2018 Cum Laude Remarks

Posted by Peter Townsend - 19 April, 2018

Today we congratulate the new members of the Randolph School Cum Laude Society. The selection of these inductees is not solely based on a student’s GPA, but it also speaks to three deeper values expressed by the Cum Laude Society—"ARETÉ, DIKÉ, and TIMÉ—excellence, justice and honor.”

It is with those principles in mind that we celebrate your achievements and your character.

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[The Cum Laude speaker was Peter Townsend, Upper School art teacher. The following are his remarks:]

April 10, 2018: Day 6

A few days ago, during F-block, right before consultation time, Mr. Liese stops into the MacLab during Graphic Design and asks me to be the speaker at the Cum Laude ceremony. And quite honestly, I was speechless. I don’t mean that figuratively. I didn’t know what I would say. I ask him what these speeches are typically about, and he simply says, “high standards,” and I am thinking to myself, “So, no pressure on this one? That’s good...”

“Okay,” I tell him. “Let me think about this. Can I get back to you?”

“Sure,” he says and begins checking out book jackets the design students are working on. On his way out, he makes some silly gesture that has me in a fit of the giggles and disarms me for the moment.

Garth First Day - 4293967After check-in with my star-studded advisory, I met with SGA to discuss who will be running for next year’s officers, final Prom details on food and then sign-ups for teacher appreciation breakfast.

The meeting concluded, and I began to answer emails, all the while having thoughts of this speech in the back of my mind.

To distract myself, I spent the remaining five minutes talking to Trey in the Tech Office. I don’t know what exactly our conversation was about, but I can guarantee that we laughed and I asked Renae to tone down her cackle to a chuckle—but all in good fun.

The next period was B, Advanced and AP Photography. Advanced Photo was working on their Rhombus Self-portraits, and AP was making final decisions on what to include for the quality and breadth sections of their portfolios.

As everyone was busy working on projects. I spent a little time thinking what if anything I had to say for this speech. I considered, where high standards come from, to whom they matter, why we reach for them, external versus internal motivations that govern achievement and others.

I then began a Google search of great speeches. The search results came back overwhelmingly with the likes of JFK, MLK and a TEDTalk with Sir Ken Robinson. I clearly needed to refine my search terms. But thankfully I got called away to answer important questions from budding artists. Some were technical, like how to create a clipping mask, and others were more probative. Specifically, Anna Grace asked my opinion on whether she should put a certain photo in her portfolio, to which I aggravatingly answered, “Well, what do you think?”

I ate lunch where I often do, Room 101 with the art peeps. That is a pretty sacred time—we don’t share many free periods, which, makes lunch our only time of day to catch up. Not sure what we discussed, but I am sure I laughed and asked Alie about her sprawling claim of territory on the table.

After lunch, was E-block. I went in to room 103, gave Caydn a hug and Reed a satisfying handshake. In Global Mixed Media, we are making Cigar Box Guitars, at this point in the process we were making guitar slides and picks out of clay so that we could get a sound from the strings. This is a big class and given the task at hand, there were a lot of questions. And so I was saved from delving into my Google search again.

H-block, my one free period during Day 6. There was a lot I had to do outside of school, so I went straight to answering emails concerning some graphic design projects I am working on. After the emails, I contacted the seniors in the “2018 w/ Townsend” GroupMe to make sure that they signed up for Senior dinner, had remembered to opt in or out of the Senior Six Flags trip and I set up calendar appointments to practice the Maypole dance.

As my list of tasks dwindled, my thoughts returned to the speech, but instead of looking up more speeches, I asked myself a more important question, “Why had I been asked to do this?”

It was time for a consultation period of my own, I went to one of my confidants, Mrs. Reyes, and laid bare what Mr. Liese had asked. I recounted my concerns and her response was, “Do you want to do this?”

I said, “I don’t know, it’s really busy right now,” To which she responded in her calm demeanor, “Can I help with anything so that you can focus on this?”

I lingered for a couple of seconds and then asked the most important question to me, “Why did he ask me?”

Her answer left me speechless: “Usually he asks the kids.”

IMG_5158So with this new revelation, I rushed up to Mr. Liese’s office to give him my answer. On the way, my mind was now fixed on what I was going to say. Did I want the speech to be inspiring, reflective, sentimental, instructive, didactic, and on and on.

Mercifully, his door was open. I told him I would give the speech and that I was humbled and flattered to be asked. I thanked him, and he returned to the work he had going on. I then turned around and talked with Ms. Mullins, not sure what we discussed but we laughed, and I took some much-needed candy from the communal dish.

Last class, C-period, Independent Study, Filmmaking. My class of two is currently writing a scene for a short film with dialogue and they were nose to the grindstone. In the middle of class Richard and I started a conversation that went between the TV show Atlanta, the genius of Kanye and then seamlessly transitioned into a discussion about whether rock music was dead. Rachel looked up, giggled at us then continued typing. We then discussed their stories and how things were going. All was well, and the remainder of the class went by quickly.

At 3:15, a group of teachers, which included Mr. Green, Mrs. Hillinck, Mr. Matthews, Ms. Andrada, Dr. Green, and myself interviewed a candidate for the Assistant Head of Upper School position. After the meeting, I walked Mrs. Hillinck up to her room, I am not sure what we discussed, but we laughed, and then I told her how excited I was to be giving this speech and that I was planning to focus my remarks on the importance of friendship to maintain and support high standards.

Throughout Tuesday, April 10, I was pulled in a number of different directions. But throughout the day I was reminded of some very important factors that lend themselves to the ability to achieve. When I needed consultation, I had my colleagues and friends there offering of their time to help me in whichever decision I made. When they saw I needed a break, they were there with laughter. When others were in need of me, I was there. But I think that the most important aspect that I learned was that your friends know when you need a new challenge and are there to give you just the right push.

Celia Duncan and Peter Townsend and a student in 2016One of my much more sagacious colleagues, repeats the aphorism, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” In the context that Mr. Treadwell uses this phrase, he is saying that by having high standards we will rise to them.

So, surround yourselves with people who will support you, laugh with you, laugh at you but to most importantly challenge you. And hopefully you will do the same for them.

Once again, congratulations to the new inductees of the Cum Laude Society, you are our rising tide.

My late colleague, Celia Duncan, was much on my mind and in my heart when I wrote these remarks. I will miss laughing with her.

Topics: Cum Laude Society, High Expectations, awards, character


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