Noble and Greenough School graduated 118 members of the Class of 2013 on an unseasonably steamy morning May 31. Extra water and sunscreen were in abundance; most boys and men shed their jackets to battle the more than 90-degree heat and blazing sun.

The ceremony included announcements of awards and the granting of diplomas to a class characterized by its willingness to work hard and its kindness. Speakers shared words of wisdom learned from tragedy, innovation, and making mistakes.

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Class of 2013: Seen & Heard
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Alden Mauck, Faculty Speaker

“The ’38 Hurricane and ‘This is our City!'”

Good morning.

Let me begin by apologizing to the Poli family. Right now they must be asking themselves: “Didn’t that guy give the graduation speech when Chris graduated back in ‘04? Do we really have to listen to him twice?” I also want all of you to know that I have taken today’s heat into consideration and considerably shortened my speech; I have drastically edited “Section five,” and deleted almost all of “Part Two,” and if I read quickly I should finish in less than 40 minutes.

The best part of that line is that now Bob Henderson is as nervous as I am!

It is my honor to give the graduation speech for the Class of 2013, an outstanding class and one that I know quite well. I have taught many of you, coached a few, watched many of you compete on fields, in the  rink, and on the courts, and marveled at you on the stage as singers and actors. You are an exceptional group of talented young men and women.

However, I also know many of you from my morning post outside of Lawrence Auditorium. In fact there are some of members of your class that I only know from seeing you at 8:01…or 8:05…or 8:17. Actually, there was one boy I sometimes didn’t see until 8:45…but more on Mason in a moment. In the mornings Mr. Resor, Mr. Jankey, and I form what we believe is an impenetrable steel curtain designed to catch Nobles students who arrive late (even though our boss, Carol Derderian, thinks otherwise and will frequently tell us: “You’re all soft.”)

But before I get to the worst offenders amongst you, let me mention some in the Honorable Mention Category:

Kayla, Arielle, and Alexa were sometimes late but so sweet and nice, we would excuse them whenever possible. On the other hand Sleeper and Fitz were neither sweet nor nice, just late, and their buddy Henry Bell always strolled in eating his breakfast and once said to us: “Late? It was only 7:58 when I parked at the rink.” Emily McElvoy would beg for “another chance,” and John Sargent was either too polite or too caffeinated to be truly bothered. Poor Sophie Mussafer was never able to keep up with Olivia, who must have ditched Sophie at their car. Chris Calnan was late whether he was a boarder or a day student. Connor Costello tried to saunter in cool and casual, but he’s not really that cool. Josh St. Fort was much cooler…but still late. Catherine, Emma, and Ilana would surrender to their fate with good-natured disappointment, and Devin would arrive breathless so it at least appeared that she had been running to get to school on time.

But there were some who distinguished themselves by their late arrivals. Jake Bennett came late with other students whom he drove to school and then played upon our sympathy for that poor Claire Dardinski. Jake must have told her: “Look Claire when we get to school, tell Mauck and Resor there was traffic. Just do it.”

Mason Pulde sometimes got to school so late he arrived in the middle of first period class, which happened to be my class. But Mason could always throw himself on the mercy of Mrs. Derderian, and she took care of him. Mrs. Derderian is really the one who is the softie.

But far and away the worst offender of all was Mark Poli, who refused to come to school until Blue Moon Bagel Cafe had prepared his breakfast sandwich just right. In fact one day Mark maintained that he should be excused because Blue Moon had screwed up his order and they were the ones responsible for his Tardy Unexcused. To those in the Class of 2013 whom I have not mentioned, I say…good for you! 

Thanks for getting to school on time—most days.

Let me now turn to a subject more fitting to the opportunities and also to the responsibilities that this senior class should consider as they leave Nobles today.

In Epic Literature and the Monsters, Swords, and Heroes class we talked a great deal about heroes like Achilles and Hector, Beowulf and Gawain—sword-wielding white men from ancient times. But we also discussed Amram, an African Jew who roamed the Silk Road, and Ma Kilman and Shori, Black women of more modern times who healed others and placed their communities above individual deeds and glory.

From this literature, I take two lessons: First, heroes come from all races and religions, from all corners of the globe, and from both genders. Second, it is clear that all communities need heroes, and this school and this city of Boston are no different: We, too, need our heroes. So let me discuss some local heroes with you.

Every summer for six generations my family has headed to the same town on the Rhode Island shore, so I grew up hearing stories about hurricanes. And in Rhode Island when you talk about hurricanes, you start with the ’38 Hurricane.

In 1938, there was no television or Internet, no “Weather Channel,” no Jim Cantore in an L.L.Bean slicker standing outside a Holiday Inn waiting for a hurricane’s arrival. The ’38 Hurricane arrived with no warning and its destruction was apocalyptic. The hurricane killed almost 800 people, most of them in Rhode Island. The storm surge along the Rhode Island coast rose 25 feet above the coinciding high tide, literally washing away entire neighborhoods, twisting railroad tracks like pipe cleaners, throwing cars into harbors and ships onto streets.

Downtown Providence was 13 feet underwater, and New London, Conn., was flooded before the city caught fire and burned out of control for hours. In New Bedford, which boasted one of the busiest harbors in New England, over two thirds of all the boats were sunk that afternoon. Arnold Arboretum estimated 100 million trees were downed in Massachusetts alone, and from New York to Vermont, a total of 2 billion trees were destroyed by the hurricane. The Blue Hill Observatory measured a gust from the ’38 Hurricane at 186 miles per hour.

In Stonington, Conn., the Bostonian, an afternoon train from New York City headed to Boston, was caught in the middle of the ’38 Hurricane, and the storm surge stopped the train in the middle of the trestle at the northern end of Stonington’s harbor.

As the water rose around the train, the Bostonian’s engineer, Harry Easton, pushed the throttle and forced the train as far as he could despite the locomotive being tangled by downed telegraph poles and the tracks blocked by a house and a large schooner. The track bed had been washed away by the rushing storm surge, and train cars began to list into the rising water either side of the trestle, and then boats from Stonington harbor blown loose from docks and moorings began to ram into the stalled train.

Passengers were moved into the first car for safety, and a crewman, Bill Donoghue, dove beneath the stranded train to uncouple the locomotive and first car from the rest of the train. The Conductor Joseph Richards reached into the swirling water and pulled Donoghue back onto the train just before he was swept away. The engineer was able to move the locomotive and first car to higher ground, and passengers were advised by the crew to jump and swim to safety; some were able to make it to shore while others were lost in the raging waters.

On the day of the ’38 Hurricane, the Bostonian was carrying students from the Fessenden school, St. Mark’s School and the Noble and Greenough School. Mrs. Auguste Richard was also traveling with her daughter on the Bostonian that day. In A Wind to Shake the World, Everett Allen details the plight of Mrs. 

Richard and her daughter once they jumped into the rough water that surrounded the train.

“Her daughter was struck by a floating tree limb and fractured her leg as they swam away from the flooded cars; they were assisted in escaping by Stephen Glidden, 16, of Dover, a pupil at Noble and Greenough, and by Edward Brown, a student at MIT, fellow passengers.”

Imagine that in that terrible and deafening swirl of wind and water, in the midst of the most powerful hurricane to hit New England, Stephen Glidden at age 16 was able to provide assistance and comfort, to exhibit courage and compassion both admirable and at the time essential.

That day on the Bostonian there were many acts of calm decision and outright courage—by the train crew to be sure, but also by ordinary people who had simply boarded an afternoon train in New York eager to get to Boston, and one of those ordinary heroes was Stephen Glidden. I first read A Wind to Shake the World long before I had heard of Nobles, but when I reread the book recently, I proudly noted the actions and contributions of Stephen Glidden, from the Noble and Greenough School’s Class of 1941.

I know that many of you from Nobles—seniors, faculty, middle schoolers, and parents—were at the Boston Marathon this past Patriots Day. Some of you ran for various charities including the Nobles Marathon Fund, others cheered on family and friends, some of you were simply enjoying a beautiful day at the finish line, or maybe you were among the millions just watching the last finishers on television out of the corner of your eye.

And then everything changed.

As a few of you know, I am a devout Baltimore Orioles fan, but after the bombings at the Marathon, even I was happy that the Red Sox won that first game back at Fenway after the chase, shootout, lockdown, and arrest in Watertown. I cheered as Dick Hoyt came out onto the field pushing his son Rick; I appreciated the cheers for the police; I loved the huge American flag unfurled off the Green Monster, and I even found myself humming along with Neil Diamond when he came out to sing “Sweet Caroline.” And I think we were all swept up by David Ortiz’s genuine if colorful assertion that “this is our city.”

“This is our city.” The pride, determination, and outright toughness of that statement seemed if not to close, at least to sum up a week full of tragedy for numerous Boston area families and full of considerable fear and distress for many more of us. However it was also a week of incredible strength and resolve, of courageous action, displayed by nurses and doctors, by EMT’s and firemen, and by police officers from Boston, MIT, the MBTA and Watertown.

Most importantly the week after those bombings showcased spontaneous and unheralded heroism and community loyalty, displayed by ordinary citizens who reacted by doing the extraordinary—by helping strangers severely injured, by giving blood after having run a marathon, by checking a boat’s displaced tarp in a Watertown backyard, and by coming out to applaud police officers who had bravely performed their duty.

The bombings may have occurred on Patriots Day in Boston, but the following week of patriotic heroism is what I will also remember.

Will you in this senior class be called upon as Stephen Glidden was by the ’38 hurricane? Or as many Bostonians were on Patriots Day? Or as others in Oklahoma have been called upon recently by the destructive power of a tornado? I hope you will not be confronted with such dire events. But I have faith that you will rise to whatever challenges and responsibilities you do encounter.

And here is why I believe this—all of you in various ways have already accomplished feats and exhibited talents that prove you are ready to contribute to the greater good, to be admirable representatives of this school.

You have been leaders of teams, both those that won championships and those that competed hard, win or lose. You have rowed and kicked, passed and pinned, checked and shot, always wearing the Nobles Shield, always representing the rest of us with your skill and sportsmanship.

You have published a great newspaper and a fine literary magazine; you have lead MSA, ACC, B2B, Sister 2 Sister and pushed Nobles to be a more diverse and hospitable school for those who will come after you. You have played music—jazz and orchestral—sung songs, and acted in comedy and tragedy, contributing to the growing reputation of Nobles as a school that produces and values outstanding music and theater. And don’t even get me going on the Drowsy Chaperone…It was fantastic.

As artists, you provided Nobles with its most impressive AP Art show, full of paintings, drawings, photographs, and ceramics that demonstrated an aesthetic and intellectual appreciation of both process and product.

And some of you have dared to venture beyond the wall that rings this campus by traveling to help others and to seek adventure in Romania and South Africa, in Cambodia and India, in New Orleans and New York…even the Bahamas.

Most importantly, as graduates of Nobles you are amongst the brightest that this city, this region, this country has to offer. Those of us who have taught you have done our best to provide you opportunities to sharpen your intellectual engagement in literature and history, in math and science, in art and music, and in languages—both modern and classic. You have risen to the expectations of your teachers, and in doing so you have made our classes more interesting, more stimulating, and more fun.

But there is more for you to do.

With your education, your accomplishments, your abilities, and with your Noble and Greenough diploma comes the responsibility for you to represent this school, to contribute, to lead. So leave here today with our respect and with our affection, ready to join Stephen Glidden and others from this school and from this city, prepared to make a difference; willing to be loyal citizens and if need be to be heroes.

Thank you and best of luck to you all.

Head of School's Remarks by Bob Henderson Jr '76

The big event in Lebanon, N.H., on November 17,1847, was the opening of the railroad. This was a huge civic moment. Everyone in the community came. Indeed, people traveled from all around the state, and some came all the way from Boston (an arduous, multi-day journey by carriage or horse in those days, to get to the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River). The railroad, it was felt, would convert Lebanon from a small country town into an important regional crossroads for commerce and travel.

The guest of honor was Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster. Born in New Hampshire and a graduate of Dartmouth College, both states claimed him as their own with equal vigor. Webster was an orator of astounding ability, and oratory, in an age without any radio or television, was both a profoundly valued skill and an essential form of public entertainment. Plus, Webster always looked and acted the part of the “distinguished senator.” Indeed, one of his political contemporaries once quipped that no man could possibly be as great as Daniel Webster looked and sounded.

So you have to imagine the setting as Webster addressed the gathered crowd. Slowly the wind filled his sails as he spoke without notes, as he built to his bellowing conclusion. His topic was the wondrous period in which they lived in the 1840s, because of the technological leaps of the day, such as the railroad line they were inaugurating.

Webster said: “It is an extraordinary era in which we live. It is altogether new. The world has seen nothing like it before. I will not pretend, no one can pretend, to discern the end; but everybody knows that the age is remarkable still for the application of this scientific research to the pursuits of life. The ancients saw nothing like it. The moderns have seen nothing like it till the present generation…We see the ocean navigated and the solid land traversed by steam power, and intelligence communicated by electricity. Truly this is almost a miraculous era. What is before us no one can say, what is up on us no one can hardly realize. The progress of the age has almost outstripped human belief; the future is known only to Omniscience.”

That sense of amazement at the impact of new technology is from over 165 years ago. While Webster seemed to know that there would be many more changes to come, he could not possibly have imagined where we are today. The difference for him, as compared to the graduating seniors sitting before you, is that the rate of technological change in 1847 was a new reality in and of itself. In contrast, for the Class of 2013, the extraordinary, accelerated pace of change in today’s world is a fact of life, a condition of their existence. Completely disruptive change will likely occur many times in their lifetimes. We all marvel at the technologies that now dominate our culture, yet it is not the technologies themselves that really amaze me. Rather, it is the adaptation of humanity to the pace of change itself that I believe is so remarkable. I would posit that when the Class of 2013 gathers here in the year 2063 for their 50th Reunion, the world they live in will be utterly transformed in ways that we cannot remotely predict today.

Given the the ongoing and profound transformation of our world, what is in a Nobles education that will matter in 50 years? One thing is almost for certain—these students will have immediate and unlimited access to data and information. Using a cell phone, or whatever device for personal communication that evolves in the years ahead,everyone will be able to get any question answered instantly. So teaching and learning cannot be simply about packing heads full of statistics and facts. Yet I believe there are things that are and will remain transcendent about their experience here, and I hope these are skills and experiences that they will take away as they depart today.

The capacity to understand, evaluate and utilize data will be more important than ever in the future. The ability to think clearly, and to reason through complexity and ambiguity will be at a premium. Effective communication, both in writing and orally, will matter immensely. Successful collaboration, in small groups and as part of larger teams, and with highly diverse people, will be a critical talent required in every workplace. Creativity and imagination will be viewed as the path to advancement and to solving the myriad problems faced by humanity. And the vision to explore across the individual silos of academic and professional disciplines, to make the intellectual connections between fields of study and work, will be in tremendous demand.

Above all, however, it will always be critical that you think carefully about the sort of person you intend to be. Our mission as a school is not to produce the graduates with the most information crammed into their heads. Rather, our purpose is to impart the elements of character and intellect essential to provide leadership in our society regardless of changing times. It will always be our purpose to develop leaders with the skills I described who can also function with integrity,empathy, honesty and respect. The mission of the school is timeless, and Nobles will remain, as it always has been, a place where we hope to guide students to discover a path to “the life well led” and to make a difference for the better in the world.

This is a very special class to me because I have a significant vested personal interest in it. I extend my thanks, congratulations and very best wishes to the Class of 2013 for the wonderful challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them!

Pat Toomey '13, Student Speaker

“Twenty Miles Away, but a World Apart”

Good morning, everyone.

Being Catholic, I know a bit about the power of confession. I find that confession is a cathartic exercise. It helps to put my mind at ease during times of stress and transition (and I’ve got both of those things going for me today). Throughout my speech, I will pause and confess bits of information that I need to get off my chest. As Mrs. Guy says, “Never worry alone.” For instance, I have concerns about the size of this tent and especially about its structural integrity. Please take a moment to identify your most convenient escape route. Might I suggest to my grandparents that they limber up a bit as a safety precaution? Maybe some squat thrusts? Avoid the freshmen. In any emergency they will just linger like lost cows, so avoid that quagmire.

Now for my second and more serious confession: during the winter of my first year at Nobles, I very much wanted to transfer to another school. I came to Nobles as a sophomore from a charter school in Dorchester. There, I was Summa Cum Laude throughout middle school and junior high. That quickly changed during my first semester at Nobles when I acquired an impressive collection of C’s and D’s. At the time, I said it was because of impossible course loads and teachers, but those weren’t the reasons. Instead, I came to this school with certain assumptions, both about myself and about the types of people that I thought I would meet. Having done so well in my previous school, I figured my performance at Nobles would be equally as successful. I didn’t feel the need to meet with my teachers for extra help, and I didn’t prepare for tests and quizzes as thoroughly as I should have. When this notion proved to be incorrect and my grades began to suffer, I did what many teenage boys do when they face obstacles: nothing.

I was angry. I was angry about my poor grades. I was angry about the high marks that all of my peers received seemingly with ease. I was intimidated and I desperately wanted to leave Nobles. I had never been surrounded by so many people who came from such privilege and this intimidated me, perhaps more than anything. Apart from feeling obliged to purchase a pair of Sperries (which, to be honest, I do not regret), I avoided befriending many of my peers.

I told myself that their success was because of their wealth, not because they worked hard. They fit in at Nobles. They were born to be here, I thought. I didn’t. I wanted out. I told my parents that I wanted out. I was prepared to transfer and then Mr. Guy, my advisor, stepped in and sat me down to talk.

At first, I excused my poor academic performance as being part of a rough transition, something that would soon blow over. But after a few months, I did not foresee it blowing over, because I still could not picture myself becoming a member of this community. Mr. Guy obviously sensed this, because he asked me a straightforward question: “Do you feel like you belong here?” I was taken aback, but I responded: 

“No, I don’t.” As soon as I said it, I felt liberated. Mr. Guy simply nodded, and for the first time I realized that someone at Nobles understood how I felt. Mr. Guy explained to me that students are not accepted to Nobles because they can fail, but because the school has faith in the abilities of those individuals to succeed. “You are not an exception to this rule,” explained Mr. Guy. He was right. Success does not come without hard work and failure, and perseverance is the key. Only when I was able to accept my surroundings, and only when I was able to accept people for who they really were, and only when I was able to accept that I was now a part of something that was more important than just myself, only then could I become resilient enough to do well at Nobles. I never thanked Mr. Guy for sitting me down that day. That conversation changed my life. So, thank you, Mr. Guy.

Now it’s time for my third confession: A message for Mrs. Twohig and the dedicated staff of the Putnam Library—I have acquired a collection of five books by Hemingway, one novel by Faulkner, everything by Salinger, and a book or two by Dickens over the past four years. They make my shelf at home look pretty classy. They are way overdue, so perhaps we can work something out. Also, I never wrote anything on the wall of the boy’s bathroom. Neither did Will Burns.

In my junior year I got involved with MSA, the Multicultural Students Association, at the invitation of Mr. Tejada, the funniest guy I know. MSA taught me how to think about my identity at Nobles. Leading MSA provided me with a platform to address issues that were important to me, particularly ones regarding class. And through this experience I gained confidence, which meant I was no longer making up injuries to get out of JV football practice—who knew that you could pull a hip flexor while sitting on the bench. After all, my only real playing time involved taking the impact test over and over again. Time for my fourth confession: mom, dad, papa, nana, and the rest of my family that is here today: I love you. Also, I have a tattoo on my leg. It’s a Celtic knot about the size of a gerbil. It was an impulsive decision, proof that I still have a lot to learn.

But I digress. We’ve all failed and we’ve used every excuse, but when you eventually get your footing you see how foolishly you behaved. To quote Rocky Balboa: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it.” But when you get up off your knees and gain your footing, you start to become who you were meant to be, because at Nobles they teach us not what to think, but how to think.

This past fall, Ms. Brennan told my Modernist Movement class about Professor David Foster Wallace, a brilliant but tormented author whose Kenyon College commencement speech from 2005 speaks to what we all know to be true. Mr. Wallace wrote: “Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience, because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

You may not have to reinvent yourself the way that I did, but we have all been taught how to be generous, compassionate, and aware citizens of the world. That gives us the power to determine the way we navigate life’s obstacles.

Since you’re not going to remember any of this, I would like to end with a suggestion and a piece of advice. My suggestion is for the English department: keep changing that English curriculum. One suggestion, please get rid of Beloved. I admit, it is a masterpiece of modern literature, but only eight kids in my class really understood it. Even replacing it with a book by E.O. Wilson, or Paul Caudros, would be a gift.

Now for my piece of advice: know when to leave. In six months I’ll be turning 20. It’s time I leave Nobles. Going to my fourth Nobles prom would just be wrong.

I don’t pretend to have any more answers at this point than anyone else. In fact, I probably have more questions coming out of this place than I did coming in, and that’s how it should be. But what I do know is that Nobles has given us the greatest gift that any of us have ever received: the gift of itself.

With that gift comes not only a first class education but also a duty to give back, to both the school as well as to the world.

Let’s see what we can do.

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