Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due by Provost Bill Bussey
A number of years ago the students of Class III kicked off their opening day retreat with a lecture in Lawrence Auditorium. There was, as always, excitement in the air as classmates, separated by the summer, greeted one another with hugs and shouts. As they settled down in their seats, there was this one girl who acted just a little quirkier than the rest. She had attended Nobles for a number of years. While perhaps less socially skilled than many of her peers, she was accepted by her classmates for who she was and, on some level, given a pass when her behavior may not have been in sync with her surroundings. A boy new to the school, seated just behind her, began mimicking her voice and gestures. Within seconds, another boy two rows back leaned forward and in a firm but quiet voice said this to his new classmate: “We don’t do that here.”
Lord knows that magazine and book racks are stuffed to the gills with endless guidance for parents. So I am going to pause just for a second and give credit where credit is due. Far more often than not, in ways not often seen or fully appreciated, Nobles students do the right thing and are there for each other at times when many of us are not. The one notable exception is the widespread use of alcohol, but I think we make a big mistake in assuming that students who go down that road for whatever reason somehow lack character and are not worthy of our respect. I’m not giving them a pass in this regard—far from it. But time and again, Nobles students help each other in myriad ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as telling a friend to stop complaining and get to work; other times it’s making sure they get home safely. And yes, only the naïve would believe that their children are always where they say they are, doing what they say they are doing. Yet, my confidence and belief that our students do the right thing in tough situations, the majority of the time, has never been higher.
Every day my Nobles colleagues and I witness casual acts of kindness between students that unfold with a frequency that was foreign to my high school experience. And I’m going to bet foreign to yours as well. At Nobles, even during our most trying times, I am convinced that an understood thread of empathy and decency connects us all. It has always been part of the Nobles that I have known but perhaps never so ingrained in the community as it is now. That is a testament to all who have been a part of the Nobles community since day one. Every year builds on the one before it.
Take an already-legendary morning assembly from late October, for example. New Class IV student Jonathan Herring, son of faculty member Michael Herring, began singing a solo in front 650 people while accompanied on the piano by Kristen Adams. A minute or so into the song, an anxious Jonathan vomited onstage. The crowd sat in stunned silence, collectively holding their breath as to what might happen next. But Kristen kept playing and—without missing a word—Jonathan kepts singing. And he kept singing for the next five minutes. Some in the audience wiped away tears as his voice gained strength and lifted the auditorium. As Jonathan hit the final note, all members of the audience leapt to their feet in one thunderous, spontaneous round of applause. Jonathan took a quick bow and made his way down a backstage passageway and out a side door.
As we filed out, we asked ourselves, “Who among us could have finished that song?“ But there is also an unspoken sense of awareness among us at how the community, to a person, responded with affection rather than embarrassment.
Afterwards as I walked down the hallway, I pass Steve Ginsberg, business manager.
“That’s why Nobles is the best,” he said smiling.
He didn't need to say another word.
- Bill Bussey, Provost