New students were welcomed into the Waring community during a Convocation Ceremony on Saturday, September 21.
What does it mean to be a part of the Waring community? Take a look at this year's Convocation Speeches to learn what it means to members of Waring's senior class, faculty, administration, trustees, and parents.
Robine Vaneck '85, Associate Head of School, Welcome Remarks
Welcome to the 2019 Convocation of the Waring School. We are very happy to have everyone here on campus today; we’ve had many beginnings this year, but this is our first opportunity to be together for a full community welcome.
If you were milling around earlier you might have seen me trying to organize a little impromptu rehearsal for the last part of our program. As most of you probably know, about 2/3 of our students – with thousands of others - were in Boston yesterday to take a stand on the issues around climate change.
While I am sure we will hear more over the coming days and weeks about the experiences of the students who were off campus yesterday, the effect of the absence of those students on those of us still on campus was illuminating in its own right. Our decreased numbers reminded some of us of days long past when the school actually did consist of 50 students – or fewer! In those days we could easily decide at the last minute to take a class to the Peabody Essex Museum, or we could combine a Biology and a Chemistry class for an impromptu field trip to Agassiz Rock, or we could organize a multi-age soccer game suitable for all players - and we could all fit in the Grande Salle of the School for All-School Meeting. Yesterday we did all those things here on campus, and as luck would have it, we even had our founders, Josée and Philip Waring, in attendance at (this very likely last) All-School Meeting in the Grande Salle, where they had sat and led meetings hundreds of times before. It was a day that had a different spirit, for all sorts of reasons, and the Waring’s presence at the end gave a disconcerting but wonderful sense of traveling into the past.
My point with this short digression is not, however, to convey a message of loss of the good old days – but rather to encourage the memory for the faculty and to prime the new students and families – that we do still strongly believe that some of the most authentic education and even the deepest learning, begins when we allow ourselves to be free of the bounds of the classroom. This doesn’t mean that we can throw schedules to the wind, or that the structured learning of skills and content is less important than a spontaneous trip to Boston or the PEM or the woods in Gloucester – but those experiences inform the classroom and inspire us all to discover the myriad things we want to understand deeply – from the calculation and presentation of statistics, to the way the electoral college works, to the different effects of water vapor and CO2 in the atmosphere. It is through this combination of inspired curiosity and objective academic discipline that we can all hope to someday be part of the solutions that the world will always be looking for.
So today we will introduce the new members of our community who join us here to live and learn about the world together, in the way that Waring has always uniquely allowed us all to do, and we will honor long-time members who have shared so much of themselves with us already.
It is my honor and pleasure to introduce new staff and faculty this year. I will ask you each simply to stand to be recognized as I name you.
Jackie Raposo is our new school nurse; from the first day, and this includes camping trip she has fit in seamlessly and from what I can tell has an unflappable ability to take care of children in any situation. She is a wonderful addition to our Student Supports Team and we are all very happy that she is here. Welcome to you, Jackie!
With Becky Schaeffer taking on a newly increased role in Admissions and Marketing, Tiffany Soucy has added Academic Administrator to her as Technical Director for Theater. It’s a multi-tasker’s dream job and she has already passed through a couple of rings of fire – including keeping the faculty and students well organized at the start of the school year – not to mention her share of organizing this event. Thank you for taking on the challenge of this position, Tiffany!
Anita Richardson is a pleasure to introduce and to have back on campus – we thought we had lost her when she had to leave Waring after the 10th grade; but it turns out she carried Waring with her all these years through college and teaching in France and she returns to us now in the Humanities and French program – almost as if she’d never left. It’s great to have you back, Anita!
Bob Braile joins us in the writing department from the worlds of journalism and teaching. We are excited for the expertise and experience he brings to our students and look forward to working with him and getting to know him better over the course of the year.
Finally, Michelle Ramadan joins us as a teacher in the Humanities department. She is multi-lingual and multi-talented and comes to Waring with many years of teaching English & Literature under her belt; and even though those years weren’t spent here, it actually does feel like they might have been given how easily she has become part of the community. We are very glad you found us, Michelle!
Welcome to each of you.
Last but not least, although definitely smallest, I’d like to welcome the two latest additions to our immediate family – Michael ‘Mikey’ Kersker was born on July 10, and Erlon ‘Erl’ Bakland was born on September 4 – I don’t think they’re in the audience, but let’s please give their dads our heartfelt congratulations.
With that, I hope you will enjoy the remainder of the thoughts we have to share and presentations we have to make. Thank you.
Bob Biletch (P'18), Chair of the Board of Trustees, Greeting
Who are you?
How will you inspire us?
What will you do to help our children flourish in mind, body, and spirit?
These are the questions I had when I sat where you are now, my first Waring Convocation. And while they were directed at the Convocation speakers some five years ago now, I find that they are the fundamental questions I continue to ask about Waring, not because I have not found answers, in fact I have found many, but because Waring is the kind of place that inspires - and insists - that we ask these fundamental questions of ourselves and of each other. On behalf of the Board of Trustees let me welcome you to Waring by inviting all of us to ask these questions of ourselves, of our friends, of our parents, of our teachers and, yes, of our students.
As you will find in many Waring classrooms, the answers to these questions may lie in our history. So let me speak a little about our recent past. Last year we launched and completed the most successful campaign in the school’s history, raising $6 million. And we did this in under a year, an incredible accomplishment for a school with an enrollment of 160 students and an alumni base of about 700. This campaign was not just about a community coming together to raise money. It was about how our community will live our core values in the future. Our new school building will indeed reflect who we are and also, who we aspire to be. It will be a sustainable home that fosters community and allows faculty and students to interact in spontaneous, organic, and joyful ways. This is who Waring is.
Last year, we also had our challenges. We experienced a loss of an important member of the community, a loss that some are still trying to process and understand. I am grateful to both my predecessor, Joanne Avallon and our Head of School Tim, for their sensitive and professional handling of that deeply painful and challenging situation. And I am deeply grateful to our teachers for their strength and incredible ability to finish the year off with strength, ensuring that our children were the priority. This is who Waring is.
On this Convocation day, I want to welcome our new families and children by celebrating the incredible people that have created this place, nurturing and engaging the students. Making the warm, caring, and supportive environment, one that makes students comfortable taking risks and embracing the diversity of a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. Celebrating imagination and creativity. It is these characteristics that have inspired me to become a Trustee, and stay on to chair the Board after my child has graduated, and to lead it as we continue to ask the fundamental questions ourselves, each other, and our school.
Our success as a school starts at the top, with our Head of School. Thank you, Tim, for being our kind and thoughtful leader, for pouring your mind, heart, and spirit into making the school joyful for students and teachers.
And the teachers. I saw firsthand how Waring unlocked and ignited a passion for learning for my son Eli.
Thank you, Yasmine, Maureen, and Matt for turning my son Eli from never having spoken a word of French into a seemingly fluent French speaker.
Thank you, Joan, and former teacher Graham Rosby for inspiring a mathematical mind to become an extraordinary theoretical thinker.
Thank you, Francis and Rich, for inspiring Eli to become deeply and passionately interested in science and research.
Thank you, Joshua, for inspiring Eli to love poetry, so much that he has been obsessed about taking a poetry class this year at Middlebury amid his heavy load of sciences classes.
And these are only a few examples. Thanks to ALL of you Waring teachers for inspiring our children to become critical thinkers, engaged in life, with a love of learning and an insatiable curiosity. This is what Waring is, who Waring is, and you, dear teachers, have made it so.
Today officially marks the beginning of the school year and a new chapter for many children and families who are new to the school. With new beginnings, we look toward the future, with anticipation, hope, and excitement. So, borrowing from poet Jane Hirschfield. I offer these words:
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all of your days
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I welcome you to Waring, and wish you joy, curiosity, and passionate learning, for the coming school year! Thank you.
Tim Averill, teacher, Presentation of the Richard G. Prouty Award
Ann Cahill and I are honored to share the podium as we represent the faculty in awarding the Richard G. Prouty Award for outstanding volunteer service to Waring School. Dick Prouty and I have been close friends since 1971 when we met as young colleagues at Manchester High School. Our friendship endured as he left to establish Project Adventure, become a Waring Parent of Ila and Seth, and serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Then, having retired and become Chair Emeritus, Dick un-retired and once again donned that mantle when Waring called him to develop our new leadership team. And even now, Dick and Doris are here today as host parents of a Waring student.
The Richard G. Prouty Award for outstanding volunteer service to the school had been established in 2004 to honor Dick’s already long career. It is given to a parent "whose commitment and service to the community ensure a strong future for Waring School.” This award is given sparingly and has honored 6 of Waring’s most devoted volunteers: Lorraine Pocknett, Sam Otis, Jeffrey Averick, Alison Brookes, Randi Mitchell and Vicki Lincoln.
Each year, members of the faculty discuss the contributions made by members of our community and this year we have decided that after 16 years as a parent at Waring, Leslie Lyman epitomizes this award. Only a few years ago, her husband R.J., speaking at this ceremony, referred to Leslie as “She who must be obeyed,” and I remember pondering the source of her power as she nurtured her active and gregarious family. I came to realize that Leslie’s enthusiasm, strong will, optimism, willingness to throw herself into every task, and consistent modeling of courtesy, friendship and unselfishness were infectious. She “must be obeyed” because she is what many of us aspire to be. All of us who have worked with Leslie realize how much she has done for the Waring Community.
First as a parent: Leslie is the proud mother of four sons: Oliver, Nat, Teddy and Brad, all of whom attended Waring; in fact, this is her first Convocation in 16 years without one of her children as a Waring student under this tent.
Second as a volunteer: She’s served as a Parent Group class rep many times, leading dozens of Waring events and potlucks. One can always tell when Leslie is involved in organizing an event as she has a distinct style and puts her personal touch on every detail. This was exemplified in the 2012 Waring Auction, of which Leslie was co-chair, with a theme of “Diner en Blanc”.
Third as a fundraiser: She is a persuasive fundraiser and has used her skills and network to gather numerous donations to support Waring; she has fundraised to help establish the Faculty Grant Program in 2016, the annual fund over many years, and the faculty wishlist.
Fourth as a host: Leslie has opened her home for countless Waring events: team dinners, Admission Circles, Campaign fundraising events, and so much more.
Fifth as a baker: And this is not a minor attribute to me and my colleagues. Leslie loves to bake and is famous around Waring for her delectable chocolate chip cookies, often arriving on campus with a plate full of warm cookies fresh from the oven.
Finally as a groundskeeper: She’s appreciated for the countless hours she spent on “Campus Beautification.” Long before it was an official Parent Group volunteer role, Leslie has been seen in gardening gloves helping Dianne, Pavel and Rich with gardening projects for special events. This year, her first year not as a parent, she still showed up to plant the urn in front of the school.
Leslie, you have truly gone above and beyond the call of a devoted Waring parent and for that we honor you with the Richard G. Prouty award. Your tireless efforts and personal style will not soon be forgotten by anyone in the Waring Community. We will all truly miss you and hope you will visit us frequently and always keep Waring in your heart. Please join me and Mrs. Cahill on the podium.
Ann Cahill, administrator, Presentation of the Richard G. Prouty Award
Leslie, we have two gifts for you.
Words, as you know, are the "coin of the realm" around here. And as word spread that you would be receiving the Dick Prouty Award, words came streaming in from faculty and friends (and four sterling young men), over email, on the phone, around the front desk, and in the hallway. We have captured as many as we could and put them in a journal for you.
The second gift is less tangible at this point, but it too will garner its share of words as to what? and where? because, as the new building nears completion and the landscape takes shape, we will plant a tree in your honor. The plaque will say, simply, "Leslie Lyman, Friend of Waring School".
Sandhya Douglas, Parent '20, '23, Message from the Waring Community
This past week, as I was searching my mind, sifting through seven years of Waring memories preparing for today, a random little nugget from a teacher’s email from the Fall of 2013 popped into my mind. This teacher must have been laying out the logistics for a field trip of some kind, including all the usual details, but it was the final sentence, the way he ended the email, that stood out: “We will arrive on Romulus.” WHAT?!? “We will arrive on Romulus.” Yep…! On behalf of my husband Craig, our daughter, Swara a senior, and our son Chris, a freshman, welcome to Waring, new families – it is a magical bus ride!
This is a place of many wonderful and idiosyncratic traditions, and it starts each year, with the pre-season potluck, to reconnect and come together as a community.
- While chatting with some old friends at this year’s potluck, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a name tag on a new parent’s shirt, listing his name, his child’s name, followed by a notation, “8th grade.” Now, I know what you are thinking, old friends, “Sunny, you should have addressed it right away - if you see something, say something, right?” To my lasting regret, I didn’t address it - wasn’t quite sure how to - and it has been weighing on me….so I’m just going to take care of it now. Sir, wherever you are under this tent, we don’t have that here – this “8th grade” you speak of. I hate to be the one to break it to you. However, we do have Group 1, which our kids seemed to enjoy and hope your son will find helpful as well…
While we are at it, there are many other things Waring does not have.
- We don’t have recitals, we have soirees and cabarets
- We don’t have homerooms and homeroom teachers; we do have tutorials and tutors who guide your children’s Waring journey, over shared meals and fierce bocce contests. And, by the way, those tutors don’t have students, they of course have “tutees.” We are blessed to have two of the best in Yasmine and Francis.
- We don’t have teachers who impart their considerable wisdom onto your child’s head from the front of the room; we do have these extraordinary guides who will shepherd your kids on a challenging journey of personal and intellectual growth.
- We don’t have grades and report cards, we have Evals with narratives, which will make you cry – not because praise will be heaped on your child, but because of the incisive nuance with which your child has been understood, truly understood, along with thoughtful views on what to improve, and how to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.
- We do not have scale and size as our advantages, but this school will open up the entire world, quite literally, to your child, in ways that few other places do. Our daughter, by the time she graduates, will have been on nine different substantial trips all over the world – without her parents – in her seven years here. We will have hosted students from France, Sikkim, Bhutan, China, and Alaska in our home. Far from insular, this seemingly tiny place will push them to shed boundaries, both physical and internal. And, in doing so, it will push each of us to let go, to learn to trust.
This summer, I read a book called “Range,” by the sportswriter David Epstein. In this book, Epstein contends that in a complex and unpredictable world, generalists – those with Range - are primed to excel. Their journeys are messy, non-linear, there are no “easy buttons,” they juggle many interests, don’t become “stars” in just one thing, or even find their lane quickly. But, they are more creative, agile, and able to make connections that their specialized peers don’t see. These people actively cultivate inefficiencies and thrive.
- “Actively cultivate inefficiencies.” That, to me, is the essence of a liberal arts education. And, that is precisely what we have all signed our children up for, by enrolling them at Waring.
This journey, parents, is not just your child’s, but also yours. You can of course choose to stay at arms-length. But I dare you to try.
- I dare you to try being aloof when your child comes home, visibly still electrified from an incredible humanities discussion in Joshua’s class that went off script – of course, there is often no script with Joshua, which you will learn is exactly as it should be.
- I dare you to be unaffected when a normally quite, attention-averse group of young women find their voice, and discover a new skill in competitive debating, under the Zen-like tutelage of Tim Averill – I think he might be Yoda.
- I dare you to pretend you aren’t the least bit jealous of how much more sense Physics makes to your child than it ever did to you, because Francis is dancing across the classroom bursting with excitement, each year, as if he has never seen or discussed these concepts before.
- And, I dare you to resist finding wonderful, lasting friendships with at least a few of the incredible humans sitting under this tent
Other parents who have stood behind this podium in prior years have called Waring a leap of faith. A trust fall. To me, Waring is a grand, audacious, and ongoing experiment – that began with a hypothesis turning the traditional education pedagogy on its head. And, like most live experiments, Waring is also continuously learning, taking feedback, evolving – this community not only needs our support, but also our critical eye – to care enough to shine a light (constructively), but then to engage to solve problems and make things better.
- That type of engagement is embodied most clearly in these Waring students. Next Spring, Waring will graduate, again, about two dozen or so of its own toughest critics. Our children will have developed self-awareness, learned to work hard, become accountable for their choices, overcome setbacks, and well on their way to finding their voices. They will also have learned how to hold the mirror up to themselves and their world, to engage, to challenge, to advocate.
- Those are the gifts of participating in this grand experiment.
As we welcome you to Waring, I urge you to jump in, with both feet. It will energize, exhaust, and energize you again. Just like any good magical bus ride should.
Phoebe Holz, Senior, Message from the Waring Community
I’ve always been a talker. I will talk to, or rather at anyone and anything, whether it be my dad or my dog or my shower curtain. And so when I came to Waring and found myself uninhibited by any hand raising or moderator, I went on a talking rampage. I answered anything and everything, even if I wasn’t sure I was right. It wasn’t blind confidence but pure enthusiasm. I was so excited to be learning and for me, learning was synonymous with speaking.
And then I got my first evals. They commended my fervent participation, but one comment was ubiquitous, “Phoebe needs to talk less.” I was crushed and indignant. Talking was what I knew, what I loved. How could they silence me like this?
During conferences, my tutor Matt came up with plans for how I could talk less. “Maybe you could keep a log of how many times you speak,” he suggested. “Or you could try only answering every other question.”
But when I wasn’t talking I was sulking. I felt as if Waring wanted me to shut up, that they didn’t care about what I had to say. My penchant for talking didn’t go away and my suppressed comments turned to resentment. Or sometimes I gave in entirely and bore the repercussions in my evals.
And then one day after class, Kyra sat me down and said, “Phoebe, I want you to try and ask questions.” Something about the idea seemed pretentious, as if I were assuming that I was good enough to lead the class when really I just had a lot of opinions, but it was Kyra so for her sake I tried. And the first time it tanked. I posed some disingenuous inquiry to the class and what followed was fifteen seconds of clawing silence and then we moved on and never acknowledged Phoebe’s terrible question again. So, after the shame wore off I asked another question and again it tanked. And so finally I cut my humanities losses and I threw a third question into the discussion void, and this time someone answered. All of a sudden I wasn’t talking at someone or even to someone, I was talking with someone.
My question had been for show but the response wasn’t, it was a genuine, interesting answer. So I asked more questions, real questions that I had no answers to, and sometimes people responded and sometimes they didn’t. But either way I started listening.
I still spent a lot of time wrapped up in my ideas but in between I was trying to hear other people’s voices and not just formulate my next sentence. Waring had taught me that shutting up wasn’t shutting down. It was hard, but I could listen as actively as I could speak. So, all my talkers. Don’t stop talking. Join debate and talk for trophies. Join theater and turn your talking into art. Stay until you’re a senior and talk to an audience of hundreds. When you have something to say, scream it from the metaphorical rooftops. But in the spaces between your big ideas try and absorb the ones around you. Because, great as it feels to talk at people, it feels even better to talk with them.
Gyani Pradham Wong Ah Sui, Senior, Message from the Waring Community
I miss my parents. And my little brother, Tanish, who isn’t so little anymore. As a matter of fact, he’s taller than I am now, even though I’d never tell him I thought so.
My parents and Tanish had always been a huge part of my life before I came to Waring. I’d never gone to school without Tanish before. In Mauritius, I was in 3rd grade, he was in 1st. I’d go to his classroom when school was over to pick him up and we’d walk to the school bus together.
Now, he goes to an international school in Changshu, China. We communicate by FaceTime now and then. It’s always when he’s doing laundry because it’s the only free time he has. As he takes the clothes out of the drier, he talks about his day and I report about what’s happened on my end. My parents listen in as a third party on the call. I make it sound less dysfunctional than it really is. Their connection to my life here is as weak as the wifi is in Sikkim. They don’t know the people I talk about. My mom tries her best to remember the names I mention and she’s successfully named everyone in my grade once. My dad is hopeless with the names and is lucky if he gets two right. But in the end, none of this can replace the real thing.
They’ve never set foot in the vanishing grande salle, they’ve never watched a game on the minefield, they’ve never had to sign me out because I was sick, they’ve never had coffee with Tim, and they’ve never met anybody because they haven’t been here, yet.
They almost made plans to visit Tanish in China over winter break, but I vetoed the proposition. I absolutely forbid it. It’s illegal for them to see his school before they arrive at the home that’s taken me in. But is it worth it? I was the one who pushed to leave home and come to Waring.
Peter Pintso was the principal at Taktse, the school I went to in Sikkim and a graduate of Waring. But he never seemed like a head of school. To the students, he was a mentor and a friend. He was invested in our passions and spoke to us as equals. I revered his way of being: his burning enthusiasm, counterbalanced by cautious skepticism.
When I was 14, he left Taktse and came back to Beverly. I chased after him. I wanted to find the source, to experience what he had experienced. Waring is that source.
Three weeks ago, when we sat around the blue crackling fire at North Woods, I listened to your voices and heard the love and care we have for each other. Three days ago, when we sat around a table in the barn, hesitant with our words, Joshua spoke to us. He spoke about the pluralization of history: histories. The idea that our personal experiences come together to create a memory system. The intersection of these two moments is what I see at the source. So, as I talk to Tanish, who’s unloading the dryer 7000 miles away and my parents both listening in, I take a hard look at the price I’ve paid and recognize that it is worth it.
Anand Fedele, Senior, Message from the Waring Community
If you know me, you know I really love telling stories. I think I get this love from my dad, who often talks to me about his childhood or his life as a working musician. One day after telling me a story, my dad turned to me and said, “You know, sometimes life gets so ridiculous that you just have to stand back and laugh at it all.” New students, I want to pass that message on to you. You will be embarrassed, scared, stressed out, and frankly horrified during your time at Waring. But those perils don’t just end when you graduate—they happen all throughout your life. And I want to encourage you all not to be afraid of the trials ahead, but to look forward to them, and to embrace them. And to prove my point, I welcome you all to come laugh at me as I share my moments of embarrassment and stupidity from my time at Waring. Let’s start at the beginning.
When I was in core I was incredibly strange and I have many fond memories of being a small sad little loser, but one stands out in particular. One day in French class I miscalculated the trajectory of my butt going into my seat and accidentally sat on Ellie Tapping (who doesn’t go to this school anymore.) I was so incredibly ashamed of my butt and where it had wandered that I darted off to the bathroom to wallow in solitude. When I returned a full fifteen minutes later, I was a little paler, a little more glassy eyed, and a little less of a man. I thought the world was over. But no–it wasn’t. And as the years went on, these embarrassing moments seemed to be a little less catastrophic. They happened just as frequently, but I learned to not take myself so seriously. That’s where adolescent stupidity enters the story. One day during 2/3 humanities, a strange force persuaded me to stick my finger in a hole in the plastic of my chair. When I went to retract my finger from said hole, I realized it was stuck. As the teacher continued explaining the defeat of the Spanish Armada, I writhed around in my chair. Then it hit me. I just needed to play cool. So nonchalantly, I sat in class, pencil in hand, finger in chair, blood not circulating through finger, and tried to remain calm. And by the end of class, not a single person found out, except for everyone–everyone knew the whole time. Oh well. As stupid as that seems, that story pales in comparison to the time last year I stayed up with Benny till 2 a.m. recreating the Waring campus in Minecraft, with an incomplete problem set due in eight hours… sorry Francis.
So what's the moral of this story? Well for the new students that sit in the audience today, know that you are not alone. We all mess up, we all get embarrassed, we all get our fingers stuck in chairs. But those moments shouldn’t drag you down. They shouldn’t haunt you or make you sad. They should make you laugh. So go, meet your worries head on. Who knows, maybe it’ll make a good story someday. Thank you.
Dolly Farha, Senior, Message from the Waring Community
I am originally from Kansas and lived there for most of my life. Gloucester has been my home for five years now, but the pull of the prairie is strong. I left Waring at the end of sophomore year to live with my father. I lived in Wichita, attended The Independent School, and was, frankly, miserable for one semester.
I missed walking between my classes, the ability to be outside even for one brief moment. I missed how Humanities discussions trailed outside of the classroom, the intensity with which we read Hamlet and the spiritual journey Dante’s Inferno took me on. I missed my casual conversations with Diane, the never-ending “Happy Tuesday” from Anna Marie, and singing happy birthday to my classmates during ASM. I missed my vocal lessons with Kristina, making strange noises that I know the neighboring classes could hear. I missed the rush of my day, the exhaustion I felt at five o’clock, and the satisfaction of finishing another day.
But most of all, I missed my community. Waring was never just a school--it is a hodgepodge of adults and children who are all here for the same reason. To learn. It may seem like a simple purpose, but there is no profession more noble than teaching, and no student who isn’t honorable in my eyes. And so, at the end of my first semester junior year, I came back. Waring welcomed me with open arms, calmed me down, and helped me re-enter Physics the best way possible. I am forever indebted to the school for allowing me to walk away, and holding my hand when I came crawling back.
So, to the new students of the Waring School, listen to this. Do not be like me. You should not have to leave in order to realize what you have. Look around, look at these buildings, the Quad, and the people around you. This is your home now. Embrace it, and most of all enjoy it. Be grateful for all that you have, and, please, don’t move to Kansas.
Tim Bakland '94, Head of School, Remarks
New and returning students and families, faculty, trustees, parents, alumni and friends, Bonjour à tous et toutes.
New students, many of you were fortunate to meet school co-founders Philip and Josée Waring yesterday when they visited us in All-School Meeting. When Philip and Josée are in town, I naturally think back to stories from the 1980s when I enrolled as a student. To me: Philip and Josée always represented two very different sides of the Waring coin, Philip being about books, ideas and philosophy, and Josée bringing the passion, the fire and ice. I do not think on Philip and Josée or on those times with nostalgia. There were good times in our early days, and there were and challenging times -- just like now. Plus: no one is more counter-nostalgic, more forward-thinking, more spontaneous or ready for healthy change than Philip and Josée -- both of whom have been ready to see a new school building for years -- despite Philip’s characteristic quips yesterday in All-School Meeting!
With all of this in mind, and putting myself in your shoes once again, new students, I’ll share a brief story from my own two-day visit to the school in the spring of 1988--not so much a glimpse into a far away past, but more a notion of what this place is and what it can be.
Much of my visit to Waring as a 13-year-old was likely very much like your own visit, new students: I sat in on vibrant Humanities class discussions in small circles, observed and sketched the plants along the stream in science, and listened to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in All-School Meeting -- which took place back then in the Grande Salle, just like yesterday’s Meeting. But I also remember having two very strange interviews, and not with Directors of Admissions, but with then Headmaster, Philip Waring and then Assistant Headmaster, Peter Smick, long before Waring had an official Admissions team. On my first day of the visit, it was Philip Waring who interviewed me, and this consisted of Philip’s taking me for a walk across the campus...
The funny thing is: Philip did not say much at all during our “interview.” Instead, he walked me to the playing fields (it must have been sports time), stating simply “Let’s see how Lacrosse practice is going.” And so we watched Lacrosse practice… for what seemed like a good hour or so, though I’m sure my discomfort distorted my sense of time. Finally, after an extensive, uncomfortable period of silence, Philip looked at me and asked “So, do you like Lacrosse?” This was my interview?; this was the grand question for entrance into Waring School? I had never played or even seen any Lacrosse (and, by the way: I had no idea at that time that Philip Waring had been an All-American Lacrosse player at Harvard and had ranked among the highest goal-scorers in the country!) I confess that I do not recall what I said to Philip that afternoon. I imagine that, if anything, I may have mustered up just enough courage to respond with questions of my own: Are the rules like soccer? Is everyone at Waring as good as the players practicing here? What’s with all that gear? . . . Oh, and: What is Lacrosse, by the way? Maybe, just maybe: I got in a few words about the passions I did have -- my love for piano-playing and classical music, my fascination with satire or maybe even my obsession with Mad Magazine... (Bottom line: my note to 13-year old self at the time: Interview with the Waring Headmaster: a total flunk.)
Imagine my surprise, then, the next day when it came to Interview #2. Similar scenario with Peter Smick, Assistant Headmaster. Again, I remember saying scarcely a thing, though this time, Peter helped to fill the empty silences. Looking at me very seriously and maintaining eye contact all the way, Peter intimated: “Tim: I spoke with Philip after he met with you yesterday”. (My heart sank.) “Philip told me that he was impressed with your interview yesterday and thinks you may be the right kind of student for Waring. And now, of course, it is yours to decide if Waring may be the right kind of school for you.” The news that I had more or less been accepted to Waring on the spot after tanking two interviews with awkward gray-bearded men had barely set in when Peter added an important condition of my enrollment: “Tim: if your family is considering a household computer (remember: this was 1988), Waring highly recommends the Macintosh.”
Despite being a rather reluctant Waring visitor, new students, I confess I felt a tugging at something deep within me here in my earliest days, something that up to that point had more or less been untapped in my adolescence: I was seen and heard even by adults. My Waring peers actually cared about my somewhat hidden interests, they asked me about where I had come from, my experiences at Newburyport’s Nock Middle School… and, in one of those earliest days at Waring, a brand new teacher (Matt Taylor, age 20-something) even approached me over lunch to hear me play a Mozart sonata.
Whatever your experience was as a visitor, new students -- whether it was maladroit, or natural, or something of a mix, you are here because of your love of learning, your passion for ideas and conversation, your eclectic hobbies (I understand one of you is a woodworker, another a slam-poet... there’s even an avid fishing enthusiast among you!). Above all else, above any grade on your transcript or single accolade in your young resume, you are here because you have seen the potential in this idea of Waring, and Waring has seen something in you.
On this campus you’ll find your sketchbook, your lab book and makerspace, your Soirée Room and Snake Room, your nook in which to journal. You’ll find the books and ideas with which to grapple, the fire and the ice where passions mingle.
We often say in our marketing outreaches -- in our posters and flyers about the town: “Find it at Waring.” Rather than a proclamation or a boast, “Find it at Waring” is more of a challenge and an invitation. New students, we call on each of you now to continue finding that which is already in you, seeking out earnestly your passions and your curiosities as you join a community centered steadfastly on learning. I know I speak for all of the faculty when I say: we cannot wait to learn more.
Thank you, and welcome to Waring.