by Crystal Land
As we prepare to celebrate the various May rituals and celebrations, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the wonderful history of which we are all a part. This Friday, the Lower School will perform the traditional May Dances, including the Maypole Dance. We've unearthed photographs of this beloved tradition and can date it back to at least the 1920s. While many parts of our school are changing in healthy and dynamic ways, our rituals ground us and provide us with such a sense of history.
Our history was alive and well at last weekend’s Alumni Weekend and Reunion. This annual tradition features a wonderful series of events that skillfully blend the HRS of today and the past. This year, alumni celebrated a wide range of milestones, from their 50th anniversary (Class of 1969) to their 5th-year reunion (Class of 2014). The weekend began with our Young Alumna of the Year Julia Friedman’s (’09) inspirational presentation on her work with Getting Out and Staying Out, an organization in NYC serving formerly incarcerated young men through education, job training, and employment. Students in the Upper School were riveted by her purpose-driven, community-based work. Julia is an exemplar of our Strategic Plan’s goals around community engagement, utilizing both empathy and critical thinking to achieve her organization’s goals of reducing recidivism and empowering citizens.
Saturday’s events culminated with an on-campus dinner featuring our Alumna of the Year, Kimberly Ennix-Sandhu ’79, who spoke of her work as a NASA rocket scientist. Kim is the Operations Center Safety Lead of Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world’s largest infrared telescope. SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP airplane equipped with a 106-inch diameter telescope that flies “above the stratosphere for a clear view of the night sky” and is the only telescope of its kind in the world. When the movie Hidden Figures came out, NASA sent her on a speaking tour across the country, where she was able to speak about her life and experiences working as an African-American woman in STEM. Kim spoke honestly about her struggles with race and gender and her tenacity to overcome those barriers. And, she reflected specifically on the role of her HRS experience: “Anna Head had an all-female mathematics staff. Several of my science teachers were female, too. Lead by example. It never occurred to me that women don’t do math because that’s all I saw.”
The afternoon also included a compelling interview with HRS Head of School Emeritus, Paul Chapman, by Mark Schneider ’00. The focus of the discussion was on Paul’s recent memoir, School Matters. Did you know that in Paul’s first year as Head, the Board purchased the 8-acre parcel of land that is now the library, upper school, gym and fields? It made me think a lot about our current 8-acre development project and the exciting work ahead to transform our campus once again. You can learn about our history in greater detail in Paul’s book (on sale now—proceeds go to our scholarship fund). Copies are also available to borrow from the Library or division offices.
I share these “external” alumni highlights as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the important history of our school as we prepare to conclude another academic cycle. The impact of the school experience is felt decades after our students leave our campus—and in all of these examples, I was moved by the importance of creating a life of purpose as part of the Head-Royce journey.
- Crystal Land