moved from the second row far left to the very back of the room far right and was relishing the new vantage point – the seminar leader told us that, while the exercise might offer some psychological insight, he wanted us to think of it as representative of change. For change to happen, he told us, we didn’t need all of the people to change their points of view at once; we needed only about 20% of them to do so – though in real life, he reminded us, it helped if we had the right 20%.
Here at CA and beyond, you will certainly encounter situations that you will want to influence, to change – the change will start with you, if you’re willing to take a risk and to change your own point of view, and then you can start working on that 20%. It doesn’t have to be everybody, and it doesn’t have to be right away, but if you’re persistent and patient, change will happen.
As I was boarding a city bus back to my hotel one evening, I flashed on a memory about my daughter. It concerned a talent show at my daughter’s school when she was in fifth grade. I had arrived late; in fact, every seat in the small auditorium was taken, filled by parents and grandparents and friends, many armed with video cameras so that they could cherish the memories for a lifetime. I found a spot in the back and looked at the stage, which was occupied by a group of sixth graders dressed in matching tweed jackets and ties, bashing their way through the Beatles’ song, “Twist and Shout.”
The sixth grade rockers brought their performance to a loud and enthusiastic conclusion and the next act came on. I was stunned to see my fifth-grade daughter step to center stage holding a microphone. She hadn’t told us she was going to perform anything, yet here she was standing alone in front of a packed auditorium. I felt an odd combination of excitement and fear. She took a deep breath and began to sing a traditional Irish song called “Nil ‘na la,” one that she had heard many times in our house from a recording by the Irish band Solas and its lead singer Karan Casey. I should also mention that half of the lyrics were sung in Gaelic, and even though my daughter didn’t actually speak Gaelic, she was doing a remarkable imitation of someone who did. She sang the song a cappella in an earnest, steady voice, and when she finished and delivered a deep bow, I joined the rest of the audience in loud applause.
Her music teacher, in encouraging participation, had said that she wanted kids to try something different and to share something they loved. My daughter had sung a song, having been drawn to the sound and shape of those words and notes, and paid homage to the artist by learning and then singing them. She told us later that she had gone to sleep listening to, transcribing, memorizing, and practicing the song for weeks, until she knew it note for note. If imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, here was its apogee.
She had been willing to step outside her comfort zone and to share something she loved, as so many of you will in the coming year, whether that involves singing a song in public, studying a new subject, playing a sport you’ve never played before, or leaning into a discussion about a topic that is challenging for you, and she gained something that she would not have known otherwise, just as I did, and just as you will.
I hope that this year you can find ways to step outside your own personal comfort zones, and to find something you love and share it. And don’t worry about perfection, which is overrated anyway; just make it yours, and that will be enough.
Thank you for listening, everyone.
Good morning. It’s wonderful to see all of you here today, on this first day of classes marking Concord Academy’s 91st year since its founding in 1922. I am very pleased to welcome members of the board of trustees, faculty emeriti, current faculty and staff, students, and especially the new members of our community. This morning, one hundred and twelve new students are sitting in this chapel for their first official school gathering, as are seventeen adults new to the school. To you, our newest members, let me say that we are very pleased that you have joined us, because we know that you will energy and fresh ways of seeing that will make us a better school. Welcome to all of you.
Even as we come together to mark the start of the school year together, I must also acknowledge that the CA community experienced a terrible loss this past summer with the death of Jacob Weiskopf, a member of the Class of 2014. For reasons that we may never fully understand, Jacob took his own life on July 19. At the service for Jacob on July 24, his father Doug urged all of us, especially Jacob’s friends and classmates, not to dwell on his death, but to remember and celebrate his life and his spirit, to hold fast to life in the face of loss, and to turn our thoughts to the day ahead rather than the day gone. We intend to do that. Led by David Rost, Jeff Desjarlais, John Drew, Jenny Chandler, and others, we have thought carefully about how we will address Jacob’s death in the community. We will be meeting with seniors to determine how best to honor his memory; we will take care to support students who may still be coming to terms with his death; and we will work hard to help the community move forward.
We begin each school year in this place, and that is fitting, since this chapel is so clearly the heart of this school. Three and sometime four mornings a week we gather here to listen to a single speaker, most of them seniors, telling his or her story. No other school I can name so clearly makes the start of the day a genuinely community gathering – and as I think about what continues to make Concord Academy vibrant and relevant now and into the future, I think most about what happens here. This year’s seniors, the Class of 2014, are very familiar with this place, having attended hundreds of chapel talks, “Ch-announcements,” vespers, community meetings and performances; adding this year when they give their own chapel talks, the number of times they will have sat in this space will be well over 400 for them. So for our new students, your first day in the chapel begins what we hope will be a long and meaningful career at CA.
A word about applause in this space – when we come here for senior chapels, we should enter and leave in silence, with no applause before, during, or after the talk. We will expect you to observe these customs beginning tomorrow, when I give my chapel, but since today’s gathering is a convocation, we are making an exception, and applause today will be welcome.
This year marks thirty-three years in education for me, but as I said in my welcome to new students and families last Friday, the beginning of each new year finds me eager to start, and also nervous. I can’t help feeling this way, apparently, since this has been my pattern from the time I was a student in elementary school, through high school, college, and graduate school, and certainly every fall that I have been teaching – including today, including this very moment. I now understand that this feeling reflects both the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but also the thrill of possibility, the promise of a new year. As you sit here this morning, I know that each of you is likely feeling a few nerves, and that your expectations are high, and that you have more than a few questions about what you will discover in the months to come, both about this school and about yourself. Remember this: You are not alone. The journey that you are beginning today is one that we are all beginning; and we will get where we’re going together.
That journey together begins today, with convocation, a gathering where we mark the beginning of the academic year, as many schools and colleges do, and remind ourselves of our shared mission: to engage one another in a community animated by a love of learning, enriched by a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, and guided by a covenant of common trust.
As you can see from the program, several people will bring their greetings and best wishes. Most importantly, we will hear from John Drew, CA’s Assistant Head of School and Academic Dean, and a long-time, widely-respected member of the faculty, who will share a few thoughts about teaching and learning in this community. Following his remarks and the singing of “Concord, Concord,” we will go to the Stu-Fac for refreshments, with classes to begin at 9:30 am.
[Intro for Kim Williams, President of the CA Board of Trustees]
As part of our welcome today, I have asked Ms. Kim Williams to say a few words. Kim is the president of Concord Academy’s Board of Trustees, and she has been a member of the board since 2009. She brings twenty-six years of experience in investment management to the board, having retired in 2005 as senior vice president and partner of the Boston-based Wellington Management Company. Kim holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of London, and she sits on numerous boards, including the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, E. W. Scripps, Xcel Energy, MicroVest, and Anna Jaques (Jakes) Hospital in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Kim has also served on the Board of Overseers of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Oxfam America Leadership Council, and the Board of Trustees at the Brookwood School. Kim lives in Newbury, Massachusetts, with her family. As a past parent and current parent– her son Alexander Miller was graduated from CA in 2008, and her daughter Becca Miller and son Ben Miller are members of the Class of 2014 – she has a deep understanding of this school and a genuine appreciation of the impact that it had and continues to have on her family.
I am very pleased that she is with us today. Please join me in welcoming Kim Williams.
[Kim Williams’ remarks]
Thank you, Kim.
[Intro for Eliza Thomas, Student Head of School, 2013-14]
As part of convocation at CA, the student head of school, Eliza Thomas, also offers her own words of welcome. Eliza is a dedicated, hardworking student, a spirited, talented athlete on the soccer field, and a warm, positive presence in the school community. Last June, her advisor from the Mountain School described her this way: “Warm and personable yet disciplined, and with the capacity to really cut loose when appropriate, Eliza found adventure in everyday experiences and was the catalyst for creating warm and satisfying experiences in the classroom, in the dormitory, and on the farm.” Ever since she arrived as a new sophomore, Eliza seemed to be always in motion, eager to immerse herself in the school, and over the last two years, we’ve seen her fully embrace the experience here at CA. Her infectious enthusiasm, even temper, and concern for others make her a natural leader, an impression clearly shared by her peers, who voted her as their head of school. I have great confidence in Eliza and I look forward to working with her and the other members of student council to make this year at CA a terrific one. Please welcome our student head of school, Eliza Thomas.
Thank you, Eliza.
[Intro for John Drew, Faculty Speaker] 
Runner, teacher, coach, comedian, sax player, father, husband
It’s my pleasure now to introduce this year’s faculty speaker, John Drew. John is starting his sixteenth year at Concord, having arrived in the fall of 1998 to join the Science Department and to serve as a houseparent in Hobson House. Since then, he has served in a variety of roles – classroom teacher, advisor, department chair, houseparent, cross-country coach, and, since 2007, Academic Dean, and adding Assistant Head of School to his title in July. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Amherst and his master’s at Smith. An experienced teacher and coach, he had stints at the Field School and Potomac School before Concord, as well as coaching at Smith College and Penn State Erie, where he was a health educator and the varsity men’s and women’s cross-country and track coach. A serious runner himself, John looks at a 10-mile run as a nice warm-up. Last fall, he completed a 50 kilometer race (that’s about 31 miles, by the way) and showed up for school on Monday smiling and walking normally. Clearly bionic on some level.
Known for his wry sense of humor – not to mention his ability to do dead-on impressions of a host of characters, including some from this school community – John typically serves as emcee of the Faculty Coffee House, where his talents as both musician and comedian are on display.
One colleague described John this way:
“He’s a terrific guy with a superb intellect and his heart in the right place.”
In his willingness to take on the joint Boston class with History Chair Kim Frederick, colleagues saw an admirable role model. As one put it, “It shows other faculty that there is support at the top for them to rethink how they are teaching and to try things that they think will help student learning but that might be unconventional for the school.” John’s first priority, as everyone can attest, is CA’s students. Said another teacher: “He has a broad and deep understanding of what makes a rewarding educational experience, and he encourages teachers to be creative in crafting such experiences. At the same time, he’s mindful of the limits of a teenager’s ability to absorb, and so he promotes balance among learning, growing, creating, and relaxing. . . . I can also count on him to deliver 100 % of what he promises.” And finally, this from another teaching colleague: “He is also a good role model in the sense that even though he always has many things on his plate simultaneously, he clearly knows when to stop working and create time for himself and his family.”
CA is very fortunate to benefit from his talent and his dedication. Please welcome this year’s Faculty Speaker, Assistant Head and Academic Dean John Drew.
[John Drew’s remarks]
Thanks so much, John.
Now I would ask all of you to stand and join Michael Bennett and the CA Chorus for a singing of “Concord, Concord.”
[Singing of “Concord, Concord”]
Thank you, everyone. Here’s to a great school year!
Thank you Rick, Kim and Eliza, welcome to new students, faculty and staff, and welcome students and colleagues who are returning!
As we start our first day of classes, I am excited about the possibilities of a new year: What will we do with this year? What opportunities will present themselves?
First, a bit of history for context. My own high school experience informs my teaching mostly by my trying to do the OPPOSITE of what I experienced there. Although, my junior history teacher did use cutting-edge technology. At one point in the Iran hostage crisis (as it is known in the US) or Conquest of the American Spy Den (as it is known in Iran) he came into class, tuned into a static-filled AM radio station, and told us to listen to history unfolding. He then put his feet up on his desk and promptly fell asleep behind a newspaper that eventually slid off his lap.
While there were plenty of nice people at Cranston High School West, both adults and students were mostly indifferent to learning.
I was lucky enough to go to a great college — a place where I was surrounded by people who cared about ideas. There were professors who took me seriously, which was a new experience, and a remarkable gift to receive. There were many kind and gentle people there, but intellectual discourse was often brutal. Students spent altogether too much time keeping score about how smart people were, as if intelligence were one definitive thing, and that that thing could be quantified and ranked.
Part of what I have found so positive at CA is that a remarkable excitement about ideas is complemented by a kindness and level of looking out for one another that is rare. Individuals are valued for what they contribute rather than ranked by scores or some kind of social food chain. While no place is perfect, I have been proud to be a part of a school community that attends to a positive balance of thinking and feeling.
In his first chapel, former head of school Jake Dresden said that "we succeed through the grace of others." I've always liked that phrase. It captures an essential aspect of this school that requires our constant care. In order for this place to provide space for individuals to be themselves, we each must be generous enough to create that space for others. Success, in this sense, means growing into a vision of where you are and in what directions your mind, body and spirit might want to go. And that vision promotes your own growth and not only allows but encourages that same growth in others.
So how might we do that growing? Part of the leap of faith that we ask of each other is to believe that we offer each other worthy, valuable ideas. Notice I am not saying ideas offered by adults to students. While faculty and students each have particular roles and responsibilities, part of what makes this community vibrant is that the exchange of ideas is fluid amongst everyone on this campus — faculty, staff and students.
I read a fascinating book this summer called Ambient Commons, by a Univerity of Michigan architecture and design professor named Malcolm McCollough. McCollough considers, in one reviewer's words, "the way our attention encounters the environment, and the way environments influence attention." He challenges the ways in which modern cities often place layers of information between the viewer and the physical spaces they inhabit. McCollough plays with ideas of the overlap of information and reality, how we attend to information, and how we create meaning. He offers an example of a beautiful stone archway on his campus that leads from a library to an outside courtyard. Any chance that one might appreciate this transition from inside to out is marred by a generic exit sign, required by law: "… the lesson is this: in the rush of ambient information, don't forget, and don't cover over, the natural meaning of things. Built form plays an important role in everyday life… [because] without any persistent context, you are nowhere." If we only attend to the exit sign and never acknowledge the architecture, meaning is lost. To be clear, before we added some signs to this campus, our visitors were lost. It's all about balance.
This summer, as I drove across the country with my family, I loved places that were distinctive, and was numbed by those few places we visited that were generic. Natural gas money in Fargo, North Dakota has allowed that city to build a bunch of strip mall stores that could be anywhere, and hence make a visitor feel like they are nowhere. These stores may represent more money, but they do not represent wealth. The University of Montana's iconic old building at the foot of a small mountain in Missoula is a unique setting — you wouldn't mistake it for anywhere else.
So here on campus, you might find your footing by locating yourself. The Sudbury River is north, Main St is south. Wheeler is the eastern-most house on campus, and Rick's house is the westernmost. Nearly all weather comes from the west. But if the wind starts coming from the direction of Wheeler, that's called a nor'easter, and it's likely to be bad.
Another idea I found appealing from McCollough is a simple exercise for restoring attention once we are located in a place. Becoming aware of a simple thing like sunlight moving across a wall (or through the chapel), which McCollough describes as high resolution with low demand, may allow us to restore our attention which has been eroded from lower resolution, high demand sources like electronic screens of various kinds. He asks that we think less about "paying attention," something our elders have often asked us to do, and to consider the flow of attention. He writes, "…across disciplines, and in meditation practices as well, filtering isn't so much tuning out as it a tuning in… Effortless attention occurs amid practiced engagement with a medium, whether the soil, a musical instrument, or your favorite design software. It becomes craft. To live well is to work well. Engaged, skillful experience makes better citizens."
So what do you notice? What do you tune into? While there are all sorts of discussions and debates about attention right now, this is an old aspect of education. The world has always offered more stimuli than we can absorb, and part of what an education does is provide habits of mind in choosing where you will direct focus. CA offers us all a tradition of creating conditions for learning rather than prescriptions for learning. CA is not a place that could be anywhere. We want to be right here, and students, we want you to be right here with us, constructing meaning from the interactions of a varied group of interesting people.
We need to get this day started, but I want to offer one more image to take into the semester.
"…I always loved venturing out from one stepping stone to the next, right into the middle of the stream — for even though the river was narrow enough and shallow enough, there was a feeling of daring once you got out into the main flow of the current. Suddenly you were on your own. You were giddy and rooted to the spot at one and the same time. Your body stood stock still… but your head would be light and swimming from the rush of the river at your feet and the big stately movement of the clouds in the sky above your head… It is that double capacity that we possess as human beings — the capacity to be attracted at one and the same time to the security of the intimately known and the challenges and entrancements of what is beyond us."
My hope for all of us this year is that we might find CA to be our stepping stone. Heaney closes his essay this way:
"The stepping stone invites you to change the terms and the [terrain] of your understanding; it does not ask you to take your feet off the ground but it refreshes your vision by keeping your head in the air and bringing you alive to the open sky of possibility that is within you. And that still seems something to write home about."
Thank you. Let's go to school!
The entire Concord Academy community gathered on the morning of September 3 for the twelfth annual Convocation, marking the beginning of the new school year.
Assistant Head and Academic Dean John Drew P'15 was the faculty guest speaker. Other speakers included Rick Hardy, head of school; Kim Williams P’08,’14, president of the board of trustees; and Eliza Thomas ’14, student body president.
The ceremony began on a sober note as Mr. Hardy acknowledged the loss of Jacob Weiskopf ’14, who took his own life over the summer. “At the service for Jacob on July 24, his father Doug urged all of us . . . not to dwell on his death, but to remember and celebrate his life . . . and to turn our thoughts to the day ahead rather than the day gone,” said Hardy.
This September marks thirty-three years in education for Hardy, who shared that each new school year finds him “eager to start, and also nervous.” Upon consideration, said Hardy, that feeling reflects some uncertainty, but also the “the thrill of possibility, the promise of a new year.”
In her remarks, Williams urged all CA students to embrace the school and all it has to offer. “Explore your passions and discover new ones,” said Williams. “You will seldom have a more hospitable environment in which to take risks and possibly fail without dire consequences.”
John Drew shared stories from a cross-country trip he took this summer. “I loved places that were distinctive, and was numbed by those few places we visited that were generic,” said Drew. He added that CA is one of those distinctive places, where individuals are “valued for what they contribute rather than ranked by scores or some kind of social food chain.” Drew expressed pride at being part of a community where there is a tradition of creating conditions for learning rather than prescriptions for learning.
Drew closed his remarks by quoting from an essay written by recently deceased Irish poet Seamus Heaney—who once spoke in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel. Drew, quoting Heaney, said "The stepping stone invites you to change the terms and the [terrain] of your understanding; it does not ask you to take your feet off the ground but it refreshed your vision by keeping your head in the air and bringing you alive to the open sky of possibility that is within you. And that still seems something to write home about.” Drew then offered his hope that the entire community “might find CA to be our stepping stone.” A full copy of Drew's remarks can be found here.
Convocation concluded with the CA Chorus performing the song, “Concord, Concord,” and the students leading the community out of the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel and into the new school year.
To see photos from this year's Convocation, please click here.
Copies of people's remarks, as well as video of those remarks, will be made available soon.
Concord Academy is pleased to announce that Rachel Morrison '96 has been named the Davidson Lecturer for 2013-14. An Emmy-nominated cinematographer, Morrison recently received Kodak's Vision Award at the Women in Film annual Crystal + Lucy Awards for her outstanding achievements in cinematography. The award is given to a female filmmaker who collaborates with and assists women in the entertainment industry. Her recent work, Fruitvale Station, won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival; the film also took home the Avenir Prize at Cannes this year.
In March, South by Southwest premiered her latest drama Some Girl(s), directed by Daisy von Mayer and starring Emily Watson, Zoe Kazan, Kristin Bell, Mia Maestro, Jennifer Morrison and Adam Brody. Her upcoming work also includes The Harvest starring Michael Shannon, Samantha Morton and Peter Fonda, with director John McNaughton. In addition to Fruitvale Station, Morrison lensed two other Sundance premieres in the past three years: Sound of My Voice, and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. In 2012, she was director of photography for Any Day Now, starring Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt.
After completing a Master’s degree in cinematography at the American Film Institute, Morrison honed her craft lensing for television. Her work has been featured on most major TV networks including HBO, ABC, MTV, IFC, Biography, Comedy Central, E!, CBS and OWN. She received an Emmy nomination for Showtime’s Riker’s High, a documentary about a high school within the Riker’s Island prison system.
Morrison is returning to CA for an all-campus assembly on Thursday, September 26 from 2:10-3:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.
The Davidson Lecture is a distinguished, endowed lecture series that was established by Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Davidson in 1966 in honor of their two daughters, Anne E. Davidson Kidder ’62 and Jane S. Davidson ’64. This lectureship has brought to CA a wide array of accomplished people including Hilary Price '87, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Julia Preston ’69, and past CA parents Robert Pinsky and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
An enthusiastic group of nearly 400 CA alumnae/i and their families descended on the Concord Academy campus for Reunion 2013. Relive the best moments by clicking here. Enjoy!
Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie delivered advice and inspiration along with the keynote address at the school’s ninetieth annual Commencement, urging the ninety-three members of Concord Academy’s Class of 2013 to “befriend regret” and remember that “now is a gift.”
“I am going to tell you everything I know,” Crawford Harvie said Friday morning on the lawn outside the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel. “Don’t worry it’s a short speech.”
She counseled the graduates to “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” When you make a mistake, she also told the senior class, “remember to say nine simple words ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Please forgive me’.”
Crawford Harvie illustrated her message about living in the present with a story about driving a very ill companion from Provincetown, Massachusetts to a hospital in Boston in the middle of the night. Despite his illness, Crawford Harvie’s friend looked up at the brilliant night sky peppered with stars and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
She congratulated the young men and women in the Class of 2013 on their accomplishments at CA, and told them “you are loved beyond measure.”
Crawford Harvie stood before CA’s Commencement as the senior minister at Arlington Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2004, Crawford Harvie performed the first same-sex wedding in a church in the United States. She has co-founded two non-profit organizations: In the Best Interests of the Children, dedicated to providing educational and material assistance to young people and families affected by pediatric HIV/AIDS; and The Shared Heart, a traveling exhibition and book of photographs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teenagers, designed to support the Massachusetts Safe Schools Initiative. Crawford Harvie is also the recipient of numerous awards including the Harvard Divinity School’s First Decade Award. She is married to math teacher Kem Morehead and they are CA house parents.
In his address, Head of School Rick Hardy told the assembled crowd of students, families, faculty, staff, and trustees that the Class of 2013 was “known for its connectedness and independent thinking.”
President of the Board of Trustees John Moriarty shared with the seniors what he loves most about CA. “It’s the soul of the school, that I love,” said Moriarty. “CA is a community where the continuous love of learning from the heart and soul of the faculty gets you into the habit of doing the best you can—not the least you can.” Moriarty smiled as he reminded the seniors that they would soon embrace a new role at CA—as alumnae/i. “You are never really done with CA,” he said. “My youngest child graduated six years ago—and I am still not done!”
In keeping with CA tradition, graduates did not wear caps and gowns and no prizes were awarded. Diplomas, as always, were handed out in no particular order, with suspense building toward the end. Each year, graduates stuff a sock with one-dollar bills, and the last one called for his or her diploma takes the sock home. This year, the lucky last one called was Charles Halsey Hutchinson of Lincoln, Massachusetts.
After the Commencement exercises, students filed through a receiving line of faculty and staff and then Concord Academy's Class of 2013 gathered for a reception on the Quad with faculty, family, and friends. Many families had traveled a great distance to share in this special moment.
The graduating class includes students from California, Maryland, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Korea, Indonesia, and China.
Did you miss this year's commencement? View the ceremony in just twenty-five seconds below.
January 31 was the fourth day of CA’s spirit week. The theme of the day was formal attire so blazers, straight ties, bowties, dresses and heels could be seen all over campus. The Davidson Lecturer this year, however, took the stage in stark contrast to the clean-cut audience. Dorothy Q. Thomas, sister of English teacher Cammy Thomas, sported slim blue jeans, a black-studded, military-style jacket, boots, and large, dangling earrings. She noted that she was lucky to have gained access to the “rock ‘n’ roll opera” that is CA. But it appeared that Thomas, not the CA community, was the rock-star here.
In 1998, Thomas was awarded a MacArthur Fellow and, in the same year, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights for her work in the field of women’s rights. She is also the founding director of the Women’s Division of the Human Rights Watch organization. Thomas, an ardent supporter of awareness towards the struggles surrounding gender equality, has been lauded for her work and writing on women’s rights.
Thomas took to the podium as this year’s Davidson Lecturer but from the very beginning it was clear she was intent on opening a discussion, not giving a lecture.
To kick off the discussion, Thomas jumped out of her chair and darted for the podium. After thanking her sister Cammy Thomas for the introduction, she quickly glided closer to the audience, asking questions rather than stating findings. “Let me start off by asking you all a question: what is the topic of today’s assembly?” A silence of uncertainty and tension permeated the P.A.C. before a few answers popped out of the audience. “Women.” “Activism.” “Human Rights.” “For how many of you is the topic of gender equality a significant part of your life?” Dorothy inquired. Roughly 70 percent of the audience’s hands shot up, Thomas asked Sam Boswell ’13 how it played a role in his life. “I’m confused,” he said. He suggested that by simply being a male, he is implicated in the issue of female oppression, an “unconscious oppressor” of sorts. Boswell and states that while we all make mistakes, perhaps mostly unaware of them, we ought to try to be aware and learn how to express this awareness for others.
“But why should we even care about women’s rights? Why should anyone who is not female act on this complex issue?” asked Thomas.
The week before, the school celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with videos, workshops, and discussions. The words and language of those discussions seemed to linger in the P.A.C. and could be heard in the answers to the question. Kathleen Melendy ‘14 stated that talent is lost when males are preferred over women for career opportunities, and that we must try to equalize opportunity. Other responses suggested that the discussion of women is no more a discussion of human rights than those about immigration, sexuality, or race. Dr. King’s words seemed to linger in the air: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Thomas did not state her own opinions; rather she was the catalyst of a discussion, drawing out answers from students that they did not know they had.
Eventually the discussion flowed into imagining an idealistic world and students began describing a world in which there is “equal opportunity,” based on our ability rather than arbitrary, unchangeable characteristics such as race or gender or nationality. Ada Obieshi ’14 shot her hand up. “The solution is not really in eliminating our obstacles, but being more attuned to them in relation to our community,” said Ada Obieshi. “Only then can we really move beyond them.”
Thomas, the 2013 Davidson Lecturer, wrapped everything up: “and that concludes today’s discussion.”
And, like a rock concert, the discussion about the show continued outside the concert hall.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” On January 22, 2013, the CA community spent the day speaking out about things that matter as a way of honoring Dr. King’s legacy.
The day began with a screening of a TED talk given by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, author of "The Danger of A Single Story.” Adichie says that if we hear just a single story about a people or country the result can be painful and, even dangerous, misunderstandings. Adichie relates the story of her college roommate in the United States who was surprised to hear that Adichie had not grown up in poverty and liked non-tribal music. The video – which has been viewed more than three million times on YouTube – seemed to resonate with the CA audience, as students, faculty, and staff formed into one of nineteen groups to take advantage of an opportunity to discuss the film. In the CA Stories Response Group, students shared their own stories; others gathered to rehash the election in 2012 Election—Politics and the Single Story.
A series of workshops—twenty in all—followed the discussion groups: The Culture Circle; Exploring Affirmative Action in College Admissions; Hipster Racism; and Environmental Justice were just some of the options available to students, who spent an hour engaged in passionate and candid discussion.
The breadth of discussion choices was a testament to the hard work of CA’s Community and Equity team, including Assistant Dean for Community and Equity Ayres Stiles-Hall, Jennifer Cardillo, Kirsten Hoyte, Paige Gould, and Courtney Fields.
The afternoon featured a talk by CA Board of Trustee member Mervan Osborne.
Osborne spent twelve years working as an English teacher at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols before he moved on to become a founding member of Beacon Academy—a school that provides a fourteen-month preparatory program for “bright but under-educated urban students” who aspire to attend independent or public exam schools. Osborne is the current Associate Head of School at Beacon Academy.
But it was his time as an English teacher in the 1990s, as one of the first teachers in the Teach for America program, that Osborne focused on in his speech. He talked about a student, John Smith, a musically-minded young man unfortunately caught up in gangs. And Victor, a promising middle school student fatally shot on his way to pick up his younger brother.
“It’s important, if you guys are hearing his story, it has value,” Osborne said. “Victor can move forward.” Although he has moved away from Los Angeles, Osborne said he will always carry the experience of being an inner-city teacher in his heart. Then Osborne read from one of Martin Luther King’s letters. The letter, written from a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963, reads in part “let us all hope that the dark cloud of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched community.” Osborne continued, “And if that’s a prayer, I send it to those communities. I wonder if that fog still exists that existed during those riots.”
Osborne then addressed the CA students and urged them all to “have the courage to write your own script and tell your own story. Plant your stake in the ground.”
Good morning. It’s wonderful to see all of you here today, on this first day of classes of the 90th year in CA’s history. I am very pleased to welcome members of the board of trustees, faculty emeriti, current faculty and staff, students, and especially the new members of our community. This morning, one hundred and eight new students are sitting in this chapel for their first official school gathering, as are twelve adults new to the school. To you, our newest members, let me say that we are delighted that you have joined us, because we know that you will contribute in a host of important ways to our community.
I think it is fitting that we begin the year in this chapel, since this building so clearly reflects the ethos of this school. Three and sometime four mornings a week we gather here to listen to a single speaker, most of them seniors, telling his or her story. I know of no other school that so clearly makes the start of the day a genuinely community gathering – and as I think about what continues to make Concord Academy strong and relevant now and into the future, I think most about what happens here. This year’s seniors, the Class of 2013, have already sat here more than 300 times, attending chapel talks, “Ch-announcements,” vespers, community meetings and performances; adding this year when they give their own chapel talks, the number of times in this building will be well over 400 for them. So for our new students, this first visit to the chapel begins what we hope will be a long and meaningful career at CA.
A word about applause in this space – when we come here for senior chapels, we should enter and leave in silence, with no applause before, during, or after the talk. We will expect you to observe these customs beginning tomorrow, when I give my chapel, but since today’s gathering is a convocation, we are making an exception, and applause today will be welcome.
This year marks thirty-two years in education for me, but as I said in my welcome to new students and families last Friday, the beginning of each new year finds me eager to start, and also nervous. I can’t help feeling this way, apparently, since this has been my pattern from the time I was a student in elementary school, through high school, college, and graduate school, and certainly every fall that I have been teaching – including today, including this very moment. I now understand that this feeling reflects both the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but also the thrill of possibility, the promise of a new year. As you sit here this morning, I know that each of you is likely feeling a few nerves, and that your expectations are high, and that you have more than a few questions about what you will discover in the months to come, both about this school and about yourself. Remember this: You are not alone. The journey that you are beginning today is one that we are all beginning; and we will get where we’re going together.
Since you will hear me speak at tomorrow’s opening chapel, my role today is largely to give a little background about this gathering, and to introduce our speakers. CA’s convocation developed in the year after September 11, 2001, when the entire school gathered to remember and to express its solidarity with the families of the victims of that day’s events. We gather now for our eleventh convocation to mark the beginning of the academic year, as many schools and colleges do, and to remind ourselves of the values we share: to engage one another in a community animated by a love of learning, enriched by a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, and guided by a covenant of common trust.
As you can see from the program, several people will bring their greetings and best wishes. Most importantly, we will hear from Susan Adams, a long-time, deeply-admired member of the faculty, who will share a few thoughts about teaching and learning in this community. Following her remarks and the singing of “Concord, Concord,” we will go to the Stu-Fac for refreshments, with classes to begin at 9:30 am.
As part of our welcome today, I have asked Mr. John Moriarty to say a few words. John is the president of Concord Academy’s Board of Trustees, and he has been a member of the board since 1999. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover and earned his BA from Johns Hopkins University.
John has had a long and distinguished career in business. Since 1985, he has been founder and president of John Moriarty & Associates, a commercial building firm with offices in Boston, MA, Hartford, CT, Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Alexandria, VA. Unfailingly modest, he has nevertheless left his mark on the world around him with countless signature building projects across the country, including the new wing that houses the Art of the Americas at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. John has also left his mark at a host of schools in the Boston and New England area – he is a past board president at Belmont Day School, and in addition to presiding over the board here at Concord Academy, he currently serves on the board of the Nashoba Brooks School and the facilities committee at the Fenn School, among other organizations; his goal, in these roles, is very simple: to improve the community around him, and especially to improve the lives of students like you. As a past parent – his three children (Kate, Clare, and John, Jr.) all attended CA – he has keen insights into this school and the impact that it had and continues to have on his family.
As CA’s board president, he has been a wonderful mentor and partner for me, and I am very pleased that he is with us today. Please join me in welcoming John Moriarty.
As part of convocation at CA, the student head of school, Kelsey McDermott, also offers her own words of welcome. Kelsey is a talented, hardworking student, a committed field hockey and lacrosse player, and an upbeat, positive presence in the school community. One of my most vivid memories of Kelsey is from three years ago; she was walking up Chapel Way from after field hockey practice, and despite the fact that she had just finished a long workout on a brutally hot afternoon, she was upbeat and smiling. I’ve since come to realize that that’s the way Kelsey is every day. As her advisor put it, “She may say on Friday that it all feels overwhelming, but by Monday she has completed whatever letter or plan is needed and feels confident.” Her interest in the world around her is complemented by her genuine concern for others. Kelsey is an enthusiastic, committed leader, and I know that she will play a vital role at CA over the course of the upcoming year. I have great confidence in Kelsey, and I look forward to working closely with her and the other members of student council. Please welcome our student head of school, Kelsey McDermott.
It’s my pleasure now to introduce this year’s faculty speaker, Susan Adams. Frau Adams, as she is known to her students, joined Concord Academy’s Department of Foreign Languages forty-one years ago. Since then, she has chaired what is now known as the Modern Languages Department, served as a college counselor, as well as Dean of Faculty for a period of years, and most important, she has taught German language and literature – and done so brilliantly.
One colleague described her this way: “Susan Adams is a 100-percenter in all that she does. One of the qualities that I especially appreciate is her willingness to delve into new areas – this is an admirable quality [that] few of us possess or are reluctant to exercise. .. Informative, imaginative, creative, she brings to her classes an enthusiasm that is unmatched. … [She] is discreet, tactful, sensible, sensitive, and assuredly a mature individual. She can also laugh at her own foibles!”
Former Head of School Tom Wilcox wrote that “I can think of few, if any, teachers… who combine intellectual activity, a serious attitude toward scholarship, and a thoroughly professional approach toward all aspects of school work as brilliantly as Susan Adams. Ms. Adams is…”a master teacher” in every sense of the word. The beginners [in her classes] develop a life-long enthusiasm for German language and literature. Native speakers, years later, describe her literature and conversation classes as the most challenging and enlivening of their lives….Susan is, above all, a lover of the German language and literature [and] it is inspiring to work with her.”
From the late Ron Richardson: “Last year I sat in on an intermediate class for a few days. I was amazed at how gracefully Susan was able to meet the needs of all of her students and hold their interest for the entire hour. …There was nothing stiff or rigidly academic about the atmosphere, however. The rapport among the students and the teacher was pleasant and supportive. I remember we laughed a lot. … Her commitment to her profession and her involvement in professional activities have been exemplary, as has been her contribution to the general well-being of Concord Academy. The only problem I have had with Susan was finding proper replacements for her when she took time off to have babies, and even this cynical, old bachelor cannot begrudge a woman her children.”
In her tribute celebrating Susan’s 40th year at CA, Elke Schipani had this to say: “Frau Adams, you began my Concord career by challenging me while supporting just as you do your students every day. From the day I and every one of your students step into your classroom, we know you are committed to us. You do whatever it takes to help us to our fullest potential. Your faith in each of your students gives us faith in ourselves. You are excited about learning and, above all, love to hear our questions and opinions, something we value so deeply.”
I was fortunate to have Susan assigned as my faculty mentor during my first year at CA. From her brief, but artful introduction for me to the faculty – she penned a haiku on my behalf! – to her quiet words of wisdom and her ready sense of humor, Susan has been a calm and affirming presence for me, as she routinely is for so many here at Concord Academy.
Please welcome this year’s Faculty Speaker, Susan Adams.
Now I would ask all of you to stand and join Keith Daniel and the CA Chorus for a singing of “Concord, Concord.”
Thank you, everyone. Here’s to a great school year!