In a first-of-its-kind twist on a longstanding tradition, this year's Convocation was held Sunday night on the front fields adjacent to Morgan Hall. After a timely break in the rain, students and faculty gathered, physically distanced, to enjoy the ceremony that officially starts the school year. Typically held in the Chapel, the new environs of Sunday's event felt cool, comfortable and celebratory.
Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck began the agenda with humor and encouragement.
"Who could have imagined what it would be like to attend school during a global pandemic? Masks, 6 feet of distance, hand washing to rival Lady Macbeth...And yet adapting boldly to a new normal only seems right for a school community that refers to itself as Pioneers."
Then Buck, with a tip of the hat to our own chapeau'd historian Tom Vince, described how WRA's ability to navigate pandemics is part of its DNA, having weathered smallpox, the 1918 flu and a mumps threat in 1947. She spoke of the responsibilities that come with living in a monumental time, and the opportunities our students have to make a difference in the world with ambition, attitude, empathy and an unwavering commitment to inclusion.
"True to the characteristics of a pioneer, our school legacy is one of excellence amidst adversity; advancement despite challenge. Our shared history grounds us in events of the past, but I want you to consider how lessons learned from these experiences, the actions we take, the attitudes we embrace, will shape our present and future.
Looking toward the future was the perfect segue to an introduction of Student Body Co-Presidents Hunter A. '21 and Rocco P. '21. The student leaders talked about living large, following passions and finding a grounding place and soaring voice at Reserve. Rocco said, "Raise each other up and support the aspirations of each other." Hunter followed, "Use your passion, resilience and grit and become comfortable with the uncomfortable."
After the student leaders spoke, Buck acknowledged the many members of the WRA community who were instrumental in providing services to others during the COVID-19 crisis. Buck specifically thanked Chief Innovation Officer Matt Gerber, who spearheaded the manufacturing of personal protective equipment for thousands of people in Northeast Ohio and beyond. Buck also shared a special recognition bestowed upon the school from the State Treasurer of Ohio Robert Sprague.
"It is with great pleasure that I recognize Western Reserve Academy for its dedication to community service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Western Reserve Academy's commitment to produce and donate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers should be honored. This innovative leadership directly played a role in keeping members of the community safe and healthy during a truly unprecedented time. Compassionate and dedicated service such as this exemplifies the qualities of a truly outstanding organization committed to the community."
Finally, in a heartening moment for faculty and staff, who worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer on plans to safely re-open school, Buck asked the students to stand and applaud the adults in the Reserve community. The crowd — composed of one of Reserve's largest incoming classes in many years — ended the ceremony by singing the Alma Mater.
Here's to a wonderful year, Pioneers!