Brunswick School welcomed nearly 900 parents and faculty, filling Burke Fieldhouse to capacity, for its Annual Meeting & Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 12.
Headmaster Thomas W. Philip began his remarks by paying tribute to Greg Hartch ’88, who served as chairman of the board of trustees for four years, and thanking Tom O’Malley ’85 for his loyalty and dedication in succeeding Hartch in the leadership position.
Philip’s address focused on society’s relatively new and overwhelming obsession with the “present” — the “here” and “now” — and our collective struggle to manage and respond to a growing array of online distractions and urgencies.
“As I think about it, this, in itself, shouldn’t be a surprise,” Philip said. “Our experience with technology has required us to spend more and more time alone. We drift away from the people around us and into our own, very narrow slice of the ‘present’ moment — to check email, respond to a text, post on social media, play a game, or watch a video.”
“After thousands of years of human experience, in the short span of a little more than a decade, we find ourselves in an everlasting ‘present,’ in which no promise need be fulfilled and no assertion need be proven false or true. We struggle each and every day just to find the time to look back or look ahead — and even to look directly at each other — in preoccupation with ‘endless urgencies’ created for us online and demanding our attention.”
In this context, he cited the words of President Dwight Eisenhower: “What is important,” Eisenhower said, “is seldom urgent. And what is urgent is seldom important.”
That is where great schools — schools like Brunswick and Greenwich Academy — come in, Philip said.
“One of Brunswick’s greatest strengths is our institutional depth of experience,” he said. “Because we’ve been preparing young men for college and for life for over 117 years, we know what works and what doesn’t. More significantly, we know what matters and what doesn’t and we’ve stayed the course — always putting what’s right for the boys foremost in our minds and actions.”
As an example, Philip cited the school’s new Vermont campus, where Upper School boys venture for a week in small groups to become “unplugged” and truly engaged with one another.
He also announced Brunswick’s careful and comprehensive efforts to formulate its new five-year strategic plan, which begins as follows:
“Brunswick School seeks to launch boys and young men from diverse backgrounds and experiences on a life-long journey marked by excellence in their endeavors, ethics in their actions and empathy towards others.”
Philip also noted that the centuries-old cathedral of Notre Dame, which was nearly consumed by flames as the world watched in horror this past April, took nearly 200 years to build — and many of the builders, who dedicated their entire lives to its construction, knew they’d never see it completed.
“As such, their work may have been in the ‘present,’ but their focus was always on making way for generations to come,” Philip said.
“The craftsmen of Notre Dame didn’t build for themselves — they knowingly and willingly created for others,” Philip said. “In the same way, we want our Brunswick graduates to live a life not so much for themselves, but for others.
“As we start the 2019 school year, it is worth reminding us all that there can be no greater expression of Courage, Honor, and Truth than that.”