Brunswick School joined together on Thursday, Sept. 17, for a first-of-its-kind, virtual Annual Meeting that featured heaps of gratitude for all the work that has been done by so many to open school this fall, as well as thoughtful reflections on one of the most enduring tenants of a Brunswick education: courage.
The Annual Dinner traditionally sees hundreds of parents and faculty fill Burke Field House to capacity for a cheerful evening of community, as school leaders welcome new families to Brunswick, and set the stage for a new year of learning.
This September, because of the pandemic, the event was held virtually, with Chairman of the Board of Trustees Thomas D. O’Malley, Jr. ’85, P ’12, ’15, ’21 delivering his report from Baker Theater.
“Good evening,” O’Malley said as he opened the event. “Thank you all for joining us for our first — and I hope last — virtual annual meeting.”
Reporting on the state of the school, O’Malley said that Brunswick continues to see exceptional results in all its benchmarks, from college acceptances to SAT scores to record-breaking support for the Annual Fund in a difficult year.
He cited especially the opening of a new, state-of-the-art track and field facility on the Middle School campus, which now provides a home for varsity soccer, and he also set a vision for the future with early detail of nascent planning in “what promises to be a transformative initiative in financial aid.”
Head of School Thomas W. Philip offered his remarks from the Altman Room on the Upper School campus.
He acknowledged the “unprecedented challenge” of the present moment in all our lives.
“I’m deeply sorry we aren’t all truly together in person,” he began. “For 118 years, Brunswick has been a community with great respect for tradition — and one of those happy traditions has been our annual coming together as parents and teachers ‘under one roof’ to welcome new families and cheer the beginning of the new school year.”
Philip said history shows us that moments like this one are not unusual, and he offered a summary of the stunning challenges people faced throughout the 20th century.
He cited a column by New York Times writer David Brooks, who likened 2020 to a “shipwreck,” as he also described the important work of character formation in the education of great leaders.
“Those leaders,” Brooks wrote, “were trained by people who assumed life would throw up hard and unexpected tests, and it was the job of a school to produce young people who would be” — in terms appropriate for the time — “acceptable at a dance, invaluable in a shipwreck.”
Philip said the present moment has reminded him of what Brunswick has always known — that education must include practice in one of the most important muscles of life: courage.
“In our coming here together now in this virtual way, ‘under many rooves,’ I’m reminded that courage has actually been the strongest and most durable thread of Brunswick’s institutional fabric since the very start.”
Philip named eight watchwords of courage as they have come to bear on the education of Brunswick boys, describing in detail the qualities Brunswick seeks to nurture as it prepares boys for life in a changing world.
They are awareness, thoughtfulness, imagination, patience, resilience, strength, connection, and choice.
“Our strategy has always been deliberate and consistent: Brunswick’s approach to preparing boys to thrive in a world of change — to making sure ‘they have what it takes’ — is, as it has always been, encompassed by these watchwords of courage.
“Parents and boys — if perhaps you’re looking over your mom’s and dad’s shoulders — have no doubt: The new school year has begun! And it promises to be a year like no other.
“And, while your boys are under our Brunswick ‘roof,’ you have our strongest assurances that we’ll do everything in our power to safeguard their health and safety during this most challenging of times.
“On behalf of our entire faculty, we’re honored and privileged by the trust you’ve placed in us, and so grateful to you for sharing your wonderful sons with us this year.”