In Senator Angus King’s P’09 Commencement address last Saturday, he shared a list of ten pieces of advice he wish he knew when he was 18 years old. Number 10 was to spend time with your family and friends because when life gets hard, they are all you have. As we welcomed roughly 200 members of the Proctor Family back home for Alumni Reunion 2019, we were reminded why it is so important to prioritize our relationships with those we love.
Everyone comes back to Alumni Reunion for a different reason: to hang out with friends, to show our own children the place you spent your high school years, to gather together to remember classmates who have passed, or simply to rock out to Nick’s Other Band in the Wise Center while the Bruins win Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on the big screen. But what unites everyone’s experience is a commitment to nurturing the relationships that have shaped our lives.
We are all busy, all going a million different directions with competing priorities: our own families, our jobs, community responsibilities, expenses. Valid excuses for why we can’t attend events like Alumni Reunion abound, but time and time again, Senator King’s advice comes into focus: prioritize the relationships with those we love. When we commit to spending time with our Proctor Family, our roots are strengthened and we leave energized despite the lack of sleep over the weekend.
Listening to the stories shared by the Class of 1969 celebrating their 50th Reunion, we heard about a different era in Proctor’s history - an era where the late Spence Wright threw shoes and chalk at students to wake them up in class and boys couldn’t find enough layers to dress warmly enough for sub-zero hockey games on the pond. Longtime Trustee Bill Bolton ‘69 shared about the turbulent times that framed their Proctor experience: the Vietnam War, social unrest, civil rights movement, counter culture rebellion against the traditional boarding school model. And while these experiences shaped the relationship these boys (it was an all-boys school then) had with Proctor, the core of their relationship with Proctor remains remarkably consistent to that of the Class of 2014 who had record numbers attend reunion this year. Beneath the surface of social unrest outside of the Proctor bubble, the relationships forged with faculty inside the bubble sit at the heart of the Proctor experience. It is these relationships that become our roots.
The emotion that surfaced as these 68 year old men said ‘thank you’ to their former teachers, coaches, and dorm parents, like Chris and Kit Norris, Tim Norris, and David Fowler, fifty years after they last saw them was magical. Neither words nor images do these moments justice. But we all noticed. We all saw the power of enduring relationships, and took to heart the lasting impact of prioritizing the time we spend with those we love.
Younger classes felt the same love as they returned to campus, many for the first time since graduating. They took campus tours, played softball, hung out at Elbow Pond, took art and blacksmithing classes. They sampled alumni-made wine and enjoyed some of the nicest weather we’ve had on campus all spring.
Our hope is that each left Sunday morning exhausted, and yet oddly rejuvenated from the weekend. We recognize each of our alums gave up something to attend reunion: children's lacrosse games, family down time, barbecues, and so much more. Feeding your roots requires intentionality, but as you nurture the relationships closest to you, you create a safety net that will sustain you when life gets tough. Too often we gather with those we love at weddings and funerals. That's not enough. Thank you to each of our alumni for showing us what it means to prioritize friends and family in your life. We miss you already.