On September 1, 2020, the Concord Academy community gathered to begin the 2020–21 school year — not in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, but via videoconference, from homes near and far. While the virtual setting marked the start of a school year unlike any other, the themes of this year’s Convocation were familiar yet more relevant than ever. Speakers called for mutual commitments to listen closely and see one another fully, even and especially in online spaces.
Preludes by Bach, played by Melody Chen ’21 on cello and Adam Winograd ’21 on violin, set the tone for the occasion. Head of School Rick Hardy warmly welcomed 107 new students and seven new faculty and staff members, as well as returning students and adults. He grounded the community in the school’s mission, which, he said “calls us to live up to high standards of behavior, to join together in the work of fostering community, and to be guided by ideals for our world rather than narrow self-interest.”
In recorded remarks, Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Concord Academy Board of Trustees, acknowledged the extraordinary moment in history in which the school year is beginning. Inviting students to imagine themselves in the Chapel, she spoke about what the building stands for: “listening, truly listening, to one another. … We attend to one another with mutual respect, with the kind of care and attention that I wish we could see more of in the world.”
Shutzer reflected on a “magical” teacher who saw, validated, and encouraged her. CA, she said, is the kind of place inspiring mentorship can take place. As Shutzer said, “As we navigate the challenges of a global pandemic and dedicate ourselves to anti-racism, our commitment to the values in our mission — common trust, empathy, equity, and integrity — is truly remarkable.”
Student Head of School Zahaan Khalid ’21 spoke about the work that the student council has been doing to “keep CA ‘CA’” in a virtual format. “We have the ability and opportunity to make the most of what we have right now,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we can overcome, this stronger than ever. I have already seen a majority of my grade come together like never before in the beginning of August.”
In her livestreamed Convocation address, Laura Twichell ’01, director of community and equity, questioned what these unprecedented circumstances ask of us. “Will I be safe?” she asked. “Am I being seen and heard? Where can I find stability when so much is unsettled? What is, or should be, the new normal?” Addressing the division and isolation that are the United States’ current national narrative, she challenged all members of the community to “reach out, show up, and allow yourself to be pulled in.”
Twichell encouraged us to honor ourselves and one another, to “embrace the messy nuance of living.” She asked us to be open to “unlearning” our biases and prejudices. And she urged us to grow as individuals.
After sharing a poem, “Something You Should Know,” by Clint Smith, Twichell offered the CA community gratitude, and a hope. “In building community, we make ourselves vulnerable,” she said. “The risk of exposure is inherent in connection. I hope for us that the vulnerability so many of us feel helps weld us into trust, and that in existing in these vulnerable spaces, we find deeper connections than we might have found without them.”
Read the speakers’ remarks in full.
Convocation speaker Laura Twichell ’01, director of community and equity
Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Board of Directors
Zahaan Khalid ’21, student head of school
More School News
“Life is a journey, and it’s really important to explore your interests,” said Dr. Helen Suh ’21 during her 2021 Davidson Lecture. “There are so many paths and ways to be happy.” This was just some of the sage advice the environmental epidemiologist offered on April 14 to Concord Academy students, faculty, and staff. The following evening, she addressed parents and alumnae/i, discussing her research on air pollution and how she has responded to the pandemic in her work and sharing her career path after graduating from CA.
We are excited to announce the hiring of Grant Hightower as CA’s new director of community and equity as of July 1, 2021. Grant comes to us as a seasoned diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) activist, practitioner, and consultant. Most recently, Grant has served as the director of METCO programs at the Reading Public School District. As the director of community and equity at CA, Grant will report to and work closely with the dean of academic program and equity, assisting our community in realizing a central tenet of the school’s mission, “striving for equity.”
We are delighted that Justin Bull has agreed to serve as CA’s interim dean of faculty for the 2021–22 school year. The interview committee appreciated Justin’s desire to enhance communication, his interest in bringing forward conversations around teaching and pedagogy for the year ahead, and his deep experience as a teacher, department head, coach, mentor, advisor, and house faculty member.