Lessons from Penn State

Early this month, 18 fraternity brothers were charged in the death of a young man. He died during a drunken “pledge night.” From every angle, this story is pure heartbreak. For the senseless loss of a life just beginning. For his devastated family. For the 18 “brothers” who did not set out to cause harm—but whose actions and inactions will forever haunt them.

In the wake of this sadly familiar tale, I received the email below. It was written by St. Luke’s alumnus Drew Lord ‘14 to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at Cornell. In addition to serving as president of the IFC, Drew is president of Cornell’s Cayuga Watchers group which aims “to become an established national model for combating high-risk drinking.”  USA Today wrote about Drew and the group in 2016.

As our class of 2017 prepares to leave the Hilltop and make their way in the world, I’m eager to share Drew’s wise words. I am deeply grateful for his leadership. He is living every element of the St. Luke’s mission and has indeed gone forth to serve:

 

From: IFC President <president@cornellifc.org>

Subject: Lessons from Penn State

Date: May 7, 2017 at 3:30:37 PM EDT

To: IFCALL-L@list.cornell.edu

Hi everyone,

At this point, I’m sure you have all heard the news of the horrifying death of Timothy Piazza, a member of Beta Theta Pi at Penn State, who died after falling down the stairs at his chapter house following a fraternity “initiation ritual.” While the details of this incident are beyond disturbing, they are important for us to reflect upon.

First, we must all recognize that under no circumstance is it acceptable for any of us — or for our peers — to reach a dangerous point of intoxication. Indeed, it seems like there might have been forced drinking involved in Piazza’s situation. It goes without saying that forcing anyone to drink copious amounts of alcohol is unacceptable. However, in more general terms not related to Piazza’s situation, be safe with your alcohol consumption — pace your drinks, do not drink with the goal of blacking out, and be aware of your limits. It’s also important for us to realize that we all have a place when it comes to mitigating the harms of high-risk drinking. Sometimes your brothers, or your peers, need an active bystander to help keep them in check. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being that person.

Second, and most important, if someone is to ever be in a situation like Piazza’s — call for help. Many times we hear our friends advocate for letting a drunk or injured person “sleep it off.” This is problematic — oftentimes, we don’t know whether the BAC of this person has reached its peak and is declining, or if it has rather not yet peaked and still rising in their sleep. Keep in mind Cornell and New York State’s Good Samaritan Protocol, and remember that immediately taking action to do the right thing will always have a favorable outcome for all parties involved.

Third, do not — in any capacity — try to “cover up” any type of incident. The results of the grand jury investigation demonstrate the consequences of acting in the way of the brothers at Beta Theta Pi the night of Piazza’s death. Following a review of GroupMe messages, texts and surveillance video from the night of his death, the fraternity and its brothers faced over a total of 850 charges. Eight of the brothers were charged for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing. Four brothers were charged for reckless endangerment and hazing. Six were charged for evidence tampering, while the chapter itself is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing. In a situation like this, there is no other option than to seek help from a medical professional as early as possible.

Cornell is not immune to the harms of high-risk drinking or hazing. The situation at Penn State serves as a somber — but incredibly important — reminder of the incident that occurred at Cornell’s SAE chapter in February 2011. Ever since, we have taken great strides to make our fraternity community more safe, responsible, and aware. With a few high-risk days coming up, let’s hold the lessons we’ve learned close.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thanks for reading through, and I hope you have an awesome week.

Best,

Drew Lord
President, Interfraternity Council
Cornell University

 

Drew Lord @ Cornell

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

 

Scholars Symposium 2017

“If Blues Band is the day in the fall when I feel most happy and proud of our community, the Scholars Symposium is that day in the spring for me. I realize what good hands our futures are in when I hear these incredible students sharing their knowledge, ideas, and passion with such remarkable poise and conviction.”

                                                                              -Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Liz took the words right out of my mouth. Blues Band and Scholars Symposium bookend the school year spectacularly. And I know why: both events leave you in a bit of awe.  You know you’ve witnessed something truly exceptional.

St. Luke’s Scholars 2017

An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

St. Luke’s Scholars are the School’s mission come to life. Listen as a teenager educates the room about Infectious Disease in West Africa, or Genetic Luminescence, or Damnatio memoriae in the Roman Empire…it’s the epitome of deep learning.

These students become experts and that’s learning that lasts. When you develop a topic, execute a research plan, put forth a thesis, draft an extensive research paper and present your findings in public—I can promise you, it’s something you will remember forever.

Last year, my daughter Sarabeth worked on her Global Scholars project. She studied healthcare and nursing in India. I saw firsthand how a student moves from passionate but fairly superficial understanding of a topic to deep understanding. For Sarabeth, progress came through research, questioning, writing, rewriting and translating her findings into something meaningful for an audience. P.S. She’s studying to be a nurse.

In a few weeks, videos of the Scholars presentations will go online. I’ll share and urge you to watch a few. I bet you’ll find yourself thinking “This is exceptional.”

 

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Human Connection

Heading into break (with a bonus snow day) is the perfect time to remind ourselves to create time and spaces to be present with our children.

Last weekend, I hosted our Annual Fathers & Friends Breakfast. About 60 of us gathered to talk about raising children in the digital age. Many of us worry that, in a culture filled with distractions and disconnects,  we risk losing our link with our children. We wonder: Are they growing up without the capacities for human connection, conversation and reflection that we developed in our analog childhoods?

Fathers & Friends Breakfast

This was not an anti-technology talk—urging all to smash their cell phones. Most of us in the room are enthusiastic users of technology at work and at home. At the breakfast, we considered whether all that engagement with tech—among children and parents— was robbing us of something precious.

We were fortunate to have Max Grant – Sr. Pastor of Second Congregational Church in Greenwich – join us. Max spoke beautifully about human and spiritual connection and raised provocative questions about connecting as a community (“How do you build community if your town has no sidewalks?”). Max is married to Upper School Head Liz Perry, so I was hardly surprised by his brilliance and empathy (and humor).

After March break, St. Luke’s and the Parents’ Association will screen the documentary Screenagers. I watched it with my administrative team and highly recommend it. A couple of administrators were concerned it sounded a bit anti-tech, so please view it with the lens I describe above: How do we embrace tech without losing something essential, and how might we use this opportunity to reflect on our parenting?

One last point Max and I tried to drive home—finding time to be present with your family does not have to be a controlled, orchestrated affair (tickets to a show, formal family dinner, etc.) or a desperate attempt to carve out “quality time.” It can be driving to the market or challenging our child to a video game match. Hang out on the couch and talk (or not)—even if someone is snapchatting between live chatting. Take the pressure off, let the steam out. Time together will lead to connection.

Happy break to all. Send me a note if you have a family connection moment you’d like to share. If you’re up for a good book, I enjoyed Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle.

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Five Reasons Student Athletes Should Diversify

 

Baseball was my true love as a kid, but I have great memories of playing hockey and soccer too, and loved cheering on my own children at different fields. As an educator and former coach, I strongly oppose sports specialization because I see wonderful things happen when kids play all kinds of sports.

Many experts agree, from sports medicine doctors to professional football coaches, as do many parents and athletes themselves. Here are my five core reasons:

  1.     Fewer sports injuries: Different sports access different muscle groups. This story in Yale Medicine Review targeted women’s sports specifically, but the same holds true for all athletes.
  1.     Greater competitive intelligence: Not only do different sports access different muscle groups, but they also hone different mental and emotional strengths key to competition. The New York Times reports that in this year’s N.F.L. draft, “90 percent of the players selected in the first round had been multi-sport athletes in high school.”
  1.     Decreases burnout: From the same story, “studies have shown that the rates of injuries and burnout are significantly higher for athletes who pour all of their time and energy into one sport while their bodies are still developing.”
  1.     Opportunity for exploration and discovery: Youth is a time for discovery—on the field and in the classroom. Even more, youth is the time to discover what’s inside you. In order to find out what you love, you have to try it, and as educators and parents, we need to protect the “play” in sports.
  1.     Specialization works on a fixed as opposed to a growth mindset: Sports—especially in school—lose their magic when reduced to wins and losses. I am all in favor of excellence, but I also believe that the pressure to be the best instead of reaching for your own personal best now plagues our society. Teamwork, mentorship, resilience—believing that you can be part of something bigger than yourself—these fade into the background when students grind away at one sport their whole lives.

In the words of Clemson’s football coach Dabo Swinney,  “I see it all the time; They’ve been to every clinic, every camp, every teaching session, and everything’s been squeezed out of them. There’s just not that much room for them to get any better.”

Want to learn more? St. Luke’s parents can join us March 2nd for…

A Healthy Approach to High School Sports

Thursday March 2nd 6-730pm Fireplace Commons

Listen to our panel of experts address a variety of concerns for student athletes.  The topics will include:

Concussion Education by Neuropsychologist Dr. Christina Kunec, Director of Stamford Health Concussion Center

Preventing overuse injuries by Dr. Daphne Scott, Primary Care Sports  Medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery

Sports Psychology by Psychologist Alex Diaz, Ph.D.

Please RSVP by Tuesday February 28th to Anna Knechtel (knechtela@stlukesct.org)

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

SJLS: Curious Leaders

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”

Samuel Johnson

 

We are all born curious. And if lucky…our curiosity grows.

Tapping our students’ innate desire to know more about each other and the world around us—that is the inspiration behind the Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS).

I attended the SJLS in 2014 and wrote: “In more than thirty years as an educator, I have never participated in an event that built as much trust, or inspired as much faith and hope as the SJLS.” Nearly three years later, the SJLS continues to thrive. There were 35 students and faculty the year I attended. This year (January 28, 2017), there were sixty.

Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, Director of Inclusive Excellence & Leadership, describes the SJLS to students this way: “SJLS is a one day leadership retreat where you will explore your own personal identities, learn about perspectives different from your own, and most importantly seek commonalities with classmates. With all the divisions in our world right now, we should all be working a little harder to find commonalities.”

The SJLS is also a catalyst for student leadership, as Dr. Bramlett points out: “Two years ago students put together ideas that inspired the launch of my new American Cultural History class. Last year, students saw a need for more diversity programs in Middle School and this year, those same students will run a Middle School workshop called Ally Afternoon. Another idea that students made a reality is “Dive-Ins” where students host conversations and welcome diverse perspectives. They don’t just talk. They take action.”

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Dive-Ins because they foster civil discourse—an essential leadership skill.  Topics have included Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protest of the national anthem and a Dive In about students’ hopes and fears around the new president. More than 50 students have dived in to tough, important conversations.

My hope is to have a student or two share reflections from this weekend’s summit. The positive anticipation leading up to this weekend was palpable. According to Dr. Bramlett, senior Matthew Lindsay best captured the pre-summit excitement: “It’s going to be lit!”

I’m pretty sure that’s good 🙂

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

Visionaries on the Hilltop

This is the second in our Visionaries on the Hilltop series. See first post.

Earlier this week, St. Luke’s Board of Trustees gathered to listen and learn. We had the rare opportunity to hear about an incredible moment in business history—directly from the history makers:  Aris Kekedjian and Dan Janki.

Aris, a St. Luke’s parent, leads General Electric’s Mergers & Acquisitions/Business Development Team and Dan, a former SLS parent (prior to relocating to Atlanta), is senior vice president of GE and the Treasurer of GE and GE Capital. The two recently led GE’s unprecedented and highly-publicized sale of $260 billion in financial assets.

Bloomberg called their initiative “The most sweeping transformation in General Electric Co.’s 123-year history,” and hailed “the speed and shrewd bargaining behind one of the boldest corporate overhauls ever.” (Monty Python to Project Hubble)

I asked Aris and Dan to address our board and administrators because as Aris said, “This is a story of leadership. This is a story of teamwork.”  While St. Luke’s and GE are not peers, we share a focus on excellence and innovation. Learning from other industries is one way St. Luke’s stays ahead of the curve and facing the future.

Aris Kekedjian (left) and Dan Janki at Board Meeting

Aris Kekedjian (left) and Dan Janki at St. Luke’s Board Meeting

 

As expected, the night contained valuable leadership lessons. My favorites …

Move Fast: “Speed is everything” said Aris. Dan added: “When you move quickly and people start seeing results, confidence and momentum build.”

Be Transparent: Originally the pair thought they could move faster if only a small group knew the plan. In Dan’s words, “We soon learned that when everybody has the same information,  it empowers the heck out of them. Good things happen.”

Have Mission Clarity: The two agree this is the most vital element of their success. Per Aris: “The first lesson in life is that things don’t go as they should. But if your mission is clear, you can triumph.”

I am awed and enriched by the leaders among us at St. Luke’s. Thank you Aris & Dan.

P.S. Aris shared his leadership insights with students this fall as part of the Center for Leadership Lunch & Lead series.

 

Happy Holidays Video

We have many beloved traditions at St. Luke’s—few more eagerly anticipated than our annual Holiday video. Once again, I am amazed by Visual Media Director Desiree Smock’s ability to capture the spirit of our Hilltop.

 

Get ready to smile…

 

May friendship and goodwill be yours this holiday season…and always.



The Confidence to Lead

A group of ten year olds earnestly discusses whose life they will affect—the young woman in Indonesia whose village needs water filters, or the young man in Jordan trying to pay his school fees?

 The Fifth Grade Kiva Club is making a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Their teacher (Ty Wieland) provides structure and students take the lead—presenting work to peers, driving support and selecting fund beneficiaries. So far, the Kiva Club (including advisories and families) has loaned $6,400 to more than 120 people working to better their lives .

Take a look at the video below, created by our students (with a bit of help from Ty and Academic Technologist, Eli Fendelman). I watched it and marvelled at the elements of our mission on display—an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.

I am grateful to these compassionate, young leaders who are living our mission. They inspire their peers, teachers and, most of all, their  Head of School.  

 

 

Look for the Beacons

Yesterday, a most extraordinary couple visited our Hilltop for a Lunch & Lead. Scott and Tiffany Smiley delivered a message of hope. Thank you Kim family for making their visit possible. I can’t think of a better message for the times…

Tiffany & Scott Smiley

Tiffany & Scott Smiley

Captain Scott Smiley lost his vision April 6, 2005. He was serving his country in Iraq when he spotted a suspicious car. He approached the vehicle and asked the driver to step out. The driver refused and seconds later, Scott’s “world went black.”

He was a young newlywed when the car bomb stole his vision, and his dreams. But, as Scott told our students, “I had to make a choice. Do I stay angry and fearful? Or do I  move forward?”

With the help of his wife Tiffany, Scott moved on. He became the Army’s first active-duty blind officer and its first blind company commander. He surfs, skis, skydives, is an author and completed an IronMan. In short, Scott faced what felt like the end and made it his beginning.

“Don’t ever let the world tell you what you can be,” Tiffany urged students. “Follow the conviction of your heart.”

The Smileys speak of relying on one’s moral compass to get through dark times. For our community, St. Luke’s mission can be that beacon: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

It’s hard to imagine a more critical imperative for a school— or a parent— than the creation of compassionate, ethical and inclusive leaders.

I have a confession and a dream. I hope to someday see a St. Luke’s graduate elected president. The country and the world would rejoice secure in the knowledge that this woman or man has lived by a timeless St. Luke’s Honor Code…

I will maintain and encourage integrity at all times. I will be honest in what I say and write, and show respect for myself, others, and all property. I will treat everyone with kindness, and accept responsibility for my actions.

See you at the inauguration.

True Patriots

To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism—a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.  

—Senator J. W. Fulbright

 

When Senator J. W. Fulbright told a roomful of students at Johns Hopkins how important it is to question and criticize your country, he was describing what it means to be a citizen. For him that meant criticizing McCarthyism and the Vietnam War during his 30-year career in the US Senate. To him, patriotism was about far more than singing a song or pledging allegiance. It was about standing up for what you believe.

It may seem strange that loyalty and disagreement go hand in hand, but consider this: a real friend tells the truth; learning means asking questions; and honest discourse, the kind that brings about change, begins from a place of respect. Finding that place is tough, and it requires a great deal of practice.

At St. Luke’s we practice finding that place. We practice empathy, and we practice finding our voice. We learn to have difficult conversations and  remain respectful of diverse opinions. Our confidence to lead grows from this practice.

During the course of this Presidential election, a great deal of the discourse has been uncivil, and it’s hard to imagine how Senator Fulbright would have reacted. Appalled at the current culture of personal attack? Or approving of the dissent so essential to democracy? Both, I suspect.

When we head to bed on November 8th, a significant number of Americans will not be happy. Regardless of outcome, true patriots will stand by their country, ready to criticize and improve it and defend every citizen’s right to an opinion and a voice.

On November 11th, St. Luke’s honors the very men and women who defend our rights and secure our freedom. Our annual Veterans Day celebration takes place during Grandparents Day so that we may salute those who served across generations. We’ll sing the National Anthem, learn about the origins of this special day, and remember the courage that defines our nation.

Veterans & Grandparents Day Assembly 2015

My Summer Letter

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever.”

                                                                                     ―E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Do you hear the crickets?  I’m afraid they’re right.  Summer cannot last forever, but happily its end means we return to the Hilltop for a year of learning, friendship and growth.

Summer offers so many opportunities for us to use our time in ways we can’t during the school year.  For me, it especially means more time to spend with family, more time to play golf, and more time to read.  I trust everyone has embraced the summer reading.  Thus far I’ve read:

How Google Works, by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, by Frank Bruni

The Second Machine Age, by Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

The Elon Musk Blog Series, by Tim Urban

The Libertarian Mind, by David Boaz

Buddhism, by Huston Smith and Philip Novak

Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda

 

Hoping to make a further dent in my imposingly high stack of books as I begin a two-week vacation. So many books, so little time….

Meanwhile, the Hilltop has been bustling all summer.  The Fifth grade renovation has kept our dedicated facilities team on full throttle, as has their determination to keep the entire campus beautiful for our families’ return.  Between our own growing summer programs (i2 Camp, Maker Camp, Writing Workshop), St. Luke’s summer squash programs, and the various sports camps hosted on our fields—it’s quite easy to forget the school year ended in early June.

In less than two weeks, our new faculty arrives and then full faculty meetings begin. We’ll share profiles of our new teachers in the coming weeks. We also have several internal promotions and new hires  including:

Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, formerly Dean of Upper School Student Life and Director of  Diversity, joins the Center For Leadership as Director of Inclusive Excellence and Leadership.  In this key role, she will work closely with CFL staff and the entire St. Luke’s community to assure that inclusive thinking and leadership support the School’s Mission and all academic and co-curricular programs.

Dan Clarke takes the helm of the Storm Zone as our new Sports Information Specialist. Dan replaces Ethan Pearce ‘11 who heads to law school. You may know Dan as St. Luke’s Varsity Girls soccer coach—a role he will continue to play (the crowd cheers).

Barbara Clayton becomes our new Parent Liaison, replacing Heather Freeman who served so well in the position for two years. Barb was a St. Luke’s parent for 15 years (Will ‘09, Henry ‘11 and Sally ‘16) and twice served as the PA Board President, most recently last year.

Eli Fendelman is our new Academic Technologist. Along with Bruce Strothenke and Matt Bavone, he’ll be working with teachers and students to leverage technology for learning. Take a look at Eli’s distinctive job application for a sense of his skills and personality.

Anna Knechtel transitions to Assistant Athletic Director–a role that recognizes her contributions to the Athletics program. Anna will spend half of her time in the training room, where she leads the effort to provide the best care for our student-athletes. She is supported by Athletic Trainer Nicole Guido who moves to full time. Jennifer Besgen remains in her crucial role as Associate Athletic Director, focusing on the Middle School program.

Stephen Vehslage is our new Associate Director of College Counseling. As a St. Luke’s parent (Wiley ‘13, Bailey ‘16, Henry ‘16 and Sadie ‘20), Stephen is a familiar face. He brings sixteen years of experience at New Canaan High School where he  served as chairman of the faculty and taught AP Government, Law, and other Social Studies courses. Prior to his career in education, Stephen worked as an attorney.

Matt Ward is our Upper School Dean of Students. As Director of Athletics at Kent Place and Miss Hall’s, he worked closely with each Dean of Students. He comes to St. Luke’s with great energy and is looking forward to working with students and parents. Matt will take over many of the student life responsibilities Stephanie Bramlett formerly had. He will work closely with Noel Thomas, who assumes a new role as Assistant Upper School Dean of Students. Noel brings a great deal of wisdom and experience to the team. Matt and Noel will lead Upper School culture, discipline, and activities with the support of the eight Class Deans.

As outlined in my June 10 letter, Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Mike Rupp is serving as Interim Director, with Elisabeth Evans serving as Interim Associate Director until Ginny Bachman returns as Director in January.

There is much more to share. Keep up with summer news on  St. Luke’s Facebook and Twitter (@StLukesSchool, @MarkDavisSLS).

New parents, please save August 24 for the annual New Parents Barbecue, a great way to meet other parents as well as many school administrators, teachers and trustees.  And all parents should reserve October 6 for The State of the School — the perfect opportunity to gather with friends, learn how St. Luke’s is doing in the marketplace of independent schools, and hear all about our plans for the future.

Wishing you a wonderful August filled with family, books, playtime, sunshine and crickets.

See you soon on the Hilltop,

 

 

Commencement 2016

SLSgraduationchoir

I’ve come to realize what I love best about Commencement: It truly captures St. Luke’s spirit and culture. A warm, palpable sense of community permeates the day. The bewildering blend of grief, gratitude and joy is tempered by knowing we go through this rite of passage together.

This year, I felt keenly the beautiful sorrow I often refer to at Commencement. My youngest, Sarabeth, leaves the Hilltop and will soon fly the nest. Meeting her eyes in the audience as I spoke…well, it almost did me in. I can’t tell you how many people offered me hugs, words of wisdom, and encouraging visions of a new stage in our father-daughter relationship.

At St. Luke’s, we share beginnings, we share trials and accomplishments, and we share the beautiful sorrow of watching our children leave us to begin new journeys. I am privileged to accompany our families at “lift off” and fortunate to have an entire community reminding me that although our children go—they always come back home.

Below is a portion of my send off to the Class of 2016. You may also enjoy this article featuring our Valedictorian Kat Adams and Salutatorian Caleigh Steele, and the Commencement 2016 Photo Gallery.

Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. You have walked under those words every time you enter St. Luke’s, and they watch over you in the Commons.  Yes, you go to college with academic skills and habits sharpened by working with great teachers.  Because of these teachers, you are much better prepared for college than most of your first-year classmates will be.  Just as important, this school has prepared you to be ethical, compassionate, truly kind adults.  That will determine how significantly you improve the world, and whether your impact is positive or negative, meaningful or superficial, lasting or fleeting.

How often have adults told you to “go out and find yourself?”  Better, in our view, to try new things, and give them your best effort, to do many different things or one thing – but, whatever you do, to do it as well as you can.  I can’t promise that you ever will find yourself, but I can hope you will remember Mahatma Gandhi’s timeless truth that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

…I hope St. Luke’s has taught you that, by your ethical and moral example, or by giving the gift of time, or simply by a word of encouragement, you can improve the world or enrich someone else’s life. These seemingly small actions might not be measurable.  They might not be recorded by historians, or get your face carved onto Mt. Rushmore, or get you into college.  But they do form the core of great leaders, and, just as important, truly GOOD people.  And they will make a difference.

I hope you leave the Hilltop knowing you can and should make a difference.

As you go forth, remember your talents and the blessings of your St. Luke’s education.  Remember these, and know that your talents and your education confer upon you the opportunity to make a difference by serving.  Discover the wonderful irony that through service to others you find personal fulfillment.  Rather than reducing your own prosperity, the act of giving actually makes you stronger, happier, and more successful in life.  And, not least, it honors and gives meaning to your school’s motto:  “Enter to Learn.  Go Forth to Serve.”

 

When Possibilities Bloom

I know what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote her poem entitled “I dwell in Possibility.”

I am right there with her: every morning when I arrive on the Hilltop and see the faces of teachers and students with dreams and plans; every evening when I leave and hear the echo of things tried and goals met.

I feel it at the start of the year when the sense of possibility is everywhere, and I feel it even more now, as I see those possibilities turn into accomplishments.

Upper School Academic Awards

Upper School Academic Awards

When we recognize the academic, leadership and character accomplishments in our Upper School Awards Assembly and Middle School Day of Celebration, we dwell in possibility and inspire others to work hard and value the St. Luke’s culture of excellence, good character, and kindness.

When we practice good sportsmanship, not only do we dwell in possibility, but also we triumph on the courts and on the fields as our teams become champions in varsity Softball, Golf, Girls Tennis, Girls Soccer and Boys and Girls Basketball.

When we focus on communication and language, we dwell in possibility and celebrate stunning performances in our World Language Department—where our French students took 1st place at the Olympics for World Languages and attained national recognition for their excellent performances on the 2016 National Spanish Examination, National French Contest and National Latin Exam.

At the beginning of the year, those who saw potential in debate and in the Social Justice Leadership Summit transformed that belief into big wins for the debating teams and the largest Summit ever.

Finding da Vinci Challenge

Finding da Vinci Challenge

When our students identified themselves as potential problem solvers, Middle Schoolers rose to the Finding da Vinci challenge, and 9th graders workshopped action plans for issues as big as poverty and gender identity—then acted on those plans for the culmination of J-Term.

The possibility of practice blossomed into virtuoso performances in this week’s musical concerts and two recent plays: This is a Test and Avenue Q. Earlier this month, eight St. Luke’s students were invited to the selective Connecticut Music Educators Association All State Choirs.  Just days ago, St. Luke’s theatre students received 18 Halo Award nominations—Connecticut’s high school equivalent of the Tony Awards.

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

Emily Dickinson wrote poetry all her life, but it was not until after her death that 40 volumes—1800 poems—were discovered, rocketing her into the pantheon of American poets. She described “the possible” as a “slow fuse lit by the imagination.”

On June 3rd, when we gather for Commencement—the ultimate St Luke’s celebration of what’s possible for each and every one of us—we will feel that glow.