To commemorate the recent renovations at The White Mountain School, Head of School Tim Breen gave the following remarks at Family & Alumnae/i Weekend this year.
Family & Alumnae/i Weekend Remarks
Tim Breen – October 15, 2016
Welcome to Family weekend. Welcome to alumnae/i weekend. It is truly a pleasure to be with you all this morning. And perhaps an extra pleasure, since we get to share our new space – this chapel – with everyone.
I want to take just a few moments this morning to celebrate together the renovations we completed this past summer.
The story of these renovations is really two stories, and the fortuitous way they came together.
One story began several years ago as we moved more and more in the direction of student-driven inquiry – that is challenging students to find the questions that truly matter to them and supporting them to follow those questions with rigor and creativity. We are building a culture of inquiry at our school. Two summers ago, a group of teachers gathered to rethink our learning spaces – to think about how our architecture could better support a culture of inquiry. We dreamed of light filled, flexible classrooms. We discussed the benefits of shared teacher offices – facilitating collaboration and a natural flow of ideas. We envisioned a new type of library – really a hub of activity and a place for active, collaborative research.
The other story began several years ago on this very weekend, Alumnae/i Weekend. An alumna from the class of 1950 – Janet Lovejoy — came up to me after dinner and said she would like to do something for the school. Janet is an ordained episcopal priest. And her great hope was for us to have a new chapel – more inviting, more inspiring, and broadly welcoming to students of all faiths, and no faith. A place we could gather together as a school for all kinds of events.
These two stories came together as we began to envision a chapel here in this space – allowing us to move the hub of the library down one floor to our great hall, and build new classrooms and offices up on the third floor.
And it is very fitting that these two stories should come together. For we are a school of inquiry, and we are an Episcopal school. These two aspects of our school work together, they are complementary.
A couple of years ago I attended a conference on Episcopal schools in the 21st century. As a common experience before the conference, we all read a speech by theologian Paul Tillich from 1956 on the “Theology of Education.” Several of the speakers at the conference focused on a particular section of Tillich’s speech where he suggested that an Episcopal school “must try to find the existentially important questions which are alive in the minds and hearts of the pupils. It must make the pupil aware of the questions which he already has.” Because answers only have meaning to students when the questions are alive in their hearts. Therefore, our first task is to help students discover the questions within themselves.
At White Mountain, this is embedded in our culture of inquiry. We place premium on student-driven inquiry – the pursuit of understanding driven by questions the students truly hold. It happens in our classrooms in traditional courses, but it also happens in in this room, at morning meeting, and in our community life curriculum.
And so it is perfect that these two stories came together – the story of building a culture of inquiry by rethinking our architecture, and the story of building a beautiful, inspiring chapel for the community.
The board of trustees was incredibly supportive of moving ahead with these projects, even on a short timetable — and gave the go-ahead at their board meeting last January. As these things go in schools, we kicked into gear with fundraising and architectural plans, booked the contractor, and set the project in motion. In short order, we raised the necessary funds and were ready to begin work the day after graduation.
To give a sense of these spaces and their meaning, I’d like to share a short video – put together by our own Eliot Taft.
And so here we are today. New classrooms supporting a culture of inquiry, Beautiful shared teacher offices to allow for natural collaboration, a library/research center literally and figuratively at the center of our school, and a new light-filled, inspiring, and inclusive chapel.
Of course a project of this scale does not happen without many people pulling together. I would like to thank a few right now:
First: Ruhl Walker Architects of Boston. Will Ruhl parent of Caroline, class of 2009, led this project with great vision and attention.
Milestone Construction of Concord NH – They have done much beautiful work on campus – in past summers renovating our dorms and our kitchen. This summer they worked with unbelievably tight deadlines and did a wonderful job.
This project would not have happened without our own Rob Constantine. Rob always amazes me with his attention to detail, his calm manner in the face of the inevitable challenges, and his willingness to deal with last minute request from me. Many thanks.
Our Maintenance team: Bill Rathman, Mike Didimenico, Joan Dube, Tim Brown did amazing work all summer helping to make this happen.
Of course this cannot happen without generous supporters of our school. Julie Yates, our Director of Development led the fundraising effort, helping donors see the potential impact of their gifts. Because of the generosity of these donors, the lives of all of us on campus are enriched.
And finally, many thanks to all our teachers – for your ideas and insights, and for your patience and understanding through a very disruptive summer. It is my deepest hope that these new spaces will only enhance the great work you already do.
And a final note.
I am pleased to announce that we are naming this chapel – this inspiring space – in honor of Janet Lovejoy – the alumna whose initial vision set this all in motion. Janet has a deep history with our school – graduate of the class of 1950, parent of Caryl, a member of the class of 1978, former trustee (serving several different times on the board), and generous benefactor.
It is my great privilege to name this beautiful room the Lovejoy Chapel.