As we ready ourselves to begin a school year like no other, Proctor’s counselors wanted to reflect on the emotional well being of our immediate and extended Proctor Community. On Monday, employees were given our COVID tests. The experience was striking in many ways. It is fair to say that none of us could have imagined that this scene would unfold on our campus to begin a school year. As we stood in the socially distanced line, we all processed in our own way, this completely new scene. Leaving the testing site, I felt relieved, impressed (by the organization and efficiency of the effort), and most importantly energized. Our Proctor community is showing up; showing up eager to engage, eager to problem solve, eager to do something slightly uncomfortable, for the sake of reconvening as a community, physically together.
Proctor's 5,000 alumni live worldwide, and while their time in Andover spans generations, their shared experiences living at Proctor creates a lifelong connection. Through the Proctor Alumni Association, alumni around the globe are able to connect with each other, and as we navigate a global pandemic, ironically these connections have never been stronger.
In less than two weeks we welcome students back to Proctor's campus for the first time since March. The ability for in-person instruction and regular daily routine of classes, afternoon activities, and nightly study hall is something we all desperately crave. As we transition back to campus and settle into our new normal, afternoon activities will be a part of our routine.
This is a quick note about the Proctor community coming together. Attached to this note are some of the critical steps and practices you must be aware of, take, and maintain if we are to keep our community safe. They are sensible, straightforward, and non-negotiable. I don’t say this to be heavy handed but to keep everyone healthy.
For our new boarding students, the notion of sharing a dorm room with a roommate is either the most exciting aspect of starting at Proctor, or the most anxiety-inducing. Will they snore? Will they be messy? What if they like to stay up too late? What if they don’t take safety precautions seriously? These questions are valid, especially as we plan to return to school in an environment unlike any other we have experienced.
For nearly 175 years, Proctor Academy has played a central role in the day to day operations of the Town of Andover. Originally a town academy serving children of all ages, Proctor’s evolution to a boarding school in the 1930s initiated growth in both physical plant and the seasonal population in town. Today, Proctor serves as the town’s largest employer and annually welcomes students from more than 25 states and 13 countries to campus. Just as COIVD-19 has shifted each of our lives, the role Proctor plays within the Town of Andover as it seeks to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year must also shift.
Mike and Becky Walsh arrived at Proctor Academy in the Fall of 2002 when Mike accepted a teaching and coaching position. Since then, Mike has taught in the science and technology departments while serving as the head boys' hockey and golf coach and Becky as the administrative assistant in the Athletic Office. The Walsh's also raised two boys on-campus, Reilly '17 and Ronan '20. For Reilly, growing up on Proctor’s campus often felt like a dream - access to playing fields, the Teddy Maloney ‘88 Rink, and role models in the high schoolers that surrounded him - but his real dream from an early age was taking the ice for an N.H.L. club. This week, Reilly Walsh is one step closer to living out this dream of playing professional hockey.
As we enter month six of quarantine with our family here in Andover, New Hampshire, we have limited the social interactions of our three children to afternoon swims at Elbow Pond, time with grandparents, and campfires in the backyard in the evenings. During this time of isolation, the connections these small outlets have provided have proven the lifeblood for our family, not because life by ourselves is bad, but because life with others is better.
Entering the Proctor community this year, whether in person or remote, will be different from any other year in the history of the school. It is going to require more of you and more from us. Together we will do the work of community during a pandemic, and it will ask of you grace, circumspect, and resilience. The opportunities of Proctor haven’t changed, but the way we go about accessing them on a day to day basis has been significantly altered by the way we will need to adjust to maintain the health and well-being of everyone.
We all have that person in our lives. The one who is our first call when a major life event happens. The one who we can wake in the middle of the night without a second thought. The one whose hug is the best medicine. For many of us, our parents or our best friend serve as that person. At Proctor, the advisor doesn’t seek to replace the parent or best friend, but becomes another person for each of our students.