All posts by Kate Snyder

Commencement Speaker Pierce Freelon ’02

Editor’s note: Pierce Freelon ’02 delivered this speech during the 177th Commencement exercises on May 26, 2018.

Seniors, what up?

It is so nice to be back here at Williston. Just a little back story: I was really nervous about delivering this speech today. I’ve given a lot of speeches, but this is probably the most nervous I’ve been, being back here on this campus and I didn’t actually have anything prepared until yesterday. I wrote it in my journal, so we’re just going to read from my journal if that’s cool, alright?

So, this is my entry from Friday, May 25th 2018: “Tomorrow I will deliver the commencement speech at my alma mater, Williston Northampton. Yesterday Headmaster Bob Hill called me. He wanted to see a copy of my speech. I didn’t have one because I’m writing it on the plane right now.” So, my first message to the Willie graduating class of 2018 is: It’s okay to procrastinate. You can still be successful. And I’m like 90 percent sure this will be the best speech you’ll hear all day. So. Continue reading

Harrison Winrow Delivers Senior Speech at Commencement

Editor’s note: This speech was delivered by Harrison Winrow ’18 at Commencement, May 26, 2018, under the tent on the Quad.

Ain’t no mountain high

Ain’t no valley low

Ain’t no river wide enough, baby


I heard a disturbing sound.

I smelled a disturbing scent.

I was looking in the mirror, a halo of bulbs crowning me.

In the backstage dressing room, sweating profusely, on the closing night

Of my final theater performance on the Williston stage.

I was on top of mountain high.

Buried deep in the valley low.

I was floating down the river wide on an inner tube, that I had purchased just down the road at the Dollar Store. It was severely discounted. Sentimentality serves one well on days like that, on days like this.

So I tooted my frugal bugle, and I applied my stage makeup, layer upon

layer upon layer.

I sat in a puddle of my own butt sweat, as many of you are now. Continue reading

Hall of Fame Introduction by Mark Conway

We gather today to celebrate new inductees into Williston’s Athletic Hall of Fame at the end of what has been another wonderful year for Williston athletics.  Here is just a sampling of the many highlights of this past year:

A field hockey player who made the prestigious National Field Hockey Association All Region team, a record setting performance by a defensive end who also earned the Boyden Award given to the top prep football scholar-athlete in western MA, a winter season in which, for the first time in our school’s history, every winter team qualified for NEPSAC championship tournaments, boys and girls squash teams that both earned the Sportsmanship Award at their respective championships, a four time MVP of the girls ski team who ended her career by winning the Slalom race at the NEPSAC championship, a girls hockey team that made it all the way to the championship game for the first time ever, a girls basketball team that made it to the championship game for the first time in 32 years, a girls swim team that has rewritten almost every school record on its way to its third consecutive NEPSAC championship, a softball pitcher who has recently surpassed the incredible milestone of 500 strikeouts in her career, a tremendous three year run by our boys golf team winning nearly 50 matches over that stretch, a girls water polo team enjoying unprecedented success in our school’s history the last two springs!

It is also worth noting that a remarkable FOUR recent graduates have made a name for themselves (and Williston!) on the national stage by being named college All Americans this year – Springfield College sophomore Jake Ross ‘16 led his school to its first ever Final Four while being the only sophomore in the country to be named a Division III All American; Bentley wide receiver Austin Ryan ‘17 was named a Division II All American in football for his incredible freshman year performance; UMass soccer player Davis Smith ‘16 was one of only two freshman in the country to be named to the NCAA Division 1 All American soccer team; and Harvard junior Gabby Thomas ‘15 continues to make a name for herself on the national track and field stage by being named an All American for a remarkable fifth time this winter. She accomplished this in style by breaking a 10 year old NCAA Division 1 record in winning the Indoor 200 meter title.  Pretty amazing!

Additionally, I think it is worth noting that we have 41 members of the class of 2018 – over 30% of the class — that will be competing in college next year – a testament to the strength of our program.   In short, it has a been another tremendous year for the record books, which brings me back to the reason we are all gathered here today….to celebrate some of the athletes who came before our current students and have left their marks on Williston athletic history.

Hall of Fame Inductee Jay Grant

Like the other recipients today, I am truly honored and humbled to be here. I would like to take a couple of minutes say a few thank yous. When I look back at my career at Williston I am struck by how fortunate I have been. I have had lots of luck along the way, but did my best to make the most of it. That luck started near the end of summer in 1978. I had just finished my masters in athletic training at Western Michigan and was home in eastern Mass working on a farm, as I had through high school and college. I got a call from George Dunnington, who was Williston’s business manager, asking if I was interested in coming for an interview for an athletic training position that had just opened up at the school. I was in Easthampton the next morning to interview with George. It was the beginning of Labor Day Weekend and the campus was pretty much deserted. No students were around and most faculty were away enjoying their last days of summer. I never met the Head of School, Athletic Director, coaches or any faculty members, just George. He explained that the athletic equipment manager had just resigned and that for the last few years Rick Francis, the Athletic Director, had been pushing him to hire an athletic trainer. The job would combine running the equipment room and being the school’s first athletic trainer.

I went home, and later that evening George called to offer me the job. It was a chance to start an athletic training program from scratch and the job included housing and meals. It was a pretty easy decision for me. My farming days were over.  I packed up my car and was on campus the next day. Who could’ve guessed that I would still be hanging around Williston 40 years later.

That first year was a blur, but I learned that I really liked working with high school kids and athletic training was right for me. I enjoyed more good luck the following year. Miss Odell a hot, young Spanish teacher, joined the faculty. Well, one thing led to another and 2 years later we were married and were dorm parents in Willy Cottage, now Conant House. Starting out, neither of us expected us to spend our whole working careers in one place, but it turns out Williston was the place for us. We were lucky enough to raise Sam and Jill here and see them take advantage of all that Williston had to offer.

In my years at Williston I worked with 2 Athletic Directors, Rick Francis and Mark Conroy. I was really fortunate to work for such a long time with two of the most highly respected athletic directors in NEPSAC. Thank you both Rick and Mark for all your guidance and support over the years.

I got lucky again when in 1997 we hired a young kid out of Springfield College to be the assistant athletic trainer. She was barely older than most of our PG’s. Melissa Brousseau and I worked together for almost 20 years. We improved and grew the athletic training program to be one of the best around. Thank you Mrs. B. for always being there and for all you continue to do for our students.

And finally, I have been lucky enough to work with thousands of great kids over the years. Most of the students that I worked with are now alums and the rest of you will be before you know it. Because of you, what I did never really felt like a job. I got paid to hang out in the gym, and go to games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You all helped to make this the perfect job for me.

Thank you Williston community and good luck seniors.

Hall of Fame Inductee Molly Connor ’88

Earlier this week I was telling my son that I was nervous about speaking in front of you all.  Finn, you are wise beyond your 13 years.  He told me to just speak from my heart.  So, this is what my heart says:

I came to Williston as a reserved and somewhat nervous 10th grader.  My Proctor, Kelly, said to Curl (who was my French House dorm parent and future coach) “She can’t be a hockey player. She is too quiet!”  I was so nervous that I cried the entire first night.  My roommate, Marsi, who is here today, can attest to that.

I know that not everyone here is an athlete but everyone here can strive to be their best self.  Consider these points, if you would:

  1.      Challenge yourself, it has to come from within.
  2.      Everyone has a role in a group:  coaches, 1st liners to 4th liners, the comedian to the DJ.
  3.      There will always be a better player, so, be humble.
  4.      HAVE FUN!  Play and laugh!
  5.      Encouragement is priceless.

All programs have to start somewhere.  I call this “From then until now”.

Girls hockey was a new program and they gave us a locker room downstairs.  I am pretty sure it was an old boiler room.  The stairs were metal so we had to put our skates on upstairs.  But really the worst part, was when they only did the ice between the 2nd and 3rd periods and we took rest in, dare I say, the boys locker room.  Whooooo! The smell was almost unbearable!

Before Williston, I had played hockey for 7 years.  My hockey role here was a combination of playing but also of inclusion and teaching.  Most of the students I was sharing the ice with had never played before.  I loved seeing my friends improve.  The day to day successes, the hard work, the mitosis drills and the fun we had on the ice, brought us together.  As Coach Doc would say, “We are a scrappy team.”  And we were:  not perfect, ups AND downs, but we had purpose and we collectively worked on our goal of being hockey players.

I am so proud of how far the program has come.  I wore my Willy sweatshirt with pride at the girls state semi-finals.  I love that I am still learning the game:  still trying to master the self pass off of the back of the net that Christina showed me at a local pick-up game.

After having my hockey career at UNH:  learning systems, personal development and championships, I have come full circle in my hockey today.  I have my regular league team but I also try to help new women players who have picked up the sport in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s!

I would like to quote the great Bobby Orr:

“No one is going to succeed on their own, what sometimes looks like an individual accomplishment is always the result of a team effort.”

Well, my team includes Williston.  Thank you Williston for a place to be, a place to thrive.  For all the smiles and for all the friendships.

My team is also my family.  Thank you Mom and Dad for making me, for coming to my games and practices and encouraging me.  Thank you Ryan.  My life’s partner in crime, crazy athletic endeavors and for the love and support.  And thank you to Ben, Maggie and Finn.  I literally could not be prouder of you all.  I love you.