It was a joyous Convocation as the first time in years that the whole school could convene in the Chapel to usher in the school year in traditional Reserve style. Students and faculty crowded into the pews, the August heat turned printed copies of the alma mater into fans, and joy, anticipation, and even some unexpected entertainment filled the space from bottom to top.

Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck welcomed everyone with opening remarks: “We are united in place and purpose. It is my honor to welcome each and every one of you to Western Reserve Academy. You belong here. Every one of you was selected to be here; we see your strengths, talents and potential.”

Then WRA student body Co-Presidents Landon Allis ’23 and Jordanne Nichols ’23 took to the podium, sharing encouragement for their fellow students. 

“The community of Reserve is built on shared trust, experience and support,” said Allis. “Our community is one like no other near us. This place is your home.”

“The role of Reserve is to connect, uplift and provide,” said Nichols. “Reserve is whatever you want to make it. Every single one of you has power, and your individual goals will be our collective reality.”

Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member Midge Karam ’79 spoke next, announcing the newest ten members of the prestigious Cum Laude society: Bingyi (Aaron) Chen ’23, Shiyang (James) Gong ’23, Elba G. Heddesheimer ’23, Bowen Jiang ’23, Danyan (Cynthia) Li ’23, Yinmeng (Lucy) Li ’23, Sumedha Mahesh ’23, Sheilla G. Muligande ’23, Annie H. Nguyen ’23, Angela Liu Yue Ryan ’23 and Yuejiao (Vivian) Zhou ’23. 

Karam, joined on the stage by Science Department faculty Beth Pethel, Social Science Department faculty Diccon Ong ’81 and Modern & Classical Languages Department faculty Jeff Namiotka, lauded the inductees for their high academic achievement, excellence, justice and honor. She encouraged every student to “wonder, explore and question the people and the world around you.” She reminded that “first and foremost, WRA is an academic institution where ideas, questions, debate, scientific inquiry and creativity flourish.”

A new Convocation tradition came to life with a poetry reading by the longest-tenured WRA faculty, Jeff Warner and Sarah Horgan, who approached the stage to student applause. They read from “Ithaka,” drawing connections between Odysseus’ journey home to the journey of every Pioneer. Warner and Horgan encouraged students to relish their roads of adventure and discovery, embracing their inherent challenges and joy.

New faculty member CeCe Payne bookended the sharing of poetry and passages with an excerpt from The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, saying, “The more we turn toward others the more joy we experience…joy is contagious, as is love, compassion and generosity.”

To conclude Convocation, faculty and staff helped spread joy through a “surprise” performance of “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical (the reality is, we’d been practicing for days!) The students were treated to a spontaneous show of singing, clapping and choreography as a fun send off to their first day of classes. The performance even made its way to TikTok (follow us for more content!) Here’s to new adventures and an amazing new year!