"Everything Works" by Provost Bill Bussey
I remember when Bob Henderson first arrived at Nobles. That first Saturday morning, following the opening of school, both of us were standing at the base of the ’56 Path looking across the emerald fields. We stared silently at a distant employee preparing the grass for future contests. No one else was within view. He seemed in awe of the expanse before him and was taking it all in as if he was staring at the Alps. And then he said aloud, more to himself, I suspect, than to me, “Everything works.”
Those words rang so true over the course of four hours just a couple of weeks ago.
I’d been sick in bed for the better part of two days, but with FallFest kicking off in two hours, I found myself sitting outside of the MAC waiting for the mechanical bull and reevaluating my life. If someone had come along and thrown a tarp over me, I would have gladly curled up in the fetal position until morning. I was that miserable. Just then Alex Gallagher strode by, and without missing a beat said, “I guess someone set up a whole slew of folding chairs where the dance is going to be held.” I slowly rose, and he held up a hand and told me to stay put. “I’ve got it,” he said.
Mike McHugh, the head of Buildings & Grounds, along with Daryl Shumway, showed up at five o’clock, an hour after their duties were officially done, to help with the unloading of the bull. Just so you know, the mechanical bull comes in many sections, with two or three pieces weighing in at several hundred pounds. To navigate these pieces onto a dolly, through the doors, onto an elevator, and roll it the length of the MAC, only then have to put it all together…well, there’s nothing pleasant about it. At 5:15 there was still no sign of the bull. Not good.
I decided to head into the “dance hall” (wrestling room) only to find Class I students and SLC reps Kayla Getter and Sara Keene getting “Dance, Dance, Revolution” ready to roll. Something didn’t seem quite right. I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong as tech meister Dan Donnelly had set it all up the day before. “Well, we didn’t want to get you anxious, “ Kayla began. “Amazon sent us the “Dance, Dance Revolution “ case, but the disc inside the package was NBA2K12.” This disc was a basketball video game released in 2011 and featured Larry Bird, not known as a dance icon. “Don’t worry,” Sara reassured me as she pulled out her cellphone. “I know where I can get one. I just have to get it here.” I stared at her in disbelief. She added, “Seriously, we’ve got it.”
I walked outside and still no bull. I apologized to Mike and Daryl, and they shook it off and told me, “It’s all good. We’ve got it.” Just then the guy with the bull and a large video game pulled up in a large van. The company sent only one guy (admittedly, a behemoth) instead of two, and I realized that if we had any hope of starting on time, we were going to need more hands. Without being prodded, Jake Calnan, a Class II student, asked if we needed any help. A small but willing group of students took note and dove in while the adults helped with the main pieces.
The doors opened at seven o’clock sharp and the room was filled to the rim with hundreds of kids. I stood outside as one mother, Erin Epker, a 1990 Nobles grad, watched her child scurry out of her car and into the MAC. I waved her over, and she joined me at a window that allowed us to share a bird’s eye view. We watched in silence, pressing our faces up against the glass and marveled at all the unbridled energy and joy that bubbled before us. As we walked away, I asked her, “Remember that?” She replied, “I never remember anything that big.” And we traded knowing smiles in recognition of the past and present. Later at nine o’clock, Nurse O’Connor took one last look at me and said, “You look pale. Go home. We’ve got this.” Old pros Mark and Tilesy Harrington were out the door strolling the perimeter of the MAC, Jeremy Kovacs was carrying a load of pizza boxes out to the dumpster, and the other seven chaperones were covering every nook and cranny in the building. There was no need to stay.
Sometime in the not so distant future our seventh head of school, Dr. Cathy Hall, will be held fast by some aspect of this community, and in that moment so many seemingly disconnected things will come together, and she will say to herself, just loud enough so that the person next to her picks it up, “Everything works.” And like Eliot Putnam, Ted Gleason, Dick Baker and Bob Henderson before her, she will embrace it all and lead us forward.