On September 4, Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Concord Academy Board of Trustees, delivered these Convocation remarks in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel. Read about the full Convocation program here.
Good morning, everyone. I am Fay Shutzer. It is very special to be standing here in front of all of you, with 128 new students here today and 276 who are returning. Today marks the beginning of school, and a new year stretches in front of us, with everyone starting this year fresh. I want you to know that this is not the first time that I have been here, even though I am the new president of the Board of Trustees. I was a student here in the 1960s, and even if you might be thinking that’s so last century, there is continuity. As all of you will do before long, I stood up here for my senior chapel, on a cold winter day in February in 1965.
This place where we are gathered, the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, is an iconic building that was brought here by former Headmistress Elizabeth Hall and English teacher Doreen Young. Mrs. Hall was the headmistress when I arrived in 1962, and Miss Young was my English teacher both junior and senior year. Both were extraordinary women with a lasting effect on CA. Together, they found this old Baptist church built in the 1770s in New Hampshire and dismantled it to bring it here. Not a small undertaking, but they had the help of some faculty, staff and students. And here we are today.
Those of you who are new haven’t experienced senior chapels as yet, but you have probably heard what an important part of the school experience they are. This has always been true, but chapel talks were a little different 53 years ago when I had my turn — much more reserved and formal — and of course, the school was all-girls at the time. We sang at least two or three hymns each time we gathered. We had choices about content, but the tone was nothing like the warm and celebratory chapels of today. There were no hug lines, no friends on the podium, no posters and decorations, and no fabulous rock or rap music of your choosing. The choice came in what you did. The entire community was yours for those few minutes: You could perform music, if you were a musician. You could choose a reading and read the words of known writer, or you could write your own talk. I wasn’t musical and there were no words of inspiration that I was eager to read, and as a particularly shy girl, I was a little intimidated by the idea of writing my own talk. Well not so much the writing, but the speaking. But with some thoughts I wanted to share about the experience of being here at CA, I decided to write my own chapel.
So what did I say in 1965? And could I possibly say it to you, now, 53 years later, in a school somewhat changed physically, with some larger, newer and refurbished buildings, most of them with names that rhyme with “quack”, quite a few more students, no longer all girls, and most importantly, (I hope you appreciate this) you don’t have to chop wood anymore like we did when you are late to class. But in so many ways it is the same school of academic excellence and common trust and social justice and an accepting and strong community with a gifted and caring faculty, the same school that I attended and loved. I can only try, and hope what I said to my classmates then, still resonates with you.
I began with words that surely did not make my English teachers proud — and you probably need to know that it was a Wednesday. I began, “Today is Hump day….” And then I went on: “You can cheer up because there are only two more days until Friday.” I was concerned with how much we wished away the days, waiting for the weekend, and then for the next vacation, and how we literally crossed days off the calendar in our eagerness to get there. I questioned why we were rushing through the present to get to the future, often seeing days as a means to get to somewhere else but not valuing them and not realizing that we could not get them back.
Maybe it will seem strange to mention that to you now, as you are poised at the beginning of the year with everything stretched out ahead of you? You haven’t even had your first class! But think of it this way: Don’t let the days become a means to an end. As you get into your schedule, don’t let anything become routine. Keep looking around you for the things that you can appreciate. Your time here will be special in a way that will be unlike any other time in your life.
Like I did, every one of you will have your turn to stand up here for your chapel. And between now and that moment, whether it is this year or in three years, you will have many hours in this space, listening, thinking, sometimes laughing, possibly sometimes confused or even sad, and sometimes looking out the window, lost in your own thoughts. If you can, try to capture time; be present, aware, know where you are, hold on to what is most meaningful and search for how to share it with others. When the day comes, and you stand up here, you will have that moment. Don’t waste a second until then.