Head of School, Tim Breen, talks about Alumnae/i Weekend.
Alumnae/i Weekend Remarks
I’d like you to think back to your time here at St. Mary’s, at White Mountain. I’d like you to think about what made it a special place. I suspect that much of what you think of is still true of our school today. This is because it is at the core of our school – in our blood – and it flows from our very founding and location.
We are an extraordinary school. We balance strong academic preparation for college with a deep respect for our students as individuals – for the talents and passions they bring to our life together. And this respect for individuals leads to a vibrant community – where students develop lasting bonds with classmates and teachers. This is what high school should be.
How did we come to educate in this way? I trace this back to two events in our history. Our founding as an Episcopal school, and our move to the mountains.
One hundred twenty-five years ago we began as a small school in the Episcopal tradition. As with many Episcopal schools, our outward practice of religion has shifted and changed over the years. However, inwardly, there is a constant. Our Episcopal heritage shapes us to this day. In the recently published book Reasons for Being: The Culture and Character of Episcopal Schools, the editor writes: “Above all, Episcopal schools exist, not merely to educate, but to demonstrate and proclaim the unique worth and beauty of all human beings.” To demonstrate the unique worth and beauty of all human beings. This is what we do when we treat our students as individuals, and support them to develop their unique gifts and passions. This is what we do as we reach out to support each other in our school community, and beyond, in our regional and global communities. Ours is a spirituality that is grounded in the belief that everyone matters.
Seventy-five years ago, our visionary headmistress “Aunt Dot” McLane moved the school to these mountains. Our mountain location has had a wonderful effect on our program. We ski, we hike, we climb, we learn about the mountain environment, about sustainability. It has also had a profound influence on who we are and how we learn together. Aunt Dot moved the school here because she knew that the mountain setting would help students develop both humility and vision. In these mountains we are “surrounded by things greater than ourselves.” We connect with a purpose beyond ourselves. In these mountains we also see new vistas, we expand our vision. We can look out in many directions, and new paths come into view. Our mountain setting inspires us to explore more broadly, to think more deeply, to experience the fullness of life.
Our spirituality, and these mountains. These define us. They lead us to value the unique worth of all individuals, to care for one another, to look beyond ourselves, to see farther.
Is there a place in the educational landscape for a small school born of the Episcopal tradition and built on the granite of these mountains? I sure hope so.
Education in our country seems to be moving more and more toward a standardized “one size fits all” model. One size fits all? No it doesn’t. One size fits one. We know this. We know that by valuing the individuality of our students, we can help them find their way. We know this is the surest path, not only to success in college, but to lives of purpose and joy.
This is what high school should be.