Category Archives: Events

Origin Story: Commencement Traditions

In the next few days seniors and underclassmen alike will gather for annual ceremonies in which people march around in strange clothes, ring bells, and so on.  Some of what we do is easily explained.  We process to Highland bagpipes because back in the 1950s, Headmaster Phillips Stevens liked pipe bands.  Some is less obvious, but believe it or not, there is meaning to all of this. 

There are two main events: Baccalaureate and Commencement.  Baccalaureate – the name has nothing to do with the Roman god Bacchus; rather it is from the same root as the word “bachelor,” from medieval times when young men, on the evening before they became knights, kept an all-night prayer vigil in church.  So the Baccalaureate service, while not especially religious here at secular Williston, is a serious event concerning our seniors’ transition to adulthood.  I’ve been asked why graduation, the final moment of the school year, is called “Commencement.”  There was a popular cliché in the seventies that actually applies here.  Seniors: Sunday will be the first day of the rest of your lives. Continue reading

Lots to Do at Williston’s Family Weekend

fall-family-weekend
Damp snow Thursday night didn’t keep parents and families away from Fall Family Weekend.

Despite a snowy start, Williston Northampton School’s Family Weekend was a big success, drawing nearly 300 family members from around the corner and across the country. (See photos here.)

During the two-day event, families met with their students’ teachers, listened to a cappella music and watched previews of dance and theater productions in a special all-school assembly, and heard a state-of-the-school update from Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Students Kathy Noble.

An international family reception was held on a snowy Thursday night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hill. On Friday afternoon, around 100 parents and family members joined the Hills for a reception at their home. Families watched a rollicking production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors on Friday and Saturday nights (read more here).

Parents of international students gathered at the home of Head of School Robert Hill.
Parents of international students gathered at the home of Head of School Robert Hill.

Spectators witnessed Wildcat play in several sporting events on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon (see athletic results here and athletics photos in our Flickr albums). Williston’s Shaler Invitational cross-country race drew 17 teams—more than 550 runners—from around New England. Williston’s boys team came in fourth out of 14 and the girls team came in fifth of 13.

For many parents, attending a panel hosted by the Williston College Counseling Office helped start (or continue) the search for the higher education institution that will be the perfect fit for their child. The panel, introduced by Williston Director of College Counseling Catherine McGraw, included Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions, financial aid, and enrollment at Union College; Gil J. Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond; and Michael Geller, the New England regional director of admissions/associate director for regional programs at the George Washington University.

Boys cross-country teams at the starting line up
Boys cross-country teams line up at the Shaler Invitational.

Malatesta taught high school social studies at independent schools in New York and Pennsylvania before taking a turn toward admissions. He was director of financial aid at Hamilton College before returning to work for his alma mater, Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

“There’s great success to be had out there,” Malatesta told the audience, and encouraged students and their parents to look for “programs, philosophy, and opportunities” that line up with their needs and values.

Before joining the University of Richmond, Villanueva served as dean of admission and chief admission officer at Brandeis University. He previously worked at Bucknell University and Harvey Mudd College.

panelists
Matt Malatesta of Union College, Gil J. Villanueva from the University of Richmond and Michael Geller of the George Washington University talked college admissions.

Villanueva talked about the three Rs of the college search process: reflection, research, and resources. He added, when visiting schools, don’t pack too many visits in a single day. Seeing one college or university per day will allow a prospective student to really take in the atmosphere of an institution.

Before George Washington University, Geller worked in the Admissions Office for 16 years at Wheaton College. His message was that admissions officers look beyond grades to what those grades actually mean in context. How rigorous were the classes, how ambitious the schedule? “What we want to see is that students have taken a curriculum that appropriately challenges them,” he said. “Just hearing ‘3.5 GPA’ doesn’t tell the whole story.”

McGraw said she was delighted by the high turnout to the panel, which had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate everyone who signed up to attend.

“We were so excited by the level of parent engagement in the college-search process,” she said, adding she appreciated both the honesty and the levity expressed by the panelists. “We definitely anticipate holding this event every year,” she said.

Convocation Opens Williston’s 176th Academic Year

On a warm late-summer evening, the 2016 Convocation ceremony officially opened the 176th academic year at the Williston Northampton School during an event held on the Quadrangle on September 16.

Class President Natalie Aquadro '17 addressed the Convocation audience.
Class President Natalie Aquadro ’17 addressed the Convocation audience.

Class President Natalie Aquadro ’17 spoke about the “Williston magic” that will shape the year ahead. Her full speech is here.

Head of School Robert W. Hill welcomed those assembled and introduced keynote speaker Austin Sarat. Read a transcript of his speech here.

Professor Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, gave the keynote address. Read his remarks here.

Peter Valine presented chairs to three members of the faculty. The text of his remarks is here. At an assembly that morning, Valine awarded instructorships to four teachers. His introductions are here.

Following the event, students shared a special dinner with their classes. They then attended a party in the Athletic Center.

Photographs of the event are on Flickr (here). The link to video is here.

Austin Sarat to Address Convocation Ceremony

austin-sarat-2Williston Northampton School is proud to welcome to campus for the school’s Convocation Austin D. Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Amherst College.

Sarat will address the school community during the opening-of-school event on the Quadrangle on the evening of September 16. The Convocation ushers in Williston’s 176th year.

Sarat has written, co-written, or edited more than 50 books in the fields of law and political science. He received a BA from Providence College in 1969, an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1970 and 1973, respectively. He also received a JD from Yale Law School in 1988.

Class dinners follow the event.

Convocation Speaker Beverly Tatum Examines Race and Education

Tatum 1200px
Submitted photo

Williston Northampton School is proud to welcome Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum—a researcher and author on race relations and a leader in higher education—to campus this fall for the school’s 177th Convocation. Tatum, a former Williston trustee and a parent of members of the classes of 2000 and 2004, will address the school community during an event on the Quadrangle on the evening of September 15. Class dinners follow the event.

A 2013 recipient of the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award, Tatum served as president of Spelman College from 2002 to 2015. Her tenure as president was marked by a period of great innovation and growth. Overall, scholarship support for Spelman students tripled during her tenure, and opportunities for faculty research and development expanded significantly. In 2008, the school established the Gordon-Zeto Fund for International Initiatives with a gift of $17 million, creating more opportunities for faculty and student travel and increased funding for international students.

Alumnae support of the annual fund also tripled, reaching a record high of 41 percent. Campus improvements included the award-winning renovation of four historic buildings and the 2008 completion of a new “green” residence hall, increasing on-campus housing capacity by more than 25 percent and establishing the campus commitment to environmental sustainability for the 21st century.

These improvements served as the foundation for Strengthening the Core: The Strategic Plan for 2015, which focused on global engagement, expanded opportunities for undergraduate research and internships, alumnae-student connections, leadership development and service learning linked to an increasingly interdisciplinary curriculum.

Tatum is widely recognized as an authority on race relations and race’s intersection with education. Her areas of research include racial identity development, and the role of race in the classroom. She is the author of Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation (2007) and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race (1997), a widely taught and recently reissued text, as well as Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community (1987). In 2005 Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field.  A fellow of the American Psychological Association, she was the 2014 recipient of the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.

She holds a BA in psychology from Wesleyan University, and an MA and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as an MA in religious studies from Hartford Seminary. Over the course of her career, she has served as a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Westfield State University; and Mount Holyoke College. Prior to her appointment at Spelman, she served as dean and acting president at Mount Holyoke College. Tatum is married to Dr. Travis Tatum, professor emeritus of education; they are the parents of two adult sons.