Celebrating the life of one of our dearest colleagues alongside well over 1,000 alumni, neighbors, family and friends on Sunday afternoon. Being welcomed by an incredible breakfast from PAPA this morning. Sitting through insurance presentations. Hearing about faculty Summer Enrichment Program opportunities. Wrestling with difficult conversations as a faculty. Enjoying a most outstanding spread prepared by our dining services team at tonight’s welcome back dinner. We’ve given every emotion in our repertoire a workout over the past 36 hours.
Individually, we are figuring out how to start the school year after unthinkable tragedy on campus over the summer. Our grieving journeys have meandered through the past six weeks with today’s date a seemingly far off distant marker of the official start to the 2018-2019 school year. However, yesterday’s gathering to remember Dave Pilla was an energizing reminder of the impact we, as educators, have on our students and their families; a reminder we must take to heart as we prepare for students to return to campus in the coming days.
Former Head of School Steve Wilkins (1995-2005) opened his remarks at yesterday’s gather by stating, “You all know this isn’t normal, right? This doesn’t happen at any other school. Only at Proctor would this sort of gathering take place.” Perhaps Steve was referencing the hundreds of alumni who made the trek back to Andover to grieve and reconnect with their ‘home’. Or maybe he was referencing the scores of folks from the forestry community, the local Andover, Wilmot, New London area, and tall-ships circle that joined with us to honor a man they loved. But, mostly, I think Steve was referring to the entirety of the afternoon: the connections, the love, the respect, the music, the greater Proctor family that was willing to come together in order to move forward.
When Captain Flansberg of The World Ocean School took the stage with no notes in hand, just an honest and heavy heart, he spoke the exact words we needed to hear as a community as the upcoming school year comes into sharp focus over the coming days. “When it storms at sea, the only thing to do is get to work. To put one foot in front of the other and get to work. The storm will pass, but you have to get to work until it does. ”
Sure, we will each continue to feel, love, grieve, hug, reflect, and wonder, but as new students begin to trickle onto campus for early orientation in just over 72 hours, a new page will be turned in this rollercoaster of a year. The bittersweet joy of turning that next page is that you do not have to forget what was written in the last chapter; you simply get to weave what you’ve learned from the past into your understanding of how to navigate what is yet to come.
As we ready ourselves for the exciting work that lies ahead as we welcome 118 new students to campus and kick off the 2018-2019 school year, we recognize everything we will do in the coming weeks - Wilderness Orientation, sports camp, classes, advisory, dorm communities, assembly - seeks to strengthen the relationships on which Proctor’s foundation is built. The year ahead will not write itself. Let’s get to work.