Common Fire by Head of School Bob Henderson
Official, formal school mission statements were not in vogue until the 1970’s. Through the years of Eliot Putnam’s headship, from the 1940’s until his retirement in 1971, Nobles had a “statement of purpose,” which I suppose served much the same function as a mission. It had evolved and was derived from previous such statements that dated back to the founding of the school in 1866. The Putnam era statement of purpose opens with this assertion: “The central aim of the school is to prepare boys (the school was all male in those days) for a future life of service to their communities…” Today, the mission statement says, “Noble and Greenough School is a rigorous academic community dedicated to inspiring leadership for the public good. Through mentoring relationships, we motivate students to achieve their highest potential and to lead lives characterized by service to others.” The notion of service to others has been an essential and guiding principle for a Nobles education throughout its history. We do not define service narrowly; our intention is to help students to find themselves within the mission. Whatever Nobles students choose to do with their lives, both as professionals in every field and as volunteers, it is our intention that their Nobles experiences should motivate and prepare them to make their communities, both locally and more broadly, better places. As the school approaches its 150th anniversary in 2016, therefore, the idea of service to others seemed the most appropriate place to begin our recognitions and celebrations.
Over a decade ago, Nobles community service director Sandi MacQuinn conceived of a Common Fire day wherein everyone in the school community would stop what they were doing and give a day of service to others. It was a massive undertaking, as members of our school community fanned out around Greater Boston to help as needed. The day also began with a stirring keynote address from former headmaster Ted Gleason, who returned to Nobles and shared his reflections on service through the history of the school and its critical importance to the health and future of our society. That first Common Fire was an immense success, and we have ever since intended to do it again. The sesquicentennial seems like exactly the right opportunity, connecting to that first Common Fire day, the mission, and the history of the school.
The second Nobles Common Fire Day will be on Tuesday, April 14. It will take most of this school year to plan, again led by Sandi MacQuinn, ably assisted in the endeavor by Linda Hurley and many other dedicated and inspirational individuals. Students and faculty will head out to volunteer that day at sites throughout the area and give of their time and energy, to help our community, to honor our history, and collectively to live our mission. That morning we will have a keynote address from a truly remarkable and inspirational educational leader, Dr. Mark Gearan, former director of the Peace Corps and current president of Hobart and William Smith College.
You can help! Keep and eye on the service section of this newsletter, as well as the weekly parent emails, in regard to items you can start to gather for that day (which may be easier because we did not hold the school yard sale this year!). For just a start, we are collecting goods for one homeless family we hope to move into a home that day, on April 14. For this and other causes we will need toiletry and baby items for support for homeless women and families. We will need linens and kitchen equipment as well. We also will need blankets, towels and cat food for Angell Memorial Animal Shelter. The list will grow, so keep your eye on the school communications, or be in touch with Sandi MacQuinn at Nobles.
Thank you for your help and support with this wonderful endeavor.