May 30, 2018
Dear Shipley Families,
I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. I can’t tell you how nice I find it to be complaining about the heat rather than the cold and snow. Since the weather affects how we feel and what we do, it is wonderful that we’re having good weather as we head towards the end of the school year.
June 1st is rapidly approaching and, whether I want to admit it or not, I find myself ambivalent about the end of the school year. I try to pause and put the year into perspective while also hoping that it will have a terrific end. I reflect on how our students have been affected by the year and wonder what they (and we) are going to do over the summer to revitalize ourselves, further develop our interests, and grow as people.
I feel this particularly intensely at the various division closing celebrations. Observing the students at those events, I know that they have changed a great deal since last September. This maturation is particularly evident at Upper School Class Night, the Middle School Closing Exercises, and the Lower School Closing and Greek Day.
Just last Thursday, my nostalgia hit me extra hard as we held both our final All-School Assembly and our Upper School Closing. In the morning at the All-School Assembly, we welcomed a number of adults in the community as honorary alums and said goodbye to some of our colleagues who are leaving and/or retiring. However, the highlight of the assembly was the awarding of diplomas by our Little Acorns (Pre-K, K, and 1) to our Mighty Oaks. The ceremony evokes lots of emotion from students as well as from the parents of both Little Acorns and Mighty Oaks. In fact, for some seniors, receiving the diploma from their Little Acorn is more important than receiving their actual diploma! In the afternoon during the Upper School Closing, prizes were awarded to our students for their academic, athletic, and artistic accomplishments and for their character and leadership. The seniors have accomplished a great deal.
As I processed the two events, I found myself to be especially impressed by the growth and accomplishments of our seniors, and I could not help but think back to the time each of these 103 students joined the Shipley community – some as early as Pre-K and some as recently as 11th grade. Regardless of when they arrived, each of them has taken risks and developed skills, interests, and relationships that could not have been predicted when they arrived and that will influence the rest of their lives in important ways. They are on their way to becoming incredibly talented, bright, and committed college students and adults, and their growth and their ongoing development as students and people embody what Shipley aims to do for all students. (If you’d like to know more about them as individuals, please come to Class Night on Wednesday, June 6, when we will share something about each student. It is always a special evening.)
In reflecting on yet another graduating class, the 26th of my career at Shipley, I am most proud of the fact that the seniors have learned to strive for excellence in all that they do. They understand that using good process maximizes the chance of finding success and that how you do things is at times more important than doing them. As is always the case, our seniors have learned the most from their challenges and disappointments, demonstrating the importance of putting their best self out there and taking responsibility when things go awry. They know how to affect growth in our community both as individuals and as a group, and they recognize that their collective actions have an impact. Their effort in these ways should teach us all a lesson about what we should value; and their development as learners and leaders should remind us of the importance of having a positive growth mindset.
As we approach the end of the year and graduation—I’m looking forward to handing our seniors their diplomas—I was asked what advice I would give those who are moving on. As I thought about it, I found myself remembering Ezra Keiser, Class of 2018, who passed away due to a brain tumor more than seven years ago when he was in fifth grade. Ezra was a bright and talented person who loved School, athletics, and people. An avid fan of the Flyers and Phillies, he did the little things that made life better for everyone. Quietly charismatic, he was not one to bring notice to himself. Not surprisingly, he was loved by his fellow students and teachers. Although he has been gone for a long time, he has lived on in the lives and experiences of so many people. In fact, many of his classmates have asked me to be sure to acknowledge his impact on them when he was here and the effect they still feel today. (We will honor that request at Class Night). For those who don’t know it, the baseball field is named for him. Though he never got to catch, hit, or throw a ball for our varsity team, I (and perhaps others) felt his presence at every home game. Although I could not tell whether he was a tenth player on the field or he was simply looking down supporting a very talented and committed group of players, the team just won its fourth consecutive Friends Schools League title. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.
When Ezra passed away, each of the three sections of fifth grade selected a word to describe him. The words reflect who he was and the way he lived his life. Those words are at the heart of my advice not just to our seniors but to our community: If we can all be bright, be kind, and be selfless, we will accomplish great things as individuals and as a school.
Please enjoy all of our closing events and take special pride in the ongoing growth of your children and others you know. And, as I thank all of you for the role you have played in the process, I give special thanks to Ezra’s parents, brothers, and family for being such terrific role models for us. They have dealt with Ezra’s passing with courage and grace and have found a way to use his passing to do good for others in the world.
I hope you have a great end to the school year and a wonderful summer. I wish the seniors and those leaving the best and will look forward to writing my next letter at the start of the 2018-19 school year. Next year will be a memorable year – the 125th anniversary. I invite you now to celebrate with us all year long.
Head of School