With all the pomp and circumstance befitting of the occasion, Western Reserve Academy today celebrated the installation of Suzanne Walker Buck as the 32nd Head of School in its nearly two century history. Occurring at a place loved equally for its tradition and its ambition, the ceremony hearkened back and looked forward as it made history with the installment of its first woman to serve as Head of School.
"I am grateful to serve Western Reserve Academy," said Buck. "Nearly two centuries old, we are a school of both tradition and innovation. We are Pioneers. Embedded in our DNA is the compulsion to carve new paths, to challenge assumptions, to transcend the status quo. I am honored to lead this institution and with you, members of our collective community, create a joyful and transcendary future."
Joy was a thematic underpinning of the day, with Buck determined to share the spotlight with the hundreds in attendance in the Murdough Athletic Center (MAC), including the Board of Trustees, Board of Visitors, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, community members and of course, students, dressed in Reserve green to mark the formality of the day (all while anticipating the after party, featuring food trucks, fun, and a giant mural where they could write their reflections on happiness).
"I couldn't be more thrilled to be at this place at this time," Buck said. "And, as excited as I am, I do not want this ceremony to be about me. I want today to be a celebration of us -- of community -- and of a community that deeply loves and values this school."
Dagmar Fellowes '75, gave a warm welcome to all in attendance, reflecting on the history of female students at Reserve. In 1922, WRA decided to stop admitting female students, not reversing this decision until half a century later in 1972. She said, "I would suggest that in 2019, we are where we should be; a school strong with girls and with a strong woman at the helm - but more importantly a strong leader, who will be an inspiration to all."
After an invocation by the Revered Charlotte Collins Reed, Rector of Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson, WRA student body president Ellie Frato-Sweeney introduced the day's keynote speaker, Dr. Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Snyder spoke of the shared history of the two institutions. In 1826, Western Reserve College began on our school grounds, before moving to Cleveland. Western Reserve Academy had been the College's preparatory department, and was given the use of grounds and buildings to carry forward in the spirit of its pioneering founders who envisioned a "Yale of the West."
Snyder discussed themes of history, bold thinking and leadership when describing synergies between the schools.
"Our schools enjoy a special shared history and core values," Snyder said. "We share a commitment to excellence, integrity, creating cultures of compassion and global citizenship."
She spoke directly to Buck saying, "While being the first woman Head of School is a notable event, it is not the most interesting thing about Suzanne Buck. She will be remembered for her impact. Did she identify the right goals? And what is her track record for achieving them? She is poised for tremendous success."
Tim Warner '69 and Andrew Midler '79, Co-Presidents of the WRA Board of Trustees, imparted the official installation verbiage, but their earnest support was evident amid the requisite formality. Warner said, "Suzanne Walker Buck, the Board of Western Reserve Academy stands with you today as we will in the years to come...As we look forward to our Bicentennial in 2026 and the future beyond, may your leadership be grounded in wisdom and common sense, but also be inspired by bold ambition."
Buck has brought all of these traits to Reserve in her early tenure, leaving a joyful impression at events like square dancing on the green during Parents Weekend and a new birthday party tradition begun earlier in the week at Pierce House (each month any student, faculty or staff member celebrating a birthday will be invited to celebrate with Suzanne, Johnny and Halsey Buck). Buck also has been ever present with the students, starting each day with a "branch office" of sorts in Seymour Hall, greeting Pioneers as they start the day.
The efforts have not gone unnoticed. In remarks following Buck's at the Installation, WRA Student Body Co-President Noah Frato-Sweeney said to Mrs. Buck, "It's only been a few months since you arrived here in Hudson, but you've already made tremendous strides in bettering the school, and we can't wait to see what you do next...Because this community is built on all of our unique backgrounds, personalities and talents, I can't think of anyone more unique than our incredible new head of school. I'd like to extend my sincerest congratulations to you Mrs. Buck, and a very warm welcome to you and your family on behalf of all Western Reserve Academy."
As the ceremony closed, Warner and Midler created an elegant ending, gifting Buck with a tartan plaid cloak on behalf of the community saying, "Suzanne, you have always put students first, and your school spirit is evident. Already, you have become one with the community, and shown solidarity with the students in many ways. So today, we present your own version of Reserve Green, a lovely cloak in our tartan Reserve plaid. With this gift, we acknowledge you literally becoming a part of the fabric of our community. We know you will wear it with pride."
WRA Trustee Warren Farr '80 thanked the community who had gathered and explained the plans for the ensuing parties to punctuate the day. It is not every year, or even every decade, that such history unfolds at the school before everyone's eyes, and we couldn't be more thrilled to have been witnesses to it, and to all the excitement, energy and joy that sit on the horizon.