Dr. Catherine J. Hall, Head of School
“An Invitation to Engage”
My school year began with members of the class of 2018 during their retreat last August as they told their stories to one another. They graciously welcomed me to Noble and Greenough School and, in beginning to hear their stories that day, my own story at Nobles began. As I have continued to hear and witness their stories throughout the year, and as I have experienced the extraordinary talent, humor, kindness and joy of this special group of students, I am honored to have the class of 2018 as my first graduating class as head of school at Nobles. This class will always have very special meaning for me, and I am thrilled to share this day with them.
When I think about the months and years of your lives after Nobles, I am enormously proud of who you are as individuals and as a class, and incredibly inspired by all that I know you will accomplish and do to make an impact on others. While I know your lives will take you in myriad directions and down paths that are each different from one another, and that you each are driven by unique passions and interests, I have one request I would like to ask of all of you.
I ask that you engage.
I ask that you seek to understand, that you listen, that you learn, and that you then find your own voice and what leadership for the public good means for you in your unique walk of life.
We are all aware of how discourse across our country has become increasingly disrespectful and polarizing, how a rhetoric of hate has become frighteningly common, and how what used to feel like simple discussions now feel entangled in high-stakes outcomes.
What worries me more than the unhealthy discourse is the resulting silence that has emerged. Deafening silence. There is silence where there used to be discussion and healthy debate. There is silence where there used to be questions. There is silence where there used to be learning.
At Nobles, we need to do our part to end the silence, and to contribute to a climate of engaged discussion, one that promotes intellectually rigorous and respectful conversation, one that elevates our thinking and spurs productive leadership, one that builds rather than tears down. We need to do this in a way that guides and asks without answering or telling, where a diversity of ideas and opinions is fostered and encouraged. There is nothing partisan about this. It is simply about engagement and optimism.
As graduates of Nobles, I need you to go out and engage. What does this look like?
Start by asking questions. A lot of questions. Ask questions to learn facts, questions to elicit someone’s perspective, questions to make it clear you are interested in listening, questions to help you better understand what you believe. Be curious, even if you think you know the answer or have a fixed opinion. What does an inquiry stance look like even if you are certain? What could you ask that might challenge that certainty?
Do not allow a fear of seeming ignorant stop your curiosity. Sincere curiosity is a sign of a growth mindset, not ignorance. Do not stay silent simply because you are uninformed. If you do not know, ask. Research. Read.
Next, what is probably the hardest part, is to listen. To truly listen, rather than just appearing to listen, is difficult to do anytime, particularly when your ideas are being challenged. Hearing and listening are not the same thing. To truly listen takes patience, an authentic belief that you can learn from what the other person is saying, and a willingness to have your perspective shifted. It also means you are engaged in a conversation not to win or be right, but to collaborate in the creation and cultivation of ideas.
The challenge is to engage in the exchanging of ideas in a way that is collaborative, where you are confident without being certain, where you are as forgiving of others’ missteps in a discussion as you would hope they would be of you, where you can accept disagreement as part of shaping ideas and not as a personal affront, where you are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Lastly, and most importantly, I ask you to find your voice and to use it to define how you will lead for the public good. Leadership for the public good is not a calling just for some of you. It is a calling for every single one of you. There is not one kind of leadership that is more valuable than another. Do not dismiss the value of your voice or the role your leadership can play because you are still unsure of your path, because you are quiet or prefer not to be out in front, or because you are conflicted in your passions or beliefs.
Quiet voices can be as impactful as loud ones. Those in the back of the room can make as much of a difference as those at the podium. Those helping one person with one small thing are as essential as those helping thousands with many things. The Nobles mission statement is free of judgment and full of inspiration and encouragement. All are needed to make a difference, whatever your difference will be. All voices matter, and yours is needed.
As you leave this tent, you will be surrounded by the faculty who have dedicated their lives to your education. They have cared about you, pushed you, believed in you, and advocated for you in your years at Nobles. Now, as we send you off today, we are inspired by you, and we place a great deal of hope and confidence in you and all that we know you will become, create and accomplish. We will celebrate your journey ahead with tremendous optimism and pride.
Congratulations on a truly remarkable journey so far. I simply can’t wait to see how the next chapters of your stories unfold.
Edgar De Leon ’04, Faculty Speaker
“Conversations Can Carry Us”
Good morning family members, colleagues, my dog Layla, and the class of 2018.
Before I begin my actual speech, I have asked Dr. Hall to allow me to yell at the class of 2018 one last time for forcing me to be on stage today—and she has agreed.
I have to be honest, I have two irrational fears. First, roller coasters—they terrify me and I believe, if you enjoy riding roller coasters you truly have issues. Second, I hate public speaking. I am certain that the class of 2018 was completely aware of this, and yet, here I am. Thanks guys! I love you too.
Now if you don’t know what I do at Noble and Greenough School, let me tell you. I am this school’s Detention CZAR, so I believe my presence on this stage is this class’ ultimate revenge. I have to be honest , as I look over the crowd, I feel like I am on a roller coaster now, slowly making my way up, the metal clacking around me, sweat dripping from my forehead, about to make that huge descent.
*Dramatic deep breath. Wipes forehead.*
Yes, im feeling it.
And here we go.
Now, it may surprise you to know, amongst other things, I love to read Cosmopolitan magazine.
And, with great pride, I’m here to tell you that I’m actually a subscriber. While, if you’re feeling down, you might send a nightly text or make a call to a friend, I click on my Cosmo app. I believe Cosmo, with its riveting celebrity “How To” pieces, has truly changed my life for the better. I know some of you are seeing me for the first time today, but I can tell you that, by using replenishing facial oil and eating avocados everyday, my skin is glowing like never before. Thank you Cosmo!
I must also admit that I have read and studied the article titled “Your Tummy Tightened and Toned in 28 days.”
Currently I am on day 20 of this 28 day plan and everything is going as well, as you can see! Thank you Cosmo!
That said, the most informative article I have read in Cosmo was one on online dating. Lane Moore wrote a Do’s and Don’ts piece for beginners who are jumping into match.com and the like. While I have never actually done it myself, it is 2018, and dating apps and social media are now the places where people meet. When I was in grade school, I would send notes to ask girls to walk with me to the ice cream truck to get a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles. On the bottom of the paper, I would provide options: A “No” with a small square on it, and a “Yes” with a huge heart on it. Now, all of this is done with a click of the mouse or swipe left or right.
It may be difficult to believe that an article from Cosmo can apply to this graduating class and to our school. But, perhaps if we look closely at the “Complete Beginners Guide to Online Dating,” we can take a real look at how we interact with each other and how we might be able to change for the better.
For those of you who are thinking of exploring this world, here are some of the article’s rules for online dating. Take notes!
Don’t post a face this not actually yours! Remember, you may actually meet.
Don’t write long complaints about your failed relationships. Lets be real—it was probably your fault.
If you post a picture of yourself in front of a car, make sure it’s actually yours. It would be awkward if your picture is in front of an Acura, but you show up to your date on a Moped.
And finally, don’t post only selfies. Come on people, act like you have life!
Here’s what I think we at Nobles, and you the graduating class of 2018, can learn from these seemingly silly rules.
To be genuinely authentic—is difficult. Whether you feel like you have to take that perfect picture in that perfect angle, or you feel like you have to hide aspects of yourself to be accepted, we all feel the pressure of conforming. Despite the fact that I, in part, grew up on this campus, when I returned as a teacher, I still didn’t know if I fit in. I had no idea if who I was would be welcomed here by students and colleagues. Everyday I struggle to come to work and I wonder if this place is for me. How many of us in this tent share this experience in one way or another?
But it was people in this community who have made that struggle a bit easier. Devin Nwanagu taught me that I should trust my struggle, and that it will be all worth it at the end. And people in this graduating class, just by having conversations with me in the classrooms and hallways, made me feel a bit more at ease, made this place feel a little more like home. It is amazing how far a few conversations can carry us.
Lastly, it is not only important to be heard, but to also listen to those around you. While there is power in voicing your own truth, there is also power in allowing others to open up about their living experiences. It seems that our world forces us to view each other through a narrow prism. We are either:
An athlete or actor
We are either black or white
We are either gay or straight
Male or female
Or, currently, seemingly worst of all—liberal or conservative.
We see about as much of each other’s real selves as we see in a selfie someone posts.
But the truth is we are all nuanced—there are different aspects to our stories, and all of it makes us who we are.
If all you knew about her is that she is a new head of school, you do not know the full story. There is extra power and value in becoming the first woman head of a school that has only been co-ed for 40 years.
If all you knew about him is that he wears funny Hawaiian shirts before lacrosse games, but you dont see his passion for molding clay into artwork, then your knowledge of him is incomplete.
Or her, the one in the arts center: is she just an artsy kid—or is she the one whose motivation comes from the powerful Puerto Rican women who raised her?
How about that baseball player—is that all you see, or do you know that this baseball-playing kid from Worcester is playing the sport as a way to a greater opportunity?
Or her, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, whose upbringing and intellect has made others question her blackness. How do you see?
How about him, that French teacher, do you see his devotion to his religion during a time when many question its meaning?
Or me—yes, I told you what I do, but do you know who I am?
Did you know that my mother immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and after she lost her job we lived on government assistance? Did you know that when times were rough and we had little to eat, she, in the humblest of moments would go ask our neighbors for food? And that she eventually worked not one, but two factory jobs so that one day I could go to college? Seeing this, living this, has made me who i am.
Oh yes, I’m also a Yankees fan!
Listening to other’s experiences is not only a selfless act, but is essential to your learning and personal growth. When women yell from the mountain tops that the way they have been treated needs to change… they need much more than affirmation, they need reflection and change.
When that African American student comes crying because her father was just stopped by the police and she is anxious because days before she watched the news and saw a black man being shot on a camera phone, she not only needs a shoulder to cry on and but also for us to ask “Why?”
And when our country is in the midst of intense turmoil, our school community needs to engage in discourse, listen to and be heard by each other, and be okay with the struggle continuing.
Class of 2018, I will leave you with this: the diploma you are given today carries with it enormous power. And as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said in the car that day, “With my great power comes…” *Crowd answered: “Great responsibility”.*
Well, actually, the power you are receiving today is not one of responsibility but one of choice. My niece is currently 3 years old. Her name is Aliana. Right now, she is somewhere, dancing, watching cartoons, and being a kid.
But one day she will be in your classroom, your bank, your sports team. When she tells you about her upbringing, or her crazy uncle who doesn’t let her date, or her difficulties navigating life, are you going to listen?
Class of 2018, good luck with online dating—I dont need it anymore—I got engaged this week!
Emma Majernik ’18, School Life Council Co-president
“Push and Pull”
Good morning parents, friends and families, students, faculty and staff, to celebrate Nobles’ 152nd graduation—the class of 2018! We’re finally here.
Before anything else I want to give a major thank you to the people who have helped me get here in one piece. To all of my teachers: your support, ability to make me feel heard, and your encouragement of me to share my ideas is something for which I will always be grateful. To my younger sisters; Madie and Sophie: I am so proud of you two, even though I sometimes have a hard time showing it. You are both going to do incredible things here and beyond, and I can’t wait to cheer you on. I love you. To the class of 2018: it is no secret that we have had our ups and downs, but I am beyond proud of how we have come together in the end. Individually you are all so talented and passionate and I have no doubt you will do amazing things in the future. Lastly and certainly not least, Mom and Dad: there is no way I would be standing here without you two always being in my corner. Thank you for your patience and your never wavering support. I love you both so much.
When you’re little, as in “toddler or baby-little,” your growth and development is measured through a series of steps dubbed as “milestones.” Parents and doctors gauge growth by keeping track of certain skills that a baby should be developing in the first few months of their life. One of these, in particular, is the ability to grab onto something. At first it begins as a “grabbing reflex,” then as time goes by, it develops into a skill. A baby, developing on track, at between 1-3 months should be able to grab onto a toy or other object. Most importantly, they should express the ability to hold on to it, shake it, and especially be able to complete these acts without letting go.
I start with this because, as we grow and develop, we begin with learning the basic skills to function as human beings. Can we hold our own head up, follow a moving object with our eyes, respond to human interaction, open and shut our hands? The list goes on. These are all things that at our age, meaning anyone here over the age of one, which should be almost everyone, I hope, should not have to think about. It all comes as second nature. Sitting in your seat, you aren’t thinking about breathing, focusing, reacting to the itchiness you feel on the tip of your nose. It is all innate.
The fun part about growing up and learning how to be a capable human being is the period that follows learning the basics. The stage where you can develop mastery and manipulate what you have learned. For example, riding a bike. You begin by learning how to pedal. Teetering in circles around your driveway, supported by two training wheels tacked onto the sides of the bike frame. You spend countless hours engraving muscle memory in your brain until it becomes second nature. Then, one fateful day, the training wheels come off and instead you are supported by a steady hand on the back of your seat; until, finally, the hand lets go and muscle memory and your ability to balance kick in and you are pedaling on your own. It is a classic example, but it makes sense. After mastering the basics you gain the ability to maybe learn a trick or two on the bike. Perhaps ride with one hand? Or maybe none? The possibilities, supported by your mastery of the basics, become endless.
Since we are on the cusp of summer I will use another example, more fitting for the theme of the season: waterskiing.
A few summers ago I was invited by a friend to spend the weekend up at their lake house in Maine. The first day, we started the morning out on the water, in their boat. My friend, her parents, and I, bounced over the wake of a passing boat as we made our way out into the middle of the lake.
The plan was to go tubing and I had been looking forward to it ever since the car ride up. Several miles from the house we realized that the tube was nowhere to be found. It had been left sitting, abandoned, on the dock. So, instead of turning around, we decided to improvise. Improvising, in this case, meant doing the only other activity that was on board with us: waterskiing. I’ll be honest, I was petrified. I think I played it off pretty well, trying to convince my friend and her parents that I wasn’t thinking about the broken ankle or pulled shoulder that, because of my extreme lack of coordination, were waiting to happen.
I proceeded to zip on a damp life vest and slide my feet into the skis as my friend’s dad helped to strap my feet in. So, for those of you who are unaware, in order to waterski one must start fully emerged in the water, rolled up into a fetal position. You pull your knees to your chest, similar to a pill bug or “roly-poly,” keeping the skis semi-immersed and perpendicular to the water, all while still facing the boat and holding onto the handle, tethered to the boat. If you think it sounds difficult, then you are absolutely right. The most important part is that you must keep your elbows straight and drawn out in front of you, away from your chest.
When the boat starts there are two movements essential to rising out of the water. One: when the engine starts and the tethered handle tightens, losing its slack, you must push you feet against the water and brace yourself, while emerged. Two: as soon as the boat begins to drive away, while keeping your arms straight, you must allow the boat to pull you up and out of the water. It takes a while to remember to do both things at once and give in to the force of the boat as it pulls you forward. Most people have the immediate instinct to pull their arms into their chest either when out of the water or still waiting to be pulled up. This is what can cause you to lean forward, lose your balance, and fall flat on your face. Often this reactionary movement can be blamed on our human need to hold on tight. Too afraid to allow for the pulling force to take over. Unable to trust.
Although I had been warned, the second the thumbs up was given and the engine of the boat started, I forgot to push with my legs and instead I was dragged across the water, my head fully submerged with my legs flailed out behind me. It didn’t feel great. It took several repeats of that same succession of events just for me to learn that no matter how hard I fought there was no way I could get out of the water without pressing my feet into the water. Finally, I managed to emerge from the surface and rise above the water. But, I got too excited, and pulled my arms into my chest thinking it would save me from toppling over. I was wrong.
In order to be successful in the sport you must be able to fight that urge. After some practice and supportive coaching you are finally able to allow the boat to pull you forward, up and out of the water. You leave your arms relaxed and straight and let the force of the boat do its work.
The most difficult part of leaving Nobles is having to come to the realization that it is, at last, our time to let go. Whether we like it or not we must try our best to move forward. On to part two, whatever that may be, away from this place that has acted like a second home for so many of us.
Much like water skiing, it is now the moment where we must fight the urge to pull in. Together we will allow our arms to reach out in front of us. However, it is not an act of completely letting go, it’s the decision to allow for some distance, to explore what lies ahead. It is, at last, the end of our ride. This summer we will get a much deserved break where we will wait until a bigger and faster boat comes along. The ride will be more challenging and there may be times where we will fall flat on our faces, legs flailed out behind us. But, we have created a foundation more valuable than we could imagine. Nobles will always stay with us, supporting us as we go forward.
Best of luck to the class of 2018 on their next adventure and the countless milestones that lay ahead. I’ll miss you all, more than you know. Thank you.
Uche Ndukwe ’18, School Life Council Co-president
“Setbacks and Opportunities”
Good morning everyone. Now, before we begin, let me do something I always wanted to do. *Takes selfie.* I saw Mo Afdhal ‘14 do that when I was in middle school, so I decided if I ever got to give a graduation speech I would too.
Over the years here, I have collected so many anecdotes that I found it difficult to choose one for a speech. I could easily talk about how I learned to increase my scholarly tone in Mr. Herring’s United States history class, spending late nights in the Castle designing a hot air balloon for Mr. Kern’s extra credit, or even my time studying Lucretius with Mr. Harrington, a good portion of which we spent discussing his favorite classic hollywood films. I even thought about my time in the middle school here, getting candy from Mrs. Snyder, or going undefeated in football eighth grade year. Believe it or not, we only let up one touchdown that whole season, and the one we did let up was completely Nick Loring’s fault. Sorry Nick, I have forgiven you, but I will never forget.
With these stories in mind, I decided that it would be best to talk about how this community helped keep me grounded as I was forced to redefine myself after my injury.
My story begins close to a year ago. It was June 28, and I was at the Princeton football recruiting camp. It was my fourth camp in the past two weeks, and there was only one drill left, 1 on 1 pass rushing, my favorite. With five minutes left in the camp, I got in my stance one last time. I came out of the line fast, but as I moved towards the cone, I felt someone kick me in the back of my left heel. I assumed it was my opponent trying to stop me from winning the drill, but when I tried to get up, I realized something was wrong. I stayed on the ground for a minute, but I didn’t want to seem soft, so I stumbled off the field to the trainers tent.
The trainer flexed my calf muscle to see if my foot would respond, it didn’t. She told me I had an Achilles injury.
That night in the hotel, I refused to believe my tendon had torn. I told myself that the pain was tolerable, and I even told Will Welch and Dan Monaghan that I would miss a few captains practices, then I would be back on the field leading the team.
Lying in bed next to my brother, I tried to move my foot. I tried to get the slightest wiggle, all I needed was the smallest movement to tell me my tendon wasn’t torn, but my foot did not respond. The next day we drove straight from New Jersey to Newton-Wellesley hospital. I got my MRI done and it was official, my Achilles was torn.
The first thing I did was tell Coach Troy. Over text he reassured me, and told me to contact Mrs. Folgert, our athletic trainer. Then Mrs. Folgert, true to her selfless nature, took it upon herself to make sure I received the best treatment possible. She quickly contacted Dr. Theodore, the foot specialist at Dr. Asnis’s practice, and helped me schedule my surgery.
Over the next few days I experienced the full support of the Nobles community. I received countless emails, cards and texts, and here are two short excerpts from the notes Mrs. Seelen and Mr. Spence sent.
Mrs. Seelen wrote, “If you will allow me to pass on one thought about such setbacks: they let us stop, learn and think about what is important. You, a most thoughtful, introspective, smart and open-minded student, will certainly take this opportunity to reflect. Don’t get down, my friend. The healing happens, and you will have gained something. Consider the gifts.
Thinking of you and wishing you quick healing.”
Mr. Spence echoed, “I know this year was going to be a big one for you athletically with football and basketball and I’m sorry that your playing has been taken from you. This could still be a great year for you in many ways.”
Notes like these gave me a lot of immediate relief, and helped ease the feeling of isolation associated with my injury, but what is most important about these notes is the truth they contain. In her note, Mrs. Seelen described my situation as “an opportunity to reflect” and Mr. Spence said “This could still be a great year for you in many ways.” When I first read these, I was so early in my recovery process that I could not fully appreciate what it meant to reflect on not being an athlete and what it meant to find different ways to be impactful, despite a having part of my identity being stripped away.
My mom and Uncle Warren drove me to the hospital, and the surgery went well, but the rest of my summer was non-existent. I spent most of my time in bed watching a disgusting amount of Netflix. It was a hard time. I didn’t feel like myself. I was detached. I often stayed up late watching TV, and spent the days asleep. Even as I gained more mobility towards the end of the summer I felt like a significant piece of me stayed on my bed in the dark trying to numb the pain from my aching left foot.
The school year brought some amount of happiness back into my life. Being able to work and distract myself from the injury was a blessing. Joking around with my friends and staking out Gleason Hall for Adia to continue our endless game of tag that started last year always made me smile.
By the way, Adia, you probably thought you would be safe during this speech, but I got you. *Points at her.*
But, as the school year progressed, so did my anxiety about the college process. My stress became visible at times, and even when I didn’t want to address it, Mr. De Leon would somehow find me and force me to talk. My goal of playing Division 1 football was seriously in jeopardy. I now had to convince college coaches that I am not only a good player, but that I will also make a full recovery. It was hard, and it was stressful. Like many of my fellow seniors, I spent nights worrying that I wouldn’t be able to find the right school, or be accepted as an injured athlete.
Luckily for me, I had Mrs. Ramsdell and Mrs. Folgert. I don’t think there was a single day this fall and winter that I did not have conversations with at least one of them reassuring me that I would make it through this process. Every time I felt lost in the turbulence of recovering, common apps, and school work their offices were open. In Mrs. Ramsdell’s office, we often spent hours talking about the things I do on and off campus that are not football related: being a middle school mentor, working at my parents’ restaurant, being a part of my church community, and being a musician. I don’t know if she did this on purpose, but Mrs. Ramsdell helped remind me that I had more to offer Nobles than my pass rush, and now that I wasn’t going to practice after school every day, I challenged myself to get to know more members of our class on a personal level, and for the practices and games I did attend, I learned what it meant to lead without playing. I talked about technique and vocally offered any weaknesses I could find in our opponents. I also have to thank Coach Murray, Mr. Cluff and Mr. De Leon for letting me shout and talk as much trash as I did.
My story is a testament to the strength of the Nobles community. I have seen so many of my class members grow and persevere over the years, but when you fall in a place like this, there are always hands to lift you up, but there are two people who deserve thanks that my story did not mention, and I would like to say a quick thank you now.
My mom works late into the nights, and although I can sometimes see how tired owning a business can make her, she still makes time to drop off the sports clothes I forgot at home, or watch my bass recital. She never complains. She is strong.
She is also creative. My mom has the gift of vision. When things seem impossible she is able to look past the shortcomings of the present, and into the splendor of the future. When 9 of us were living cramped in a three bedroom, 1,000 square foot condo in Lincoln, you told me that, one day, you would start a business, and we would leave that condo for your dream home. I hate to admit it, but, at that time, I doubted you. I couldn’t see past the small room I shared with Cyril and Obi and into the future the way you could. Even last year when you started renting a dirty property full of dusty furniture, off of route 9 in Framingham; I saw the grimey floor, the peeling paint, and chipped ceiling, but you saw the business that I could not. You saw the restaurant that you now run. The meals you cook, the plantains, the rice, the chicken, the griot. You saw It despite all the things around you telling you it wasn’t there.
Dad. You are the engine that pushes our family forward. Thank you for coming to this country and supporting yourself through college, so that I wouldn’t have to. Thank you for starting a family. Thank you for all the late nights you spent praying for me and worrying about my future. Thank you for waking me up before school every morning, and diligently coming back into my room when I fell back asleep. Thank you for driving me to games, practices and recitals. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man, and for camping with Obi and me on the wooden living room floor of our old house. Thank you for eating the apple sauce, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and cheese sandwiches I made specially for you as a child, regardless of the imminent gastrointestinal consequences. Thank you for showing me how to care for others, and share our home. Thank you for being my guide and protector, and thank you for dedicating your life to giving me all the things you lacked.
And to both of you, thank you for my culture. Thank you for the plantains and the pounded yams that have kept me well fed all these years, and thank you for the Krompa, and Afro-beats that fill the summer air at our barbeques, and thank you for birthing me into such a wonderful family.
And now that my thank yous are said, I would like to say goodbye to the class of 2018.
I have been truly blessed to be a member of this class, but as graduation drew closer and closer, the anxiety of leaving the friendships I have established grew, until I walked out of Mrs. Seelen’s Creative writing class one day and saw Franklin Holgate, class of ‘17, casually sitting in the junior alcove talking to Will Welch, Chidubem Umeh, and Mike Sullivan. Seeing Franklin helped me realize that graduation does not coincide with the end of the relationships we have all built here.
This summer, the next four years, and for the rest of our lives we will always be the only members of Noble and Greenough School’s class of 2018, and we will always be friends.
Thank you for listening to me speak, God bless and congratulations class of 2018.
Danny Monaghan ’18, Student Speaker
“Stories of Faith, Love and Hope”
Dr. Hall, members of the faculty and staff, trustees, family, friends, and the class of 2018—Good Morning!
From my first day at Nobles, I have been honored and humbled to be a part of this special community. I am even more honored and humbled to stand before you today. For those of us graduating, it may be difficult to pinpoint one moment that defines our collective journey. Together we have experienced enriching and joyous moments, as well as tragic ones. Through it all, there’s a line from the Nobles mission statement that I always came back to when I felt that I might be losing my way. It goes like this, “Through mentoring
relationships, we motivate students to achieve their highest potential and to lead lives characterized by service to others.”
Personally, I love that line, but to be honest, that daunting standard, of leading a life where the true meaning is measured by your service to others can be a bit overwhelming.
What are we expected to do with that?
How do we answer that call?
Where does one begin?
I want to share three stories about my life. One about having faith, one about love, and the last about hope.
I was raised in Medway, a small town 16 miles west of here. As a kid I would go see the Red Sox play a couple times a year, usually just me and my dad. We would drive east on route 109 on our way to Fenway. I can distinctly remember passing the stone wall that surrounds the Noble and Greenough campus. I would think to myself, “what could possibly be on the other side of that wall?” In truth, I had no idea. But it felt different. It felt special. I could only dream. Over the years, there were many trips with my father past 10 Campus Drive. He often would talk about the importance of believing in something bigger than myself. It was those conversations when passing Nobles that had me thinking something over that wall was life-changing. The faith my dad had in me gave me the courage to venture beyond that rock wall.
In the sixth grade we had an assembly in our school’s small auditorium—about 250 of us all packed in. There was a man standing on the stage watching students flow in. There I was, a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than any other kid in that gym.
As soon as we all took our seats, the man walked to the center of the stage, pointed at me, and said, “young man, come here.” I made my way to the stage and when I reached him, he thundered, “Young man, do you love your mother?” Yeah of course I love my mother. Years later, I realized why he singled me out:
He knew that every fat kid loves his mother.
He now had everyone’s attention. You could hear a pin drop. He shouted, “This young man is going to take out his phone, he’s going to call his mother, and he is going to tell her what she means to him and then he is going to tell her much he loves her!”
So I did just that, in front of everybody. On speaker phone, I told my mom that she meant the world to me and that I loved her more than anything. I did it not just because he told me to do it, but because I meant it. In your life you need to have and show love. For something and someone.
The last experience happened this year. Tragically a member of our community passed away. Being the incredible friend and teammate that he was, McCrae made such an everlasting impact on so many of us. When the administration informed us that he had passed, I can remember running out of Lawrence Auditorium feeling empty. Just hopeless. I ran to find my advisor Mr. Becker who had also been McCrae’s advisor. I ran him down and hugged him. I can remember him telling me, “It’s going to be ok.” He was there for me in a time of sorrow, just like every other faculty member and student was there for each other. We grabbed on to the shred of hope that we had and, in time, this community rekindled that hope. We showed that we could overcome any adversity. We could be champions togethers.
This world needs champions now more than ever. Our Nobles education and the experiences we’ve shared together have prepared us all to be champions for those in need. I’m going to leave you with a ten word, ten syllable quote, so when the rock wall looks a little too imposing, or love is running low, or there’s little hope to hold on to, we can all remember this:
“If it is to be, it is up to me.
If it is to be, it is up to me.”
As individuals, we decide the role faith will play in our lives, how much hope to grab onto, and how hard we’ll love.
Thank you—and congratulations to my classmates, good luck and God Bless.
Jill Radley ’18, Student Speaker
“A Thank You To the DMV”
Many of you know this already, but two years ago, I, like many other Nobles students, went down to Needham Driving School, with my pre-bought lanyard in my pocket and the hopes of passing my driver’s test. But, I, not like too many other Nobles students, got out of the car with “failed,” written on my permit. On my way back to my mom’s car, tears ready to erupt at the surface, I had to walk past Hannah Lordi as she approached me with that innocent smile and tell her “I just failed.” Hannah will still claim this story as her own, only it goes something like “Jill scared me half to death right before my test and I got so nervous I almost failed!” Hannah, I’m sorry that you almost failed your driver’s test.
While it doesn’t sound like this was the end of the world, it was. My sad Spotify playlist is still called “I just failed my driver’s test.” I had to get dropped off the following Monday on my first day of my first real job by my dad, where my co-workers mistook me for one of the new campers.
(Maybe I should have lowered my hopes after I ran over that squirrel during a driving hour a few weeks before, but I was still devastated when the woman at the DMV looked me right in the face and said, “Your parallel park was not good. It was not good at all.”)
At Nobles, it is not too often we hear the words “you failed.” You cannot even get an “F” on a test or in a class here; we call it “E.” Sure, we’ve all bombed a test or quiz, got caught driving down to the MAC, been cut from a team or declined a role we really wanted, but no one stands there on the other side waiting to stamp “Failed,” on your face after you go through these things. As cheesy as it sounds, every failure I’ve had during my four years here has shaped me into who I am standing before you today. That includes the 51% on my physics test, the time I tripped over myself catching a routine fly ball during a softball game, and the two times I ripped my pants at school.
Rather, at Nobles, our little failures accumulate over the years, passing us by disguised as “slip-ups,” or “flukes,” because the word “failure” often comes with a sense of finality. I would argue that failure is rather a means to an end as opposed to an end itself. For many of us, hardship or disappointment has marked the best of beginnings—Esther Lovett turned her greatest challenge into her greatest success with her work for The Concussion Legacy Foundation, Patrick Stevenson played football and rowed crew his freshman year, and raced for JV skiing for 3 years. He wound up on the sailing team, although the ladder didn’t work out too well. We now know Patrick as the guy who yells “hey beautiful!” in the halls and darts around the ultimate frisbee field like a champ, and I bet most of you don’t remember these early attempts at an athletic career. Bella Riehl was cut from JV Field Hockey freshman year. Four years later, she wound up Varsity XC Captain and ran the 2018 Boston Marathon.
It is easy to let your failures identify you, but it is what you do after said “failure” that makes up who you choose to be, just as the seniors I’ve mentioned, and many that I didn’t, have learned to do.
When I was at the peak of my struggles with anxiety, I remember sitting on the couch crying because I thought I had failed a biology test. In that moment, my mom recited to me this quote by DeVon Franklin: “The truth is, you and I are in control of only two things: how we prepare for what might happen and how we respond to what just happened.”
The way Nobles teaches us to prepare for tests, games and performances is evident in each of the students dressed in white and navy that surround me and the successes they have realized over the years. We see that all the time. But what often goes unnoticed is how we have grown, how we have handled hardship and loss, and how we have learned to respond to everything that has happened to us since we’ve been here. Nobles has taught us the importance of reaction, of what you do after, and because of that we have allowed nothing to become a “setback.” We are always moving forward, even if sometimes we veer a little right instead of left.
I have undeniably changed a lot over these past four years—from hiding away crying in the arts center bathroom because I handed in my HHC paragraph late, to crying openly in Gleason because one of my best friends got into college.
I learned how to put the book away and go see the musical with my friends, because those are the nights we remember. I learned that asking for help is not admitting that you’ve failed but telling failure to shove off. I learned the irony in saying something “didn’t go your way.” By definition, whatever path you end up on is in fact your way—we should rather be saying something didn’t take you the way the map said it would. So yes, I have changed. I ditched the map a while ago.
We have all changed. And it didn’t happen after one assembly, although Matthew Salomon’s performance of Fergalicious arguably had that effect on some people. It more so happened in the way that you take a few different turns and back roads and you end up a couple minutes out of the way. It happened in the way you sit in a car traveling 70 miles per hour but you don’t feel like you’re moving. The structure immediately around you remains constant, and when you look out the window it’s almost as if the cars and buildings on the outside are moving backwards, rather than you moving forwards. But we’ve all traveled places.
Our class has had its moments. We each go at our own pace. There have certainly been collisions, sometimes you run out of gas, and everyone hits a bump. But, at the end of the day, someone is always there to pick you up on the side of the road. That literally happened one time. Thanks, Maddie. Ok, it happened two times. Thanks, Hannah for picking me up at 7-11 when I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to drive with a flat tire. Part of me feels unqualified to be preaching this extended metaphor at you, considering I already told you I failed my driver’s test the first time. But then again, I have more experience taking my driver’s test than most of you amateurs.
So, on behalf of our well-traveled class, I want to thank Nobles, thank my family, thank my friends, my classmates, my teachers, my coaches, and everyone who has picked us up on the side of the road. I want to thank you for teaching me that there is no such thing as “I’m lost.” There is only “on my way,” even if that means you’ve accidentally ended up on the scenic route. We’ll get there. I promise. And the best part about a long road trip is having stories to tell when you finally arrive.
To the Class of 2018, I cannot wait to hear all of yours.