With Beethoven’s Ode to Joy blaring and the chapel buzzing, the 2023-24 school year officially kicked off today at an ebullient Convocation. The largest student body in the school’s history, counting in at 435, packed the pews with excitement about all that lies ahead. 

Students old and new (160 Pioneers throughout the grades are new this year) were welcomed joyously. Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck P ’24 welcomed all saying, “there is a seat for everyone, symbolic of the fact that we all belong here.”

Buck spoke on the topic of “Collective Effervescence,” a sociological concept coined by Émile Durkheim, describing the act of coming together in community or society to simultaneously experience joy.

“Effervescence speaks to the property of forming bubbles…the contagion of positive emotion that happens when people with common values come together to celebrate. People want to share joy and do so with others who share common values — for us, these are things like education and community.” 

She described a great horizon of collective effervescence for the Pioneers; everything from moments on the playing field to celestial wonders like the forthcoming April 2024 eclipse, for which Hudson sits in the path of totality! Both the eclipse and the concept of bubbling joy would peek out again later in the Convocation ceremony.

But first, Student Body Co-Presidents Carter Fleming ’24 and Stephen Kosco ’24 took the podium to address their peers and share perspective. They described their earliest days at the school, fraught with insecurities, a (gasp!) blue oxford shirt instead of the requisite white, broken knuckles (story unshared) and glutinous trip to downtown Hudson that included a bit too much Chipotle and ice cream. In the end they assured, “Western Reserve Academy is a place where we come together in the face of any challenge to build each other up. Your nerves will not last for long — you will find your people here.”

Next the community heard from Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member Midge Karam ‘79, who inducted 11 seniors into the Cum Laude Society, which celebrates high academic achievement. Karam shared, “Western Reserve Academy is a place where ideas, questions, scientific debate and creativity flourish.” She encouraged students to “pause and wonder, question, challenge big ideas, explore new ideas and play with knowledge.” 

Buck continued a newer tradition at Convocation by next asking four faculty members to share thoughts and poetry. Invited to speak were Jacob Ritz, new Mathematics faculty member, and Valeria Garcia-Pozo, new English faculty member. The poetry sharings of those teachers newest to the community were bookended by long-tenured Social Science Department faculty member Sarah Horgan and English Department faculty member Jeff Warner, who — to great enthusiasm at its announcement — begins his 40th year teaching at Reserve this year.

Ritz read Elegy by Mon Lang.

Garcia-Poza read Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy.

Horgan and Warner read Seeing the Eclipse in Maine by Robert Bly, apt as the school plans to convene in April this year during the total solar eclipse to kick off the countdown to the WRA Bicentennial in 2026. 

Convocation closed with something traditional – the alma mater – and something all new: bubbles in abundance. To close with collective effervescence, Buck had acquired bubbles for everyone, blown on cue with celebration and joy. 

Happy New Year, Pioneers!