Crossing campus today, mindful of the shifting weather and some of the trees that have caught the slightest tinge of fall, the arrival of new and returning students over the next 10 days is much on my mind. You will come in waves: early wilderness orientation, sports camp, regular wilderness orientation, and returning students a week from Sunday. Some of you will walk onto the campus for the first time, put on a pack, and head into the wilderness. Others will come for their senior year, pulling together a final college list and starting to tinker with applications. But no matter the length of time at the school, no matter whether student, faculty, or staff, we stand on one piece of common ground that we collectively share: Proctor.
With that common ground comes a common responsibility. You have chosen Proctor for its approach to education, its support, its rigor, but also for the values that it holds close: honesty, compassion, respect, and responsibility. Adults in the community have chosen it for the same reasons. Yes, we all come with different interests, with different aspirations, with different confidences and insecurities, but what binds this community together, apart from our programs and approach, are those core values. We all aspire to weave them into our lives in ever greater measure. And why not? What could be a more significant accomplishment?
We are reminded of that common ground of community by the poet John Donne, who wrote, No man is an island, Entire of itself Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. We, at Proctor, are a part of something bigger than just our immediate campus, and events will and do ripple through the school. This has been a tumultuous summer. Not so much on campus, although we have started renovations on the Field House and we have tinkered with Shirley Hall and other corners of the campus, but in the larger country. We’ve seen a devastating hurricane in Texas over the last week and hate groups marching in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier in the summer. We are not immune to these events and their repercussions.
We must take up the responsibility of holding these events up to our core values, parsing them for what they can teach us. Charlottesville is a reminder that hate and intolerance is still a part of this country and can march into our communities and we must stand resolute in its face. Hurricane Harvey reminds us of the innate compassion residing in so many and coming out so quickly in times of need. We also believe that just as what happens in the larger world can wash through Andover, so too what we do here, even in distant Andover, New Hampshire, can ripple into the larger world. We are not immune to the turmoil of the world, nor are we powerless to have positive impact.
Paul Farmer, as we all have learned from spending time with the summer read, Mountain Beyond Mountains, was one man who had an outsized impact for the better in the world. He did not get there without having values that are very similar to this community’s. He did not get there by stepping back or by hiding his gifts. He did not get there by avoiding hard work or disappearing into the vortex of social media. He got there by stepping forward, just as we all can have an impact by stepping forward. He got there by hard work and perseverance. His path might not be your path, but his journey inspires us to move forward on ours.
Enough musings. The wind has swung around to the north, the trees are bucking in the late afternoon light, and tomorrow we begin our own journey through the 2017-18 school year. We can’t wait!
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School