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As I begin to near the end of my stint at Northfield Mount Hermon, I have been reflecting on the question of what I will remember of the time I spent here after I have moved on to the next stage of my life. In years to come, what place in my memory will these hills, these buildings, these people gathered in this chapel today occupy? What lessons, experiences and ideas will continue on with me when, on a hopefully bright May day, I drive down Lamplighter Way for the last time?

As this is Founder's Day, my answer is going to lead to the two-hundred-and-eighty-pound shoe salesman whose bust is installed in the back of this building. When I arrived here, it seemed that I shared little with Dwight Lyman Moody and the first students at our school. I've never been made responsible for any on campus construction, like the students who built this chapel in 1899. As a strict vegetarian, I've never tasted any of the pork that the hoggers of yore once raised on this hill. After graduation, I do not plan on pursuing a career as a missionary, as many of the early alumni of the Mount Hermon and Northfield Schools did. Despite these large differences, I've found that I have a certain amount in common with the first women and men to graduate these schools.

Our founder had more in mind for his pupils than producing a group of severe Christian farmers. After all, neither of our parent institutions were named Moody's Mission Academy. He instead insisted on founding his schools on the principle of hard work and a commitment to community service. And since then, through fires, floods, freak hurricanes, a murder mystery, the end of mandatory chapel services, mixed gender dances leading eventually to coeducation, and all the history that over one hundred and thirty years can bring to a hillside in Western Massachusetts, these ideals have remained.

From when I first sat in the balcony four years ago, on many occasions such as this one I heard my older companions deliver, in many modes, these messages, which they themselves had first heard four years before. Now what did this pontificating mean to this younger version of myself? At first, not much more than any other part of the smorgasbord of stimuli we receive everyday at NMH.

I was aimless in this new atmosphere, doing my work, but not working hard, taking the path of least resistance, not the path towards improvement. But time passed. I trudged up and down this hill, and like all NMH students I marinated in Moody's ideas. Thinking back now, I cannot find a cathartic experience or climactic moment when these concepts finally struck me like a bolt of enlightening lightening. Rather, they seeped into me at an almost geologic pace until they trickled far enough into my brain as to be absorbed.

This leaky faucet of NMH ideas has been slowly dripping from my first arrival on campus at 7 in the morning, an hour early for workjob in the summer before my freshman year. It kept on dripping through my first semester of classes, where I received twenty C's and one A on a series of journal assignments in Freshman English. It seeped in as I lay panting in the snow after my first ski race that winter, gushed in through holes in my drysuit as I attempted to paddle a rapid in the spring. Some of it might have been in the oil on my hands when I frantically tried to teach myself to tune a derailer in the basement of Forslund Gym. More of it might have been found in the sweat dripping on to my Algebra Two textbook, as I learned to attack a subject that I had never found myself naturally talented in.

After these long four years of lessons, this is how I now understand why Moody incorporated these principles into the mission of this school. We are monumentally privileged to be the recipients of this all-encompassing experience that we might choose to describe as a secondary education. And when presented with such an opportunity, we have the duty to make sure that it is not wasted. We can accomplish this by first working as hard as we can in every possible sense of the word, in every single activity we engage in as part of our school lives here, so that we get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience. And when we move on in life, we do not forget what we received, but try to use what we have learned here in some positive way, just as that old evangelist hoped for his first class of pupils.

This change in the way that I think and the way that I try to live my life is only one of many lessons that I will carry out of this school in May, but it is in many ways the most important one. Beyond the skills I honed writing papers and solving equations, waxing skis and truing wheels, I firmly believe that the ideals of hard work and community service will be with me wherever I find myself in life. In answer to my original question: these two commitments will stay with me from my time at Northfield Mount Hermon. And that, ladies and gentlemen is what a two-hundred-and-eighty-pound shoe salesmen can do for you.


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