Head of School’s Welcome, Family Weekend 2017

Head of School Robert W. Hill III delivered this address at the Family Weekend all-school assembly in the Athletic Center on Oct. 20, 2017. To see photos of Family Weekend, click here.

It’s only once a year that I get to stand before all students and many sets of parents or guardians, aunts and uncles—and now I am doing it for my eighth time as headmaster. And since that’s the case I am going to seize the opportunity to brag on you, to brag about students, and faculty as you head into the heart of Family Weekend and all that is going on. Williston’s community is remarkable and I’ve seen that in myriad ways for the past seven years. Here’s a very very public example of what I mean. Last night, I attended the play Our Town. I’ve come to expect great plays at Williston—Ms. Ditkovski has developed a gold medal program—and once again the cast was unbelievable in their display of talent and range.

But last night, Ms. Davey, appeared on stage as a last-second stand in for Harrison Winrow ’18 who was having surgery for the leg injury he sustained last week. (I am told he might be on stage tonight) I’m shouting her out—even though she did not want me to—both as a public thank you, but also because her actions are symbolic of Williston’s faculty. The number of times a teacher or coach goes out of her way to give extra help, to retrieve an advisee from a bus or train station, to visit a sick advisee in the Health Center, are too many to count. When people ask me about what makes Williston Williston, that’s what I talk about. The Williston faculty are an amazing group of people and embody the life long love of learning that they convey to you each day. Over 40 of them took classes or attended conferences this past summer, and three are currently enrolled in the collaboration between Williston and Mt. Holyoke College for a Master’s degree in education administration. Williston teachers don’t brag about themselves so I happily take on that role. All of what I just said was made possible because the school raised over a million dollars of endowed funds to support faculty professional development, and I am proud to be part of an institution so committed to building teachers and academic leaders.

I am also amazed how each year we come together as a community of shared values. Remember, it’s only been since the first week of September that all of you arrived from 25 countries and as many different United States, and now here we are six weeks later with new friendships, experiences, and common sense of purpose. Every day, I see you living our mission of applying “purpose, passion, and integrity” to your lives here. In a real sense, Williston builds character. Our world needs you, Williston students. We need young leaders who respect self and others. We need you on our college campuses, volunteering at our churches, serving in our nonprofits and board rooms. Especially you, Class of 2018! You should be thinking about how you will make your community better, since right now we are not doing such a great job as a country. Unfortunately, you live at a time where the political culture—on both sides of the aisle—can be reduced to one of, “I am right, you are wrong, and so I hate you.” Thankfully, Williston students are so much better than that to one another.

It’s a great time to be at Williston as we build for the future. If you don’t believe me, ask three-year-old Cam Garrity who makes his mother take him to watch the big-diggers at sunrise on Sunday morning and then stays there for one or two, really about five hours. Cam is fascinated by the construction site and knows the name of every piece of equipment that’s operating. Williston Builds in so many ways, but right now we are digging hard to have the new dormitory open next fall, a state-of-the-art-dormitory that will house 40 students and four faculty families. Significantly, all of the money needed for this project has been raised by donations from alumni and past and present parents. If we match the success in fund raising that we had last year, I hope a second new dormitory will follow very quickly to complete a remarkable transformation of the campus behind the Chapel. Williston Builds for community and for the future.

I hope as you go about the busy schedules of the weekend, that parents will witness in action some of what I’ve shared this morning. Williston Builds professional actors, college level athletes, community service leaders, doctors and lawyers and activists—we have over 11,000 alumni who are rediscovering their passion for their alma mater and looking to support Williston any way they can. We are building upon that support for Williston, support for the young lives are being built upon every day, and for the teachers who inspire them. Just last week at an alumni event in Chicago I celebrated a gentleman who has donated to the annual fund for 65 consecutive years.

So I want to close by thanking all of our parents for coming from long distances and short to be here with your children. I also want to thank all of you for your support of Williston’s parent fund as noted by the paw prints on your name tags, and to thank you for your future support as Williston lives its mission of building lives that are defined by purpose, passion, and integrity.

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend.

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