Around 250 Concord Academy alumnae/i gathered on campus for Reunion Weekend from June 10 through June 12. CA recognized the reunions of the classes of 1947, 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017, as well as the classes of 1970 and 1971, whose in-person 50th reunion celebrations the pandemic had delayed. At this first on-campus alumnae/i celebration since 2019, the joy of meeting again in person was palpable.
On beautiful late spring days under fair skies, alumnae/i made the most of their time together, chatting around a fire pit or on the Senior Steps and borrowing paddles and life jackets to canoe on the Sudbury River. As with all CA reunions, alumnae/i from any year were welcome to attend. Throughout the weekend, programs and panel discussions, meals, class gatherings, and all-community celebrations presented many opportunities for sharing and reconnection.
Reunion Weekend also included a gathering for alumnae/i of color with Grant Hightower, director of community and equity; a morning yoga session; a memorial service for members of the CA community who had passed away in recent years; and several campus tours highlighting CA’s vision for constructing a new arts center on the western side of its campus and the commitments to environmental sustainability that project will entail.
In the dance studio on Saturday morning, Janelle Gilchrist ’97, Doria Phelps-Braun Hughes ’92, P’18, and Hilary Price ’87 spoke with moderator Justin Bull P’25, interim dean of faculty, during a panel discussion, “The Art of Story.” Each had had a different experience with the arts as a student at CA, and each spoke to the individual importance of narrative in their work.
Gilchrist, who had been dancing since age 6, described her evolution from dancer to also become a choreographer and educator. The founder and artistic director of the Boston-based Janelle Gilchrist Dance Troupe, Gilchrest teaches at the Boston Arts Academy and Boston Conservatory, as well as in the Boston Public Schools. Her choreography fuses ballet, modern, and jazz, always to communicate a story, emotion, or idea. “When I was a kid, I danced just to dance,” she said. “Now I want to put meaning into why I’m creating things.”
Hughes, a professional storyteller and also the collections manager for the Rosemarie Beck Foundation, spoke of the importance of cross-fertilization between art forms. Moving between performance and managing a visual art collection, she said, “informes and refreshes my thinking.” She described herself as a serious musician from an artistic family when she attended CA, where she loved that the arts were integrated into the academic curriculum. CA, she said, is where the idea that “art is real work” solidified for her. She also credited the model of senior chapels with giving her an alternative to scripted theater. “It took a while to realize what I could do on a stage,” she said. She discovered her calling one day at an ice cream shop, when her daughter was 5, where, to entertain her friends, she told her first unplanned story. The kids were spellbound, and Hughes thought, “I have a superpower!” Around a year later, she hung out her shingle for her new profession and continues to love stories as a vehicle for engaging in the moment.
Cartoonist Price has created the syndicated daily newspaper comic “Rhymes with Orange” for 27 years. She also teaches single-panel cartooning. As a student at CA, she was a “dilettante,” she said, motivated to differentiate herself from her older sister and supported in her impulse to try many new things. “The atmosphere of the school made it not crazy for me to think I could be a cartoonist,” she said. Price discussed the importance of regularity in her creative process as well as her embrace, over the past five years, of a collaborative approach to her strip. “I’m happier, and I want to tell the world that creativity doesn’t have to be that myth of the singular endeavor,” she said. Her focus is on creating work that is true for her. “When something’s funny,” she said, “there’s a kernel of pain or vulnerability, and I try to tap into that.” Noting that humor works by disrupting cliches, she shared that she has recently found synergy in performing stand-up comedy as well as Moth-style storytelling—or as she called it, “community truth-telling.”
“. . . I want to tell the world that creativity doesn’t have to be that myth of the singular endeavor.”
Hilary Price ’87
At a session called “The Roots of CA’s Mission,” at the Moriarty Athletic Campus on Saturday afternoon, Lucille Stott, shared stories from CA’s 100-year history, speaking to how empathy, inclusion, and valuing of both the individual and interdependence have shaped this community from its outset and through its transition, 50 years ago, to a coeducational school. In recent years, Stott, a former faculty member and dean at Concord Academy, who retired in 2014, has spoken with around 300 alumnae/i for a book she has been writing, a cultural history of Concord Academy for the school’s Centennial. In addressing how CA lives its mission, she highlighted two uncommon attributes for an independent school. First, “there is no CA mold,” she said, but rather a willingness to accept each individual as they are and, as she relayed in the words of one alum, “respect for the process of becoming.” Second, Stott said, the school is “constantly questioning itself.” Chemistry teacher Will Tucker, spoke about how CA’s ongoing commitment to strive for equity is being carried forward today by the Gender Equity Task Force (GETF), which is working to change systems in support of students of all identities.
CA faculty members Ben Stumpf ’88 and Kim Frederick introduced alumnae/i to an augmented reality (AR) app and three AR campus tours that resulted from a collaboration this year between two of their classes. In the fall semester, students in Frederick’s Public History course conducted research into the history of the land now owned by Concord Academy. Using resources from the Concord Free Public Library and the Concord Museum, both of which have developed longstanding partnerships with CA’s History Department, students created scripts for three tours of CA’s campus, one focused on the school’s history in the 20th century, another on the 19th-century, and another even earlier, going back to the geologic time scale. In the spring semester, Stumpf’s students worked with that historical material to create digital assets and, ultimately, the three tours, using an app called Hoverlay. Alumnae/i had an opportunity to experience various layers of history while moving along Main Street and farther back into the campus, viewing this familiar place through new lenses.
Annual Alumnae/i Assembly
Reunion Weekend also included the annual Alumnae/i Association Assembly. The event, held on Friday evening, drew around 50 CA community members to the Performing Arts Center, with more attending by videoconference. Open to all alumnae/i, the assembly provided an occasion for Concord Academy’s school and alumnae/i leaders to share updates and invite alumnae/i into the ongoing conversation about CA’s future.
Interim Head of School Sarah Yeh P’24 recognized the service of two members of the Alumnae/i Steering Committee whose terms were concluding: Matt McCahill ’95, who served for four years, co-chairing the Alumnae/i Annual Fund Committee, and Karen McAlmon ’75, who in over more than 10 years of service co-chaired the Alumnae/i Community and Equity Committee before assuming the presidency. During her tenure, McAlmon helped to grow the Alumnae/i Steering Committee, oversaw the revision of the Alumnae/i Association bylaws, and served on the Head of School Search Committee, playing an instrumental role in ensuring a transparent and inclusive process. McAlmon will continue serving Concord Academy as a trustee. In thanking her for her service, Yeh called McAlmon “an incredible leader, not just of the alumnae/i community but also of the school.”
Yeh reported on CA’s competitive admissions cycle, which yielded 104 new students, 43% of them Black, Indiginous, or People of Color (BIPOC) from the U.S. and 27% of whom will receive financial aid. She previewed upcoming CA Centennial events and discussed the Concord Academy Centennial Campaign, a $50 million effort focused on growing CA’s endowment and building a new arts center on campus. And by Zoom, incoming Head of School Henry Fairfax spoke with alumnae/i about his goals for structural reorganization, supporting the campaign, and strategic visioning and planning once he relocates to 228 Main Street in late June.
To conclude the assembly, CA faculty members Tucker and Alex Holmes gave alumnae/i a framework for understanding gender identity as well as the school’s commitment to supporting LGBT+ students and, as Tucker said, “all types of humans who live, work, and exist at CA.” They presented their work over the past year with the Gender Equity Task Force (GETF), whose goal is to make CA a more gender-inclusive community. Addressing infrastructure, systems, policies and procedures, and teaching and advising best practices, the GETF has, among other progress, updated a gender inclusivity statement for athletics, created a gender support plan and policy, and streamlined a system for student name changes.
The Alumnae/i Assembly also welcomed the newest officers of the Alumnae/i Steering Committee to terms beginning in the 2022–23 academic year:
- Trelane Clark ’92, P ’22 – President of the Alumnae/i Association
- Tess Munro Bauta ’94, P ’25 – Co-Chair, Alumnae/i Annual Fund Committee
- Emily Potts Callejas ’92 – Co-Chair, New England Regional
- Serena Frechter ’14 – C0-Chair, Washington, DC Regional
- Dat Le ’06 – Co-Chair, Alumnae/i Admissions Network
- Julia Packman ’14 – C0-Chair, Washington, DC Regional
- Meisha Thompson Newman ’94 – Co-Chair, Alumnae/i Community and Equity Committee
- Theo Nunez ’18 – Chair, Chicago Regional
- Gary Zheng ’14, – Chair, International Alumnae/i (Greater Asia)