Struggle as Motivation at 172nd Convocation

Whether it was one of time or distance, speakers at The Williston Northampton School’s 172nd Convocation spoke of various journeys, and the bumps they had encountered along the way.

© Matthew Cavanaugh

“For me, being successful means getting from point A to point B no matter what obstacles may be ahead of you,” Class President Matthew Freire ’13 told the assembled Williston community.

“In my opinion, no one can be a success without first encountering obstacles preventing one from achieving his or her success in the first place,” he said.

Freire, who joked that he had entered as the shortest freshman and was still among the shortest of his class, reminded his fellow students that there would be days when they failed, when they received a bad grade or lost a game.

“You must not give up. There will be a day where your hard work will pay off and you will receive an A on that paper,” he said. “There will be a day where you will hand your championship trophy or plaque over to Mr. Hill at assembly.”

“Embrace those moments,” Freire continued. “Learn to use your struggles as a motivation to become successful.”

© Matthew Cavanaugh

If embracing obstacles was the challenge, the students couldn’t have had a better practical lesson: upon arriving in front of the Reed Campus Center where Convocation was taking place, they discovered some 70 cans of bug spray distributed among the chairs. An alert earlier in the day had raised the risk level of mosquito-borne illness in the area from moderate to high.

In response, Physical Plant staff had scoured area stores for spray and Convocation had been scheduled to end before dusk.  Students, dressed in their formal finery, cheerfully sprayed themselves with repellent and settled into their seats.

In his opening reflection, Glenn Swanson ’64 compared the year to a journey between two commencements. He reminded the assembled community to “prepare ourselves for revelations that will come during the year.”

“Between two commencements is a journey, sometimes towards a specific goal, sometimes towards a greater understanding of community, and decidedly towards a better understanding of self,” he said.

Recalling the many notables who were also Williston alumni, Head of School Robert W. Hill III reminded students that huge achievements were about starting small.

“Not really, really small, but small enough,” he said. “Take small, sure-footed steps at first and the giant leaps are sure to follow.”

For Convocation speaker Elizabeth D’Amour P’00, ’03, ’04, ’07, though, her journey had been less about overcoming obstacles than discovering a deep, lasting love for the school. At first, she said, she and her husband had planned to simply enroll daughter, Emily, for two years of Middle School.

© Matthew Cavanaugh

“That was the plan,” she said. “And the start of the Williston love story for my husband and me, for Emily, and her three younger siblings.”

D’Amour, who is President of the Board of Trustees, said her love of the school had come from “witnessing the dedication, passion, and caring of the faculty, staff, fellow parents, and students, made me want to keep coming and giving back.”

“If you ask my kids, I spent way too much time on campus,” she said. “But I got to know many of the good folk who make this place tick.”

Three members of that passionate community of faculty and staff were honored during the Convocation ceremonies. The new Richard C. Gregory Faculty Chair was named for long-time faculty member Dick Gregory. The chair was then presented to its first recipient, Academic Dean Gregory Tuleja. The Hagedorn Family Faculty chair was presented in absentia to English teacher Harris Thompson.

As faculty finished processing into the quad, Freire lead his fellow students in a rendition of ‘Sammy’ and welcomed them once again to the new school year.

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