All posts by Rachael Hanley

Williston Seminary: the Early Decades by Rick Teller ’70

Editor’s note: This annual assembly on school history is informally known as the “Button Speech,” a reference to founders Samuel and Emily Williston and their manufacturing business (although buttons themselves are not usually the focus). This year, Williston Archivist Rick Teller ’70 spoke during Upper School assembly on September 23. 2015. For the first time, the annual speech also included archival photos, included here.

Good morning. To begin, I’d like you to chew on a few words by the American poet Walt Whitman. No, Walt didn’t go to Williston. As a matter of fact, in the 1850s, when he wrote this, Williston students didn’t study English. (Things change.) Mr. Whitman wrote,

I know that the past was great and the future will be great,
And I know that both curiously conjoint in the present time . . .
And that where I am, or you are, this present day, there is the center of all days.

Samuel Williston in the 1840s
Samuel Williston in the 1840s

Let’s talk about the early history of the school. As you probably know, what was once called Williston Seminary was founded in 1841 by Easthampton native Samuel Williston, who earned a lot of money making buttons and elastic. But while our hearts yearn for him (for his campus and his geriatric elm), Mr. Williston is going to lurk in the background this morning. There will be other occasions, like Founders’ Day, to get to know him better. And you can always come talk with me.

In the beginning, a Williston Seminary student would have enrolled in one of two divisions. There was a Classical Department, which provided the traditional grounding in Greek and Latin, that would prepare students for university and, perhaps, the ministry. More innovative, and closest to Mr. Williston’s heart was the Scientific Department, in which students who did not plan to go to college could get a thorough education in engineering, mathematics, surveying — everything needed to enter the professions necessary to build a young nation’s growing industrial base. This was an innovative notion in 1841.

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Dean of Students Kathy Noble Announces Election Results

On April 22, Dean of Students Kathy Noble announced the election results for class presidents at the Wednesday assembly.  Class representative elections (and there are four representatives per class) took place on Friday, May 1.

It is my privilege to announce the most newly elected class presidents following yesterday’s elections.

I’d ask that you join me in congratulation the President of the Class of 2018: Ms. Caroline Channell!

And the President of the Class of 2017: Mr. Cody Cavanaugh!

And finally, the President of next year’s senior class, Class of 2016: Mr. Nate Gordon!

I’d like to thank all of the candidates who ran in these elections and remind them (and others) that they are eligible to run for the four representatives’ seats in each class on the Student Council. Those individuals will speak to classmates during class assemblies on Friday, May 1 with an election to follow during lunch.

Please see your Class Deans for additional information.

2013 Academic Award Ceremony Welcome

Editor’s note: The following Award Ceremony Welcome was presented by Robert W. Hill III on May 25, 2013.

Good Morning Williston!

I want to welcome everyone to the 2013 Academic Awards Ceremony, especially parents and out of town guests. Yesterday, Mr. Conroy conducted the spring Athletic Awards Assembly and I am still in awe of some of the numbers that I heard. I am not sure how many pre-college athletes can claim to have the kind of run that Karly Simpson had over six years with a record of 72-3 over six years—I’ve never heard anything like that before. And in case you missed Jilly Lim’s documentary of the girls lacrosse season, her performance making that film was gold. One more thing while I have the podium—Gabby Thomas, I don’t think that I could run the length of the first floor of the school house in 12.06 seconds but I want to challenge you to a race there anyway.

The achievements we honor today are not measured in hundredths of seconds or in won loss records, but they do have in common with their athletic counterparts, Purpose and Passion and Integrity. It takes really hard work to be good at something—doing good well is not easy no matter what the venue.

I have been around a lot of classrooms this year and I am in awe of the work that I see from Williston students. It is a mark of this school that talent abounds and is so widespread. From the art and dance studios to the science and math classrooms, you students produce astonishing results. This morning we celebrate those accomplishments and so without further ado, I call upon our first presenter.

You’ll Move the Earth: Cum Laude Speech by Allison Arbib ’03

Allison Arbib '03

Thank you, Headmaster Hill. Welcome parents, faculty, staff, and guests. Thank you for inviting me. It is an honor to be here.

You worked hard to get here. You worked hard for brilliant and kind teachers who demanded it of you.  You spent freezing, dark Tuesday nights in December, going from sports practice to play rehearsal, staying up until 2 am studying for your Spanish test the next day, only to wake up at 6:00 to do you calculus homework.

Maybe after that Spanish test you scrawled notes  on Emily Dickinson’s poems for your AP English class before racing across the quad to the Schoolhouse. If you were lucky,  you were just fast enough to avoid the unit.

Or maybe your homework is always done early. Maybe you would never be caught  dashing something off at the last minute—I don’t know your life. Just mine.  But what I do know is that by achieving Cum Laude, you have achieved academic excellence.

Congratulations again. This is a big achievement, and you’ve worked hard for it, every day, in big ways and small. I may not know you personally, but I’m lucky enough to know the people who sat in those front rows in the class of 2003 (10 years ago!) and if you’re anything like them, you haven’t just excelled academically; you’ve excelled in sports, music, theater, the arts, and leadership. I admire you. And I know too that there is brilliance all around this Williston community gathered here today.

I wanted to make this speech special for you all, to mark this lofty achievement. It will, if all works out, include: neuroscience, marriage equality, the end of modern day slavery, … and bears. Grizzly bears, to be specific.

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Commencement Address by Joanna Lau P’13

Thank you Bob, Board of Trustees, faculty and staff for the invitation to take part in today’s celebration.  I am deeply honored and thrilled for the opportunity to address the Class of 2012, accompanied by family and friends.

When I received the invitation from the Head of School Bob Hill.  I said “yes” without hesitation.  I have deep respect for this institution, not to mention my daughter is now a senior here. Like most parents, I have visited the Williston community many times, observed student-teacher interaction in class, attended competitive sporting events and been mesmerized by many thespian productions.  Cafeteria food also brought back memories.

There is no better way to describe Williston than the way Steve Porter, Class of ’97, did.  His production “Williston Is,” featuring the Willistonians, describes the spirit, diversity, characters and values of Williston.  Friends and family, if you haven’t seen the video, do check it out on YouTube or the Williston website.  It will make you proud, it will assure you that our future is in good hands.

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