I am very happy to welcome you to this spring’s convocation, the last opportunity of the school year for the entire community to gather together to mark the beginning of the end of what has been another excellent year in Randolph’s history and for the Raider Nation. This is one of the year’s signature events, an opportunity to celebrate our common investment in ourselves and each other as a community of learners seeking excellence in all that we undertake.
Today’s convocation holds special meaning for me personally. First of all, my wife Jennifer and I are the parents of Claire, a current kindergartner, part of the walking in in the fall and the walking out in the spring. Secondly, I have an even greater than usual and more enduring fondness for the class of 2014. We share with each other a loss that still grieves us, and we share, too, gains in the aftermath of that loss in our recognition of our unbroken interdependence. You have helped me in ways I will never be able to convey, and I am and always will be very grateful to you. And lastly, I’m bonded to the class of 2014 because we are leaving the School together.
A year ago when Jennifer and I shared with our children Ben and Claire that we would be leaving Randolph to return to Woodberry Forest, our son, Ben, looked at me disbelievingly and asked, “Dad, how could you ever leave Randolph?” It’s a great question, one that’s not easy to answer. I didn’t say then, but would like to offer now, that I am really only able to leave because Randolph has lifted me up and challenged me and cared for me in ways that have prepared me for a an adventure that lies ahead, just as we hope and believe that the Randolph experience has prepared each of you seniors for your own adventures in the years to come.
Leaving for me won’t be easy, because there is so much here that I hold very close to my heart. I wanted this morning to share brief remarks on “Ten Things I Love About Randolph.” There are many more, but here are some highlights for me that make me so proud to be part of this special community, and so bonded with the Randolph students and teachers.
- Kindergarten-Senior Buddies: perhaps Randolph’s most cherished tradition, capped by convocation and our seniors in the fall escorting our kindergartners into the School and in the spring our kindergartners escorting our seniors out of the School as they prepare to graduate. I am especially moved that many of these relationships endure beyond the school year and remind me that the Raider Nation is connected through and beyond the graduating class.
- Head of School Art Gallery: Your art has brightened my office and lifted my spirits every day. I appreciate that every class, K-12, is represented. But most of all I love hearing the stories about how the art was made and how, in almost every case, the student-artist responded to a mistake and created an even more beautiful piece of art. That’s a life lesson that came from you, and one I’ll take with me forever.
- Friday Night Lights: It’s an electric K-12 atmosphere, full of great play on the field from a team eager to get better and better, a team passionately supported by parents and students and cheerleaders, and lifted up by a band that keeps us cheering from start to finish. These are magical, carnival-like nights at Randolph and they bind us together as one community.
- Interim: I love the learning outside of our academic routine, whether on class trips to Williamsburg, Tremont, Washington, D.C., or Chicago; smaller trips to the Grand Canyon, a writer’s retreat in Arkansas, or a Habitat build in Florida; career exploration with a Randolph alumnus or parent; or community learning here in Huntsville. Friendships are forged and we come to believe that great learning can and should happen anywhere at any time.
- Middle School House System: Everyone needs a place to belong, and our 5th-8th grade houses are extended families of students and teachers who come to know each other in and beyond class and who challenge each other to make the most of the Randolph experience.
- The Honor System: Every one of us can reach for greatness in a community in which we are trusted to be our best self, to tell the truth, to take responsibility for our own work, and to respect what belongs to others. Randolph’s community of trust is the heart of the School and what I love and respect the most.
- Meetings with Seniors: I have learned more from seniors about Randolph in my annual meetings than I do through any other activity. Through you, and through each class that has come before you I have learned what makes the School special, what you love most about Randolph, and how we can get better as a school community. You have made me a better Head of School, and I am grateful to you.
- Early Start Wednesdays: you come to school late on Wednesdays, but we on the faculty come early. I admire and respect the ways your teachers come together to challenge and support each other to get even better and live out their call to you to be a life-long learner. The faculty’s appetite for learning is infectious, and makes us all better.
- Grandparents Day: It’s the happiest day of the year at Randolph. I’m reminded of the love and affection that flows in families between grandchildren and their grandparents and special friends. The Randolph family is wide and deep, and here we are safe and free to be better than we thought we could be. Our grandparents remind many of us that we will always be loved, no matter what.
- Commencement Weekend: You see it in the awarding of the diploma or the tossing of the caps at the end of the morning on Saturday, but I’m most drawn to the night before at Baccalaureate. The anticipation of what lies ahead is thickest then, full of sweetness and possibility. The class hasn’t yet graduated and gone its separate ways. That night we’re all one, reminding me that at our best we are bound together. And it’s in that night that I see the common thread that holds all of this together: it’s the people, the friendships, the relationships, the memories shared together, the value of a shared enterprise that lifts a whole community up over each of us as individuals, a sense that we are part of something much greater than any one of us will ever be.
That’s what I love most about Randolph, and that’s what carries me forward and fills me with enduring respect for you and a very grateful heart that I had the chance to be here, part of the Raider Nation. Thank you, and best wishes for a great end of the school year and a happy and healthy summer.