Time to Engage: Reunion Weekend 2016

As naturally as reuniting with classmates turns thoughts to the past, more than 350 alumnae/i, former and current faculty, and friends of Concord Academy who gathered on campus the weekend of June 3–5, 2016, were equally as engaged in discussing the future — of politics, of work and life, of service, and of CA. From a faculty-curated wine and craft beer tasting and welcome-back dinner on Friday evening to invigorating panel discussions on Saturday, from Q&As with Head of School Rick Hardy about developments on campus to Director of Operations Don Kingman’s personal tours of CA Labs in the final stages of construction, this reunion weekend proved both warmhearted and thought-provoking, in true Concord style.

See a gallery of photos from reunion

Saturday’s first alumnae/i panel focused on new challenges facing today’s workforce. Moderator Sarah Green Carmichael ’00, senior editor at Harvard Business Review, spoke with professionals from many sectors: Elizabeth Ballantine ’66, president of the consulting firm EBA Associates; Claudia Burke ’91, assistant director at the Department of Justice; Mike Rodman ’91, assistant dean for communications and marketing at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Diana Erdmann-Sager Lovett ’96, founder of the fair-trade cocoa import business Cissé Trading Company. The conversation ranged from the technological advances that have made the U.S. an always-available work culture to systemic challenges of worsening college debt, wage stagnation, disparities in parental leave, and gendered expectations of family involvement. There were no easy answers for projecting less-bumpy career paths for young graduates, or for mid-career professionals struggling to balance work and family, but the diversity of panelists and enthusiastic participation of many in the audience made for a most lively discussion.

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In the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, prior to the presentation of the Joan Shaw Herman Distinguished Service Award — the only the school gives, and fittingly, one awarded for service to others — Rick Hardy spoke about the tradition of service that continues with current CA students. In introducing Sandra Willett Jackson ’61, this year’s recipient, Sarah Green Carmichael ’00 noted, “There’s something about this school as an institution that over the decades continues to churn out students who not only believe they ought to make a difference, but that they can make a difference.” In her speech, Jackson then took the opportunity to share her work in service of women’s rights and underrepresented populations in Eastern Europe and Asia by turning the spotlight on several extraordinary women she has worked with, in Azerbaijan, Yemen, Russia, Vietnam, and Mongolia, to name a few, whom she credited with teaching her the power of service over her long career in helping others.

Over at the Moriarty Athletic Center after lunch, the golden afternoon was ideal for tossing a Frisbee with the kids on the soccer fields, or joining them for adventures with live animals. A larger crowd packed the Field House’s Team Room for an energizing panel discussion of politics. Moderated by history teacher Stephanie Manzella, the event brought together Jackson; Nicholas Evans ’91, vice president of U.S. government relations at CGI; Mike Firestone ’01, who has campaigned for, among others, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and Maura Healey, for whom he is chief of staff; and diplomat Cynthia Perrin Schneider ’71, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands under President Clinton. The panelists took a long view of the current contentious election season — tracing the disaffection that has spurred both the Trump and Sanders candidacies back many years, examining politics on the state and local levels, as well as considering voter registration laws and the impact of America’s foreign policy on views of the U.S. electoral system abroad. Predictions and takeaways? The trend toward the right is real, not only here but in Europe. Vice presidential choice could be crucial in this election. Female candidates might have a distinct advantage. And it’s time to make everyone aware that this election cycle is one that really matters.

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Back at the Main Campus, nearly every row in the Chapel filled for the late-afternoon memorial service honoring members of the Concord Academy community who have passed away. A special portion of the service was dedicated to faculty emerita Janet Eisendrath, whose family was in attendance, as well as many former students and faculty colleagues. A memorial display for her was also on view throughout the weekend. At the service, moving personal memories of Eisendrath and other former faculty and classmates were offered by many, and the strains of musical tribute carried from the open windows to those starting to gather beneath a nearby tent for a reception and class dinners.

On Sunday morning, the weekend concluded with a yoga session and time for lingering over conversations at a lively jazz brunch, thanks to the John Funkhouser ’84 jazz trio. Before leaving town, a number of alumnae/i headed across the street to the Concord Free Public Library, for a strong showing of support for David Michaelis ’75, author of N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, who was taking part in a panel sponsored by the library and the Concord Museum. During the discussion about Wyeth’s illustrative work for Men of Concord, by Henry David Thoreau, and the artist’s fascination with the life, work, and world of the Concord author, Michaelis held the room with his insight and good humor, and made the CA community proud.

See a gallery of photos from reunion

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