Getting off ‘the Rez’: the Class of 2012 Leaves Home

Noble and Greenough School graduated 107 members of the Class of 2012 on the quintessential New England spring morning of June 1, when even the sky wore Nobles blue and white. Honors were announced, teachers were celebrated and diplomas were awarded to a class characterized by its spirit, its talent, its service and its scholarship.

Speakers shared words of wisdom learned from myriad cultures and sources, including the Iroquois Nation, Head of School Bob Henderson ‘76, and the dad of Ted Steinberg, president of the School Life Council.

Steinberg said that his father’s sage advice—“never say no to a free dessert”–was gastronomically useful but did not result in success in Bill Kehlenbeck’s math class. “Mr. Kehlenbeck had a different approach,” Steinberg said, “he pushed me along and told me that as long as I was putting in effort, things would work out.”

Head of School Robert P. Henderson Jr. ’76 said that he never expected to return to his alma mater. “It has been both the greatest honor and responsibility of my life,” he said.

“Nobles was a quite different place in the early 1970s. As I have heard [English faculty and former head of school] Mr. Baker say, Nobles in that era was much more of the 19th century than the 20th.”

Henderson nodded to the Castle, the 19th-century architectural gem behind him. Nearing the completion of its renovation and expansion, he said he expects the Class of 2012 to own the Castle equally with the generations of Nobles students to come.

Faculty speaker Michael Herring, elected to deliver the graduation speech, connected his Native American heritage to the Nobles “tribe.” He told of his mother’s determination to “get off the rez,” which she coupled with deep respect for Iroquois tradition, religion, language.

“We have our own tribal culture here,” Herring said, referring to the school’s emphasis on honor, respect, service and experiential learning, assembly and leading for the public good.

Citing the magic of the Nobles campus, Herring said that it might be hard for students to “leave the idyllic confines of 10 Campus Drive.

“Relational pedagogy,” he said, “is at the very heart of our ‘rez’…Just remember: This ‘rez’ will always be here awaiting your return.”

Class I members Chris Collins-Pisano and Madeleine Smith also spoke to the Class of 2012.

Collins-Pisano referenced a college application essay that required him to title the story of his life and explain why. “[The question made me] want to bang my head against my abused Macbook…I can’t stand titling things,” he said.

Collins-Pisano finally settled on, “Title Pending,” which he echoed from his longtime practice of leaving the naming of essays and other assignments until the very last moment.

He suggested that, likewise, he and his classmates should not rush to complete and label their lives. “There’s no hurry to tie everything up before you get out of here,” he said. “As Mr. Henderson says, ‘There’s no there there.’”

Smith, the other class-selected speaker, told classmates that the Nobles experience binds them no matter what. She shared with younger students a little of what the Class of 2012 has learned:

“We learned to stop worrying so much about what other people think of us. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to go to Debate Club, go. We learned to reach across the social barriers that we so guarded freshman year. We learned that being kind is easier and much more valuable than not being kind.”

The ceremony also included awards, including the Vernon L. Greene Award for Faculty Excellence to Nayhon Lee, as well as the Head of School Award and Miller Medal, which went to new graduates Julie Brosseau and M.K. Cruise, respectively.

After accepting their diplomas, the graduates greeted and thanked faculty and family members. The final musical performance, after a week filled with many memorable performances, was the First Class Ensemble with “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” by Boyz II Men.

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Getting off ‘the Rez’: the Class of 2012 Leaves Home