We spend an inordinate amount of our mental and emotional bandwidth working to align ourselves with our stated identities. Society repeatedly asks us to make declarative “I am” statements on surveys, medical intake forms, or social media profiles. In doing so, we risk becoming an identity that is as much shaped by others as ourselves. “I am white.” “I am married.” “I am employed at Proctor.”
At the core of Proctor is human connection, a group of talented educators ready and willing to help adolescents through their high school years. Each Proctor journey includes its own challenges, and it is the navigation of these moments of difficulty alongside caring faculty that most powerfully shapes the student experience. For Justin Donaldson ‘01, the intersection of human connection and supportive adults during his time of crisis not only defined his time at Proctor, but laid the foundation for his work supporting others today.
When John O’Connor ‘79 arrived in rural Andover, New Hampshire from Houston, Texas as a Proctor ninth grader, he was greeted by a vastly different campus than students enjoy today. Proctor’s current Admissions Office was a local watering hole, Rocky’s Roost, serving 18-year old Proctor students, the west end of campus was wholly undeveloped aside from the Farrell Field House, and the student body was composed of more than 80% boys. But it was never Proctor’s physical plant or enrollment statistics that allowed John to flourish. Instead, it was the relationships formed with teachers and classmates and fundamentally life-changing experiences that laid a foundation for his on-going engagement with Proctor over the past forty years.
For more than 70 years, Proctor has served as a leader in brain-based approach to teaching diverse learning styles. During an era when most schools uniformly categorized a student with a learning difference as “unable” to achieve the same as a traditional learner, Proctor chose to take a different approach. Faculty worked to understand how students learn and developed an educational model that celebrated and supported a truly diverse set of learners through an integrated Learning Skills program. For Pam Stewart-Martinez '87, the lessons of support and community learned during her time at Proctor ignited a passion for committing to a life of service to others.
A glance through old yearbooks and even photos from last winter reminds us just how much the world has changed over the past nine months. We yearn for the normalcy of assemblies in the Wilkins Meetinghouse, a packed Brown Dining Commons, hosting basketball and hockey games, and the impromptu dance party in the Wise Center. A return to normal may still be a distant dream, but the release of two successful vaccines has lit a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel through which we have all been stumbling through this year.
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.
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.