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Fall Athletics Banquet Talk, by Emily Houston ’18

Fall Athletics Banquet Talk
By Emily Houston ’18
November 9, 2017

“It’s not about who you’re playing against, it’s about who you’re playing with.”

With one more game left to play, until the end of my high school field hockey career, I am left reflecting on this quote my coach Fran likes to say before we face tough opponents.

Feeling nostalgic about the season coming to an end, a few of my teammates and I began sharing memories about our experiences over the years.

Each memory we shared would not be the same without our team being a part of them. The importance of our team reminds me of the quote Fran has been saying to us for all these years.

At first, I never truly understood the importance of her words. It felt like a saying just to take away the nerves of playing in a tough game. But as my four years come to an end, this quote has started to mean more than that to me. Without my team, I would not be the athlete, friend, or student I am today.

There are many things I love about being on a team. There are the fun, lighthearted things like our long bus rides, braiding each other’s hair, our inside jokes, or even working on homework together. Then there are the experiences we share together that are a culmination of our hard work. Like when we have been working on a passing sequence all week at practice and finally execute it perfectly in a game. Or even when we celebrate a team effort that led to an amazing overtime win against Loomis. All of these team experiences strengthen our bonds as teammates and help grow our friendships off the field too.

Many teams eat dinner together in Alumni; some, like mine, even go to Sunday brunches together. The camaraderie we share on the field translates to amazing friendships and experiences off the field. Because of the years I have spent playing sports at NMH, I have made lasting friendships I can count on.

Last year my stress and anxiety reached an all-time high, as I went through the college-recruiting process. But I knew that I could count on my teammates, each and every day, to make me smile at practice, and help me let go of the pressure I was feeling.

NMH has given us coaches who want nothing other than for us to succeed. Success doesn’t necessarily mean a win on the field, but rather growth as an athlete and as an individual. Our coaches, who are teammates too, are willing to help us overcome any adversity on and off the field. This job description is not written in ink, but the culture here at NMH allows this to shine day in and day out.

Our teams consist of more than just the friends we play sports with and our coaches. Our teammates are teachers, advisors, parents, and members of the athletics department like Stoney, Jessie, Wendy, and Kevin.

In a game, competing against The Hotchkiss School, my teammate and close friend dislocated her shoulder. With the help of our talented trainers, supportive coaches, and an eager paramedic on the sideline who just happens to be my father, she found herself back on the field within a few short weeks.

Our teammates are the people who make us better, stronger, and more prepared for new challenges each day. And although I love all of the fun and lighthearted traditions I share with my team, the part I love most is knowing I will see their friendly faces on campus each day.

Although this banquet is celebrating the end of one season and the start of another, it is not the end of our friendships. For some of us, this is our last season here. For others, this your first. While I may not know what kind of teams you will be on after you leave NMH, I do know that the teams we have built at NMH will always be here for us, no matter where we are.

As this chapter of athletics closes, some of us will continue to forge our friendships and support system here and others will move forward to the collegiate ranks and seek the same friendships and support we experience at NMH. Regardless of where you play in the future and what team you find yourself a part of, I challenge you to remember that it’s not about who you’re playing against, but rather who you’re playing with.

Thank you.

Photo by Glenn Minshall
Fall 2017 Convocation Address by Peter Fayroian

Convocation Address
Fall 2017
By Head of School Peter Fayroian

I am no expert on social media. As our Director of Educational Technology Dr. Lowsky will tell you, I’m furthermore and most decidedly not a pioneer in academic technology. And nobody in our tech department would attest to my nimbleness in matters of computers or even, at times, how to use my smartphone. I’m probably better than most, but still far behind many of my colleagues and certainly behind all of you. I’m loath to be that person who is old enough now to use the expression, “Back when I was your age,” but the fact is I’m at least the age of your parents and perhaps they too have tried to explain to you the stupendous rate at which technology has accelerated since we were teenagers.

When I was in high school, if I pulled from my pocket something roughly the size of a Hershey bar and made a phone call, people would have looked at me in disbelief. They eventually would have understood that this wireless phone used something along the lines of a radio signal; amazing, but within their ken. But if I then pushed a green circle on the glass cover and actually looked at the person with whom I was talking? If I made a few taps with my finger and the Rolling Stones’ new album started playing? If I showed them photographic images of where they live, spread my finger and thumb and pointed to an aerial image of their mother cutting the lawn in their backyard? Began watching a movie, or a baby sleeping at that moment in a crib, or a live tennis match at the U.S. Open? And when I spoke, it produced my words in a short letter sent to another person holding the same object? I could ask or type in a question about anything and I would get the answer?

People would have run from me, terrified and screaming.

Schools — boarding schools in particular — have been trying to keep up with technology and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve often failed, and there have been backwards as well as forward steps. Early on in my teaching career, my colleagues and I struggled with this thing called “word processing” and the way in which it initially inhibited the crucial revision process. Dorm rooms were Spartan: no televisions or phones but for those in the common room or at the end of the hallway. A student might suffer a disappointment or setback and there was always time to figure it out or put it into perspective before a phone call home to an anxious parent, a call that could only be made by waiting in line in the 45 minutes between the end of study hall and lights out. There was always bullying and harassment and plagiarism and cheating, but they happened in real time in the open and not virtually. One might say it was easier to do the right thing because it was harder to do the wrong thing, and over the years our rules and expectations — as you can imagine — had to adjust accordingly. Our students couldn’t hide as easily behind distractions and shortcuts, and even video games were social, rather than private, events.

“For God’s sake,” goes a short poem, “Let us be men / not monkeys minding machines / or sitting with our tails curled / while the machine amuses us. … / Monkeys with a bland grin on our faces.” This isn’t a poem written recently about computers but one composed in 1929 by D.H. Lawrence titled “Let Us Be Men,” that we would agree encourages us how to be women and men.

Lawrence joined many critics of industrialized society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and wrote often of how he believed new technologies (then the phone, the radio, film, and the gramophone) inhibited us from truly interacting with and loving each other. Lawrence, though, preferred to live a rural life without urban household conveniences. “Every time we turn on a tap to have water, every time we turn a handle to have fire or light, we deny ourselves and annul our being.”

Now, I am a fan of a long hot shower, but I have also always found value — to the point of dedicating a good portion of my career to outdoor education and wilderness expeditions for students — in finding time to live unencumbered by modern conveniences. I’m a bigger fan of Henry Thoreau, who wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I do believe all of us should experience living simply, and deliberately without technology and without our tails curled while the machine amuses us, but I am no Luddite, a term we use for people who are averse to technology.

“The Luddites were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting the use of machinery in a ‘fraudulent and deceitful manner’ to get around standard labour practices.[1] Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.” No Luddite would have found this on Wikipedia.

It’s clear that these machines, these technologies, whether in our pockets, on our desktops, or in the cloud, are useful instruments for good. They have provided information and education for people who otherwise would not have access or opportunity. They provide critical information for helping others; they have saved countless lives and helped coordinate rescue efforts after hurricanes or brought light to oppression; they are responsible for overthrowing brutal regimes. Coding and modeling are curing diseases and solving humanitarian crises. They allow my children to FaceTime and know their grandparents living thousands of miles away.

We have dedicated millions of dollars at NMH toward harnessing the potential in these tools, in the way we communicate, teach, and learn. It all seems quite natural to you, and it should, but it’s been no small thing for us to discern what tools are essential to your classrooms and what tools you will need to be prepared for the world off this hill.

And if all this information and education is available to us in our pockets, it’s a reasonable question to ask why we come together at all on this hill. I think what recent technologies have compelled us to do — even more so than when I began teaching in boarding schools — is to emphasize the experience here, in our workjobs, in our daily gaining and losing hundreds of feet of elevation in subzero temperatures, in collaborating in the classroom, on the stage, in the athletic arena, on the farm. We are privileged to have both these incredible machines at our disposal and to have the time and space to be with each other. But we do have to make time to get off the Internet and connect with each other; we do have to make sure we are harnessing the creative powers of technology and resist its destructive powers.

In 1934, five years after D.H. Lawrence admonished us to not be monkeys minding machines with a bland grin on our faces, 116 Mount Hermon students sat in this chapel and listened to their commencement speaker, invited with the support of their headmaster but to the extreme disapproval of the board of trustees. The speaker was the Norman Thomas, a pacifist minister and socialist leader who made six unsuccessful bids for the presidency. In his address, titled “Youth Faces the Future,” Thomas encouraged graduates sitting in this chapel to take advantage of industrial and technological advancements: “We have come to a time when your generation literally will live or die according to its ability to master machinery for the common good instead of using it for purposes of destruction. … You have an enormous advantage denied to all the thousands upon thousands of generations which have preceded you. You can talk of the conquest of poverty in a sense that not even your fathers would have found realistic. … There is no need at all for poverty in America, and scarcely for poverty in the world, if we should learn to manage intelligently the machinery that we have had the wit to create. That is for your generation an affirmation of great hope, an affirmation, moreover, that is bound to affect your ethical and religious thinking and your social organization. What I am asking you to do is not easy. It will require struggle — struggle to change a twisted and distorted loyalty to the true and living loyalty in which is emancipation and peace; struggle to amend institutions which unchanged drag us to ruin with them; struggle with our own prejudices and personal and class interests.”

The technological tools you have at your disposal are unprecedented in terms of their power to improve our world if you engage technology with your intellect, compassion, and talent. Yes, for God’s sake, let us be women and men and not monkeys with our tails curled while the machine amuses us. Let us take advantage of our time together on this hill and take Abby Maymi’s advice last night in her moment of silence to learn from and about each other by talking with each other. Let’s disconnect from the Internet and connect with each other, and when we do turn our smartphones on, let’s use them smartly and with humanity and purpose.

Photo by Glenn Minshall
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Opening Convocation, Fall 2017
Spade Oration
By Leighlani Sanchez ’18
Good morning and welcome, new students, freshman, faculty, and returners. I am standing here, in front of over 600 of you, to talk to you about a spade. Not just any spade, but the ceremonial spade. It’s been a longstanding tradition here at NMH for a member of the graduating class to pass down the spade to the rising senior class. That senior class will then use the spade to plant their class tree and attach a colored ribbon with their graduation year to the handle. The spade represents dedication and hardwork, concepts that all of us should be very familiar with. But because they’re such familiar concepts, we seldom stop to think about them or question them. So, I’ll ask you: Why do you work hard? What have you worked your hardest for? What does hard work look like to you?
Hard work looks like my mother, stumbling in at four am, just out of work, rubbing off the remnants of her makeup and collapsing into bed — only to be up again at eight, clenching onto a cup of coffee like it was the only thing keeping her standing. She’d make breakfast for us, apply a fresh layer of makeup, and head back to work — like it was that simple. My mother is very good at making things look simple when there were always myriad problems just beneath the surface.
For a while, she managed to hide all of the ugly. When the electricity was cut, she quickly worked to adapt. How fast can you get something out of the fridge without releasing the cold air? Reading by candlelight is way more romantic, anyway. Monopoly beats watching TV any day. Even when the heat and water were cut, no one seemed to mind. While we were busy making a game out of everything, my siblings and I knew how hard our mother was working to keep everything from falling apart. It was her dedication to us that never gave us a reason to complain.
Eventually there was nothing more to cut and our little apartment was ours no more. Soon, home became whoever’s couch, trailer, or guest room floor was available for a few nights. Our favorite was the trailer, because there was a racoon that slept in an abandoned shed nearby. We named him Jerry and theoretically adopted him as our pet racoon. Any time it was about to feel like too much, like we’d reached the end of our optimism, my mother would bear that weight for us and things were all right again. In this time, shifting from floors to couches to trailers, the words “homeless” or “broke” never emerged. Despite our circumstances and the hurdles placed in our lives by unforeseen forces, my mother never put the word “victim” into our vocabulary.
As my mother continued to work hard in her own way, I struggled to contribute. I eventually found my escape route from the cycle of poverty, drop-outs, and teen pregnancies that persisted in my family through school. Neither of my parents graduated from college and only one finished high school. The other had to begin raising me her senior year of high school. From the start, no one really expected much of me. I was just another Puerto Rican teen baby from the demonized city of Springfield. If I didn’t do well in school, no one would have blamed me. But because I saw the greatness in my mother that other people would try to claim wasn’t there, I found my motivation for working hard — for getting out.
I work hard to break myself — and my family — out of the expectation that because of our zip code, ethnicity, and education, we won’t amount to anything. I’m the oldest of four, soon to be the first in my family to attend college, but that won’t be enough. The thing about hard work is that you only ever have to work as hard as you expect yourself to work. How much do you expect of yourself?
Here at NMH, you’re all expected to work hard; it seems pointless for me to tell you this. But through all of the finals weeks, exams, tests, late nights cramming, and counting down the seconds until 12:09 — and if you’re new, you’ll soon understand the devastation that is 12:09 — think of your answers to the questions I first asked you. Why do you work hard? What have you worked your hardest for? What does hard work look like to you? Take these answers and set new limits for yourself. And once you’ve reached that limit, set another. Find your own spade and plant your own legacy.

Salutatory Address given by Julia McClellan ’17 at Baccalaureate 2017

Welcome, friends. I can’t believe we made it — the day we have been working for and dreaming of since what feels like the beginning of our lives is finally here: Baccalaureate day. I’m so grateful to be standing here looking at all of you, even those who have already dozed off; it has really been an irreplaceable and unforgettable four years. 

I’m not going to lie, writing this speech was incredibly difficult. I struggled to find a topic because I felt it wasn’t my place to offer you advice or teach you a lesson. Although I’ve gotten good grades in high school, I have no more life experience than any of you. If anything, I have less, seeing how a lot of my social time was spent with my mom, my science homework, and my cat Buster. Even a quick Google search of “successful people that were bums in high school” confirmed my suspicion that there is a very limited correlation between success and high school GPA. David Karp, the inventor of Tumblr, Aretha Franklin, and Albert Einstein were all high-school dropouts, just to name a few. Even America’s sweetheart Ryan Gosling was suspended from school for threatening his classmates with a steak knife. 

So, with the knowledge that we have all made it too far in school to be successful, and, perhaps more importantly, with the understanding that my words cannot begin to encompass the vast importance of this experience, all I can do is speak to where my mind is during these last few days with the hope that, because you are all part of the NMH community, you have learned enough about empathy to find your own thoughts somewhere in mine. 

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for an NMH admission video. The interviewer prompted me with a fill in the blank: “To me, NMH is ___,” to which I quickly shot back, “NMH is home, I don’t think there is any better word than that.” Now, I took two years of English with Mr. Kennedy, meaning I often over-analyze. So, naturally, in writing this speech, I thought back to that moment and started to dissect what, exactly, makes NMH my home, and what the word “home” means to me. 

The first quality that I associate with NMH is humor. One of my favorite funny moments actually happened in Mr. Kennedy’s aforementioned AP Literature class. My fellow seminarian was running late when Mr. Kennedy spotted her walking down the hill to the Lower Mod. He then surprised us all by suggesting that we hide from my classmate as a practical joke. Now, trust me when I say, you cannot and will not ever experience a more comical sight than Mr. Kennedy giddily prancing over to the corner of his classroom, flattening himself against the wall, and then giggling adolescently with a group of eight or so of the best and brightest English students in the senior class. And this is just one of an infinite number of laughable moments I have enjoyed, replayed, and relayed to others. At NMH, I have gotten to be a serious student without taking myself too seriously. Here, learning is more than interesting, or rewarding, or even fun, but actually funny. These shared, comical, NMH experiences are what keep our high school memories warm and approachable. And by these moments, we will forever be tethered   to this hill. 

The next word that surfaces when I think of my home here at NMH is community. NMH has no shortage of love. When I came to school with a fever sophomore year, my friends collected jackets from students in Blake to help me stay warm. When I got into college, my family wanted to take me out to dinner to celebrate, so the rest of the C5 RLs took shifts to cover my duty with only an hour’s notice. And when I melted down after a bad math test, my advisor was there to comfort me with snacks and a list of silly things he cries about when he’s overtired. It is a testament to this institution that I go to bed feeling wanted and appreciated every day. I feel this community when one of the freshman on my softball team tells me that she loves me and that I am her role model, or when my amazing friends, who have dealt with me for four years, still insist on hugging me when they see me. It is hard not to feel at home when every one of my peers is like a sibling to me. So this is home because you all are my family. 

The last but certainly not any-less vague or cliché piece to this puzzle is growth. Before coming to NMH, I was a big fish in a small pond, as was the experience, I’m sure, for many in the graduating class. In fact, in the first few months of my freshman year, my anxiety did not come merely from academic or social change, but from the idea of disappearing here. However, since my first semester, I have had a myriad of people helping me to expand to the vast expectations and opportunities that this campus encompases. My favorite example is my relationship with Lily Lin. Way back in our first semester, Lily and I edited each other’s HUM 1 papers and have since been friends and competitors. She has pushed me to work hard and inspired me to strive for improvement, just as I am sure I have pushed and inspired her. And although in the first months of freshman year neither of us knew that we would end up salutatorian and valedictorian of our class, I know now that she has had a profound and unparalleled effect on my success. But Lily is not the only one. NMH has been a place that has both rooted me and allowed me to branch out. I have been taught how to fill the space that I once thought would envelop me. 

Home is where we grow up. We start from the ground and build up our personalities, our skills, our strengths, and our interests. Home is where we can mold ourselves into whatever person we aspire to be. And NMH Class of 2017, I couldn’t have asked for a better home to grow up in or a better family to grow up with. Congratulations to us all. 

Thank you for making this home. The only piece of advice I can offer is the advice my mom used to give me before my rec soccer games: “Play big, take risks.” Thank you, and I’ll see you next week in cap and gown. 

Photo of Julia McClellan by Glenn Minshall

Spring 2017 Athletic Banquet Address by Taylor Zuberer ’17

I love sports. I can't remember a time I wasn’t running outside chasing neighbors, throwing a ball, or fighting my sisters for the “winning point.” My first memory as an “athlete” is when I was 5 years old. I distinctly remember being in the front yard with my dad, repeatedly kicking one of those orange and black (plush) nerf footballs off a tee, making him chase down every kick and reset the ball for me.

Since I was little, I dabbled in about every sport. I tried swimming, tennis, soccer, baseball, and even flag football with the boys. Fast forward to seventh grade and my new neighbor has managed to drag me out to try this new sport in Tampa called “lacrosse.” I had never heard of it, didn’t know how to use a stick, and was a chubby kid relunctant to put myself out there. But at the end of the first practice, when the sky lit up with lightning and everyone was looking around for our coach to call practice, she said, “If you finish your sprints fast enough you’ll leave sooner.” I was hooked.

As I gradually became more and more committed to lacrosse, I began to form a passion that was unparalleled by any other relationship I had with a sport. And, when I got to my freshman year, my high school coach delivered to me a poem that has continued to be the driving force in various aspects of my life. The poem, “Invictus” — “unconquered” in Latin — ends with:

“I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

For me this became a daily reminder of how I am the person that dictates my future. And so, when sophomore year arrived, this poem became a part of my attitude when, in the course of a little over a month, I faced perhaps the hardest thing I could ever imagine.

In March, one early morning, my dad came into my room and told me that my mother had passed away.

Unfortunately, this was something that didn’t come as a surprise because for the last 12 years of my life prior to her death she was an alcoholic. But nevertheless, it was news that shattered my world and broke my heart.

See, what people don’t know about me is how sports saved me. When my mother was drunk, demanding, and reckless, my sisters and I would run outside and find peace in throwing a football for hours or kicking a soccer ball until the last bit of light was gone.

What people don’t know is that the day my mother died the only thing I wanted to do was go to lacrosse practice – so I did. And that whole week I practiced and played games because for me that is how I found solice. No one was aware of the internal battle that was tearing me up inside, because on the field I was cured.

About three weeks later, in a playoff game, a pop in my knee tested me further. And before I knew it, I was in a doctor's office where I was told that my ACL, MCL, and meniscus had been torn and I would likely be out for the next year.

So there I was, stripped of a mother, facing an upcoming surgery, and without the one thing that seemed to keep me going in the day.

Through all of my sophomore year, as I coped with the loss of my mother and my injury, I continually referred to that poem, “Invictus.” I didn’t want these hardships to be the crippling factor in my life. I didn’t want to be less of the person that I knew I could be. I wanted to remain unconquered.

And, sure enough, I remained unconquered by having a new, harder work ethic and by committing myself to getting better each day. Looking back now, as a senior about to embark on the next chapter of my life, I still refer to the poem “Invictus” almost daily. For some, this season marks the last time you will play a sport at a competitive level; and for others you will continue to play either here or in college.

But for me, sports are so much more than something I will just do next year in college. For me, sports saved my life … they provided me the medium to get away from a drunk mother, to cope with her loss, and to push through hours of rehab and workouts.

But regardless of how much sports have touched you, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.

Thank you.
Winter 2017 Athletics Banquet Keynote by Tomas Murphy ’17

Winter 2017 Athletics Banquet Keynote by Tomas Murphy ’17

Good evening, and thanks for being here. It’s an honor to be asked to speak to you all tonight.

Thank you, Kevin Klein, for asking me to speak. To tell the truth, when you first pulled me into your office, I wasn’t thrilled. But … you kind of put me on the spot. So I said yes. And as I stand up here, I’m glad I did.

While writing this speech, I thought back to all my experiences at NMH, and one came to mind in particular. It was during the fall of this year. I was taking Crime Literature with John Corrigan and the class was reading The Stranger by Albert Camus.

I became interested in Camus’ views on life, and invested myself more into John’s class than any other I had taken at NMH. At the same time, the varsity basketball team was struggling early in the season. With seven seniors committed to Division-I colleges, we were underachieving.

This was a time of adversity for all of us, including the coaches. We had team meetings, players-only meetings, and seniors-only meetings, and we reached out to former players. We sought help from any outlet possible. What got me through this tough time more than anything was that book, The Stranger.

Two years earlier, I came to NMH as a top-25 recruit nationally, the son of a former NBA player and the younger brother of Duke and University of Florida basketball players. Both my brothers attended a prep school like NMH. I thought my path was going to be easy, and I was naive about how much adversity I would face along the way.

Sophomore year, when I arrived here, I got limited playing time. I lost my ranking, but turned to the gym and toward hard work. Going into my junior year, I expected to play a larger role on the team, but things didn’t work out that way. During another year of fighting for playing time, I saw what the seniors ahead of me were doing, and began to see the culture of NMH and the culture of NMH basketball.

Going into my senior year, committed to Northeastern University, I decided to embrace my last year at NMH the best I could. This year I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a successful individual season, but more importantly, I am a part of the winningest NMH basketball team in regular-season history. And what I’ve realized is, the experience is truly the best part.

Now, with so few days left in the season with my coaches and teammates, all I am concerned with is winning the NEPSAC AAA championship and the National Prep Tournament championship. But I know that even if this doesn’t happen I will look back with no regrets because of how my teammates and I have embraced this year together.

In The Stranger, Meursault, the main character, embraces everything that comes his way, good or bad; he simply lives for the present moment. That is the message I want all of you here tonight to walk away with. It wasn’t until my senior year that I fully started to embrace every experience.

All of you here tonight will have moments with your teammates, coaches, friends, and classmates during your time at NMH that you will remember for the rest of your lives. It’s not only the games, it’s the bus rides, time spent in the dining hall, the badger runs … It’s the time spent together that makes your experience at NMH worth remembering.

You don’t know which experience will have the biggest impact, so take advantage of every opportunity. It took me until my senior year to realize that the only thing that mattered was the “right now” — living in the moment — and it is something I am still working on every day.

For the seniors, enjoy the last few months. Every person I’ve talked to who has left NMH has told me that they miss it. And for the younger students, start embracing the moment now because in the blink of an eye, you’ll be a senior looking back on your experience. Your experience is totally up to you. It can be whatever you make it, so make it special.

The journey is the reward. My experience at NMH has been filled with ups and downs, and has taught me many valuable lessons. I never knew how invested I could become in my own NMH experience. NMH will always be in my heart. This place has prepared me not only for the next step in my college basketball experience, but for my next step in life.

Lastly, I want to thank my parents for allowing me the opportunity to come to NMH for the past three years; John Carroll for coaching me in the game of basketball and also in the game of life; and most importantly, all of my teammates during my time here that made my experience what it was — I love all of you guys.

Thank you.

Photo by David Warren

2017 Founder’s Day Celebration Remarks by Peter Fayroian, head of school

Today we acknowledge the founder and the founding spirit of Northfield Mount Hermon; we do this formally today, but do so informally each and every day of our lives as part of this community. We are lucky to have such an attainable and admirable founder, and to have our roots planted by someone whose character remains impeccable to this day and who played such an important role in not just our school’s history, but our nation’s history as well.

You know he created from whole cloth two schools, across the river from each other, schools that educated underserved and impoverished boys and girls from all cultural and ethnic populations from around the country and the world. You may also know, previous to founding Northfield Seminary and Mount Hermon School for Boys, of his work on the Civil War battlefields, ministering to soldiers black and white, North and South. You may know that Moody was present at General Grant’s entry into Richmond and an eyewitness to President Abraham Lincoln’s and Grant’s meeting with the vice-president of the Confederacy to agree upon terms at the close of the Civil War. One of Moody’s favorite sermons recounted his visit to an African American church where the news of emancipation was first revealed.

What you might not know is that the humanity and purpose he brought to his work in the Civil War, and to his work in founding our school, first took root in Chicago, Illinois, where as a 20-year old, remembering the poverty of his youth, decided one day to walk into the Wells Street Mission Sunday School and asked if he could volunteer to help teach the poor and immigrant population of children who sought refuge in this mission in the slums of the city. He was told that they were already fully staffed, but if Moody would work up a class of his own, he would be welcome.

His success in rallying a large group of raucous children led to his converting an abandoned freight train car into a hive of activity of undernourished boys they plied with food, organizing activities and games, and providing safety and hope to boys who had experienced neither. 

Moody’s Sunday School, as it soon became known, grew in popularity to a point where, wanting to get a first-hand view of the mission work Moody was doing in Chicago’s slums, President-elect Abraham Lincoln visited there and spoke. His address to these students, in which he referred to his own humble origin, closed with the following words, “With close attention to your teachers, and hard work to put into practice what you learn from them, some of you may also become president of the United States in due time – for you have had better opportunities than I had.”

I hope you carry this spirit with you both while you’re a student at NMH and when you leave this campus. And the successful manifestation of this spirit doesn’t have to mean founding a school; it can mean just deciding to walk in and volunteer. 

Photo by David Warren
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