CA Celebrates 100th Birthday with Centennial Days of Service and Sustainability

On April 22 and 23, the CA community united in honor of Concord Academy’s 100th birthday. On this historic occasion, the Centennial Days of Service and Sustainability involved listening, learning, and taking action. The celebration extended beyond campus to include alumnae/i, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. Together over these two days, CA community members made a difference for others, and for our planet, in support of the commitment in CA’s mission to build a more just and sustainable future.

100th Birthday Celebration on Campus

On April 22, the campus community celebrated CA’s 100th birthday, marking 100 years since a group of parents gathered in Concord, Mass., to establish Concord Academy. A full day of special programming engaged students, faculty, and staff in reflection and action. 

In the morning, students wrote down their hopes for CA’s second century, tying them to newly budding branches in a “wish tree grove” alongside the quad. Then the entire campus community and guests assembled in Academy Garden for a special livestreamed program, which included performances by students in the Vocal Jazz and Pop Ensemble, who shared “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” as well as music by Larry Goldings ’86 and the late jazz great Charles Mingus, who happened to share CA’s April 22, 1922, birthday.

As Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Board of Trustees, observed during the program, service and sustainability have been common to all eras of the school. So has the value placed on storytelling. “Our stories are not isolated,” she said. “As CA students have done year after year, we listen to each other’s stories, and they become part of our own.” That’s why the tradition of hearing from the recipient of the Joan Shaw Herman Distinguished Service Award each year holds such importance for CA. These are stories of “what living a life of service can look like,” Shutzer said. “There’s not just one way to serve. There are as many ways as there are individuals within our community.” 

Karen McAlmon ’75, president of the CA Alumnae/i Association, introduced the school’s highest award, given annually to a member of the alumnae/i community. “These outstanding community members serve as mentors and shining examples of how we might live our own lives in the service of our greater community,” she said. “They remind us of our own potential.” 

Presenting the 2022 Centennial Joan Shaw Herman Award to Adnan Zubcevic ’75 for his advocacy for immigrants and refugees and their mental health, Kate Rea Schmitt ’62, P’88 chair of the selection committee, noted that he had been chosen for the honor before the war in Ukraine began. Given the unfolding humanitarian crisis and need for care and resources for those refugees, she said, “Now it seems to be even more appropriate.”

Zubcevic observed a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine, then to his audience he offered the story of how a one-year fellowship to study at CA changed the trajectory of his life, and ultimately, he said, helped to save it. In a moving speech, he shared his personal story and discussed his work on behalf of others displaced from their home countries. The first time Zubcevic left his native Yugoslavia, in 1974, was to attend Concord Academy for his senior year with the American Field Service. Through his history teacher, he met a young Vietnamese boy, a refugee whose war trauma he couldn’t fully understand. He returned home afterward, then became a physician, never suspecting that 20 years after he left he would return to Concord, Mass., this time sponsored by a family he met through CA. In 1994, he became a refugee himself, fleeing the Bosnian War after having risked his life for more than two years while treating patients during the siege of Sarajevo. 

“If you believe in the fight for freedom, you have to believe in human rights. If you believe in human rights, you have to believe in equality. And if you believe in equality, you have traveled the longest road there is—from head to heart.

— Adnan Zubcevic ’75

In the Boston area, Zubcevic went on to launch a program supporting refugees at the International Institute of Boston, created the Refugee and Immigrant Health Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital clinic in Chelsea Mass., and founded the Bosnian Community Center for Resource Development, in Lynn, which has become a national model for refugee services. As he shared, the needs for advocacy, mental health services, and programs to address obstacles to adjustment for refugees and immigrants are great, and they’re growing. Worldwide, there are now more than 82 million displaced people and refugees, Zubcevic said, “the largest number ever in recorded human history, and 42% of them are children.” But he has observed the resilience of young displaced people, many of whom go on to build careers in pursuit of a more equitable world.

After the program ended and the dining services team served a delicious plant-based and sustainable lunch, the afternoon was devoted to a wide array of workshops led by students and faculty, which ranged from upcycling material into new toys for a local animal shelter to a hands-on look at an 1959 Vespa electric vehicle. Some campus community members made food with Lasagna Love for Community Caregivers, and others made “plarn” (plastic yarn) for Bags to Beds or painted a “Go Green” mural in Makers Alley. Off-campus excursions took some groups to help at Gaining Ground in Concord, which grows organic produce for meal programs, and to the Open Table food pantry in Maynard, Mass. Alumnae/i and parents also contributed to the day’s events. Lara Wilson P’15 led a morning meditation and a nature walk; Nicole Rawling ’97, CEO of the Material Innovation Initiative, Zoomed in to discuss sustainable fashion; and Jeff Feingold P’24 and Kai Feingold ’24 of Hope and Comfort explored hygiene insecurity with students.

Watch a time-lapse video of students painting a new sustainability mural on campus.

As Interim Head of School Sarah Yeh P’24 remarked, the campus celebration of CA’s 100th birthday was focused on “finding our best selves and making a difference in today’s world.” Special guests, including incoming Head of School Henry Fairfax, joined in the festivities and service—assembling COVID care packages, pedaling a bike-powered smoothie blender, and taking a spin around the quad in the electric car. Fairfax offered some brief observations as, concluding the day, he cut CA’s 100th birthday cake. “It’s been humbling to watch,” he said. “When you put students at the center and care for the adults who are holding those students in their care, special things happen.”

Centennial Global Day of Service and Sustainability

On the following day, April 23, individuals in the Concord Academy community around the world had an opportunity to honor CA’s 100th birthday with service and sustainable action in their local areas. Regional groups connected as they came together—many meeting for the first time as they worked side by side to give back.

Eliza Epstein ’08 and Theo Nunez ’18 hosted the Boston-area gathering, which met on CA’s campus to write letters for Boston Cares, make meals for families in need for Lasagna Love, and make first aid kits for Concord’s Council on Aging. Some volunteers from this group also helped at Codman Community Farms in Lincoln, Mass. “I thought the day went so well!” Epstein said. “The energy and conversation were so positive and strong. People were so passionate about both their experience at CA, and learning about others’.” At Codman Farms, she helped plant and clean up. “We could see the impact we made, which was awesome,” she said. “I hope to go back soon.”

In Chicago, Alex Ocampo ’10 hosted volunteers who helped at Lincoln Park Conservancy’s Earth Day Event, mulching trees, raking winter debris, cleaning up litter, and planting in the city’s most-used park. In L.A., Adam Cole ’09 and Matthieu Labaudiniere ’11 hosted an event at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which serves more than 900,000 people every month. CA community volunteers sorted, inspected, and packaged foods donated by supermarkets and farms.

Noah Fisk ’93, Gabe Greenberg ’98, Peter Li ’02, and Becca Miller ’14 hosted a similar service event at the volunteer-run mutual-aid project Astoria Food Pantry in New York City, assisting with the coordination and delivery of groceries to Astoria residents. Fisk reported on the “open, inclusive approach” of the CA community, even when most of the volunteers hadn’t met before. So did Li, who said, “It was great to see so many strangers come together and truly relish in helping a community in need. We felt we created a community of our own in New York.”

“I always love getting together with my CA peers; even if I haven’t met them before, I always leave feeling like I have new friends,” Miller said. Having had a good time while giving back, she plans to return and volunteer at the food pantry again.

In San Francisco, CA volunteers, hosted by Nathalie Kim Lieber ’92, Beth Mitchell ’00, and Kelsey Stratton ’99, assisted with Earth Day activities at the Greenway Gardens with Urban Tilth, an organization that inspires, hires, and trains local residents to cultivate agriculture, feed their community, and restore relationships to land to build a more sustainable food system, within a just and healthier community. With other volunteers, they painted a mural, planted in the flower garden, beautified a playground, built a free fruit stand for the edible forest, planted watershed, and weeded at Urban Tilth’s farm. Lieber called the day “wonderful and very special.”

And in Washington, D.C., Serena Frechter ’14, Cornelia Hall ’06, Julia Packman ’14, and Aisha Smith ’06 hosted an event for CA community volunteers to contribute to the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Earth Day cleanup. Frechter said “the D.C. crew had a great time” as they collected trash to help the nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Anacostia River for the benefit of all living in its watershed and for future generations.

Make a Centennial Wish

Share your hopes for Concord Academy in its next century; wishes will be added and remain on display through the culmination of CA’s Centennial celebrations in June 2023.

Make a wish to share with CA.

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