By Kate O’Farrell ’22 and Emma Smith ’22
The Gunnery officially began its 170th year with Convocation on Friday, September 6, 2019. The year commenced with the student body and faculty gathering for a formal dinner followed by a trip to the Meeting House on the Green for the ceremony. Convocation is when the whole community comes together for the first time of the year; it celebrates new and returning members of the community as well as people’s achievements from the previous year.
The ceremony began with a prayer from Mr. Small and a speech from Mr. Becker about the importance of trees in our lives and community. He related this back to the all-school reading assignment for summer of 2019, The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben, claiming the importance of trees on the Gunnery campus. He also mentioned back to the earliest picture of a baseball game taken outside the Meeting House with a tree that still stands to this day. He ended his speech by comparing trees to the Gunnery community, how we work together and how we should be working together to form a community that supports each other just as trees do.
After Mr. Becker’s speech, Mrs. Gum awarded the top scholar award to Grace Noh ‘22, Karen Zhu ‘21, and Jolie Kaplan ‘20. The top scholar award is an honor that goes to one student in each grade that had the highest overall GPA out of the class the previous year. It is a very prestigious award that takes a lot of hard work to achieve. Mrs. Gum explained how each of the girls achieved this award in their own way. Grace Noh ‘22 had two classes with an average of 99% or Karen Zhu ‘21 who had average academic merit of above 6. She urged that the top scholars are great role models for the school and they show the very best of academic prowess at the Gunnery.
Subsequent to the announcement of top scholars by Mrs. Gum, Mr. Lowe came up to share some words about this year’s head prefect, Andrew Byrne-King ‘20. Andrew mentioned what a good student and person Andrew is and how he is the right person to lead our school this year. Then, Andrew ’20 gave the annual Convocation speech by the Head Prefect, he told of his experience in finding The Gunnery.
He told the school about how there was a time in his life when he, “didn’t know what direction I was going in” and that he felt, “alone and unimportant”. He told about how the Gunnery might not have been where he wanted to go when his mother enrolled him but ultimately it ended up being the best place for him. After talking about his acceptance to The Gunnery he spoke about being a prefect and the beginning of his time as a prefect here. He said that he and the prefects, “sat in McCutcheon for around three hours, discussing what we wanted to do.” He really wants to create a more accepting, welcoming community here at The Gunnery. He ended his speech by saying “there is no rule book for what a highlander is supposed to be, and that’s the point. We are all highlanders, and no one can change that.”
Following Andrew’s speech, Mr. Becker came up to introduce this year’s recipient of the ‘55 Distinguished Teacher Award. After 13 year as a crucial part of the Gunnery’s community, Mr. Bailey was awarded this achievement. Mr. Bailey is a very prominent member of the science department. He teaches physics at all levels and is always willing to help everyone.
In his speech, Mr. Bailey talked about how much he loves The Gunnery, why he chose to join the Gunnery community, and what he has learned since he came to our school. Mr. Bailey explains that when he first arrived at The Gunnery he was very busy, saying “as I ran from class to sports, to study hours, to dorm duty and back again, I spent a lot of time wondering, ‘What have I gotten myself into?'”
He soon realized that the Gunnery had more to it then it may seem. Mr. Bailey went on to talk about how much the students have taught him over the years and that he learned from them every day. He also talked about how The Gunnery thrives when individuals come together to make a community: “it’s Gunnery as a community that makes each of us more than we can be alone,” he said.
The last thing Mr. Bailey said he learned is how beautiful The Gunnery is. He says that not only is the campus beautiful, but “it took teaching here to see that it’s the simple things people do for each other that is the real beauty of Gunnery.” He talked about how not everyone can be a hero but you always have the chance to change someone’s life. He ended his speech by talking about how The Gunnery community does this daily helping each other with problems big and small, but in the end, they help lift up our community as a whole. Mr. Bailey’s speech has put emphasis on working together as a whole rather than separately and he has inspired the community to work together to make all of ourselves better, students, teachers, and faculty included.