One of the very best benefits of working at Randolph is welcoming alumni back to our community. After watching them grow and develop over the years and supporting them through the peaks and valleys of adolescence, it is pure fun to spend time with them on the other end, hear about how things are going in college and beyond, and gain insights into what continues to matter most to them about their experience at Randolph.
On December 22 we hosted our annual Holiday Alumni Party at the Huntsville Museum of Art. Well over 250 attended, and it was great fun to see so many Raiders. The biggest showing came from the class of 2011, and they were quick to ask with a grin if the School was surviving without them. They clearly enjoyed catching up with friends who have scattered far from Huntsville, and getting re-connected with former faculty here was a highlight for them as well. I particularly enjoyed conversations with alumni who were seniors during my first year at Randolph and have now graduated from college. Some are in medical school, one’s teaching in China, and a couple are working in law offices before heading to graduate school.
Today we welcomed the class of 2011 back to school to reconnect with this year’s seniors and participate on an informal panel with Rusty Allen as moderator asking questions about what college is really like. Twenty-one alumni from colleges all over the country joined in, and they covered topics like homesickness, social transitions, academic adjustments, dealing with roommates who might or might not be appealing, the unstructured freedom of life in college, and interacting with professors.
The advice our young alumni shared with this year’s seniors was honest, specific, and heartfelt. One alumna shared that even if you’re shy, you have to take a big breath and dive into the social scene so that you start making some friends right away. Another agreed, saying that if you stay in your dorm room playing video games all day, you shouldn’t be in college. Our seniors were advised to use Rate My Professor before choosing classes, and cautioned to pay attention to the comments only if the one doing the rating used good punctuation and complete sentences!
One young man warned against signing up for early classes (apparently anything before 10 a.m.), and another urged next year’s college freshmen to do whatever they could to get to know their professors during office hours and outside of class. One alumnus offered that he had little in common with his roommate (a 6 foot 7 inch native of the Czech Republic who specializes in computer coding), until they decided to dress up for a boys night out at the Olive Garden. They’ve been great friends ever since.
Sometime we’re inclined to think of Randolph almost entirely as a college preparatory school, and it’s gratifying for sure to hear so many come back and commend the School for the education here that prepared them so well for college. One alumna said that she never in her wildest dreams would have imagined anyone asking her for help on paper, but last semester in college, it happened. This is a tribute to what we do at Randolph from kindergarten through the senior year.
But any great independent school has to be more than a college preparatory experience. I like to think that Randolph is “life prep,” and a pre-Christmas call from Grady Frank, who graduated from Randolph in 1996, reminded me that that is what we do here. Grady calls once or twice a year from New York City to check in and ask about how things are going at Randolph. Since graduating from Washington and Lee, Grady has worked in the hurly-burly world of finance and investment banking, and for many years now has been navigating the twists and turns of the world economy from his perch at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street.
When he calls we get straight to the point because I know his time is limited. We were talking about the value of a Randolph education, and he mentioned that what matters most to him is that here he learned how to write. The technical skills and confidence and assertiveness to make a decision quickly under pressure with dollars on the line come with time and experience, but what frustrates him most about his colleagues on Wall Street is that so many do not know how to write clearly, precisely, and persuasively. Grady was reminding me that what we have done here, are doing, and will do matters greatly for the children under our care, certainly for their college experience, but also for their professional and personal lives once they graduate.