Good evening everyone. I hope this event finds you well and in great spirits. I trust your day has been lively and invigorating as you catch up with classmates and faculty and staff. I want to begin by thanking the nearly 300 of you who have decided to attend this evening’s dinner. I also thank the nearly 700 alums and guests who visited campus for Alumni Weekend 2023. My gratitude goes out to the reunions committees for reaching out to classmates for such a strong showing.
Like the faculty and staff giving their all to this exceptional place, I enter every school year with an immense sense of possibility and an ambitious set of personal and professional goals. As your new Head of School, one of my priorities this year was to get to know our school community and educational program better. In my first few months, I met with over 200 different individuals and listened deeply to what makes our community exceptional: the colleague who lends an ear to someone with a new idea; the member of the facilities department who moved a piece of furniture from one room to another for the umpteenth time and then back again when preferences changed; the teacher who never forgot the moment she fell in love with SCH (when children escorted her to her destination when she got lost the day of her interview); the coach who stayed after practice to talk with a student who seemed just a little off that day; the folks who spent their summer readying the campus for us and the students; the friend who stopped by just to say hello; the teacher who sought that perfect anecdote to animate a student’s college recommendation letter; the people who combed through every possible detail to ensure a smooth transition for my wife Davirah and me. As one person put it, “I don’t know how we do it, but we just do it.” It is this sort of roll-up-your-sleeves, possibility-driven mindset that drew me here. This personality describes SCH to a tee and is one of many core competencies that makes us, in a word, inimitable.
I was floored to learn that 34 members of the Class of 2022 were “lifers”: they began their SCH journey as preschoolers and finished some 14 years later. Again, 34, or roughly a quarter of the graduating class! Take that in. Few, if any, schools of our size and character can say as much. Whether a student’s time here numbers 14 years or 14 months, that student is part of an unfolding legacy of excellence and impact, at SCH and beyond. In my short time here, I have learned that we are “wonderers” who ask “why” and “why not,” we are “wanderers” and world citizens open to a variety of ways of thinking and being, we are friends who act with compassion and curiosity, and we are humanists who share our gifts with others.
As I think about our shared purpose and the years ahead, we will fulfill our mission by extending SCH’s legacy as an independent school, agile and alert to change. We will continue to prioritize critical thinking, writing skills, ability to think across disciplines, and post-classroom experiences, be they in the woods, on the field, or in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. We will focus relentlessly on both deep and broad learning, as well as cross-cutting skills essential for future success, such as ethical acumen, effective teamwork and collaboration, convincing oral communication, and real-world application of knowledge and skills. We will take fuller advantage of our Philadelphia location and connectivity to global urban centers. We want our students to build relationships, thrive amidst change and competition, and navigate challenges, be they personal or situational, with steadiness. SCH will be the leading model of the “new flagship independent school,” redefining learning and discovery for a global context and setting new standards in teaching and learning, community and belonging, and creative and innovative work that will benefit Philadelphia, the colleges and universities our students attend, and the world. Thus, our mission: to inspire unbounded curiosity and independent thought in every one of our students, nurture students’ knowledge of themselves and the world, and expand their full academic and personal potential while preparing them to lead lives characterized by a quest to effect positive change. Central to this mission is a distinctly vigorous academic program, which is fastened to core values of diversity, courage, thoughtfulness, resilience, and integrity.
With warm regard, I welcome you back to campus. I look forward to connecting with you at Homecoming this fall and at other events throughout the year. I also thank you in advance for your commitment to our mission and values. I am excited to work with you to provide the best possible experience for alums and our students.