Tomorrow the Columbus Academy celebrates its 100th anniversary. It has been an important institution for Columbus generally, and for the Webner family specifically, and its 100th birthday is well worth celebrating. When I was thinking about how to recognize the occasion, I remembered that Kish and I were asked to give remarks at the senior luncheon when Russell graduated from the Academy in 2007. Those remarks were given in the heat of the moment, when many years of being an Academy parent were rapidly coming to a close, but they still ring true today. I’ve reprinted them below, and apologize in advance for their length:
With the graduation of our son Russell, we are ending 15 years as parents of Columbus Academy students – a period that began when our older son, Richard, walked into kindergarten holding hands with an Academy senior. I’d like to thank the school for inviting us to say a few words today.
As I look around the room, I see four distinct groups – parents, teachers, administration, and students. Let me start by talking about the parents, being one myself.
The parents of the Class of 2007 are a diverse set of men and women. However, we all share one important characteristic. That’s right – we all know, deep down, that our child is gifted. What a coincidence!
Over the years, we have sat through the lower school recorder concerts, we have attended the parent-teacher meetings, and we have rooted for the school teams through victory and defeat – with occasional heckling of referees, of course.
And, at times we have watched, our hearts brimming with pride, as our previously shy – albeit gifted – child gave a powerful junior speech, or as our previously lethargic – albeit gifted – child became energized about physics, or painting, or field hockey. Those are the parental moments that make it all worthwhile; when we shake our heads in wonder at when our child became so articulate, so focused, and so interesting to be around.
Thanks to our fellow parents.
The Academy teachers also are a diverse crew, but they, too, share a unifying characteristic – they have had to deal with parents who are convinced that our children are gifted. It can’t be easy.
Over the years, these dedicated teachers have helped to bring out the gifts that we know our children possess. They have nurtured the creative spark, introduced our children to poetry and calculus, encouraged the actor, singer, and speaker, coached the team and chaperoned the dance. They have edited the college essays and written the heartfelt recommendations.
And, at times, they have been rewarded in ways that probably made them want to be teachers in the first place — when they saw a student’s first glimmer of comprehension of a difficult concept, or heard the thoughtful observation about the Shakespearean play, or witnessed the carefully cultivated talent finally — and amazingly — burst forth.
On this occasion, I want to convey our heartfelt gratitude to our Academy teachers for all of their efforts.
The efforts of members of the administration also are important. It is the leadership and skill of our administration that has allowed our gifted children to grow, and learn, and develop.
The administration has provided the structure that is essential to a successful school. When necessary, they have disciplined our gifted children – and, I would guess, given gentle direction to some parents as well. They addressed the small problems to make sure they did not become big problems, they maintained the open channels of communication, and they provided reassurance and security. They hired our fine teachers and coaches.
And so, today I want to express our thanks to John Mackenzie, Mike Belcher, and the rest of the Academy administration for a job well done.
That brings me, finally, to the students – that gifted group that makes up the Class of 2007. Guess what? The students of the Class of 2007 are gifted, but in ways that we parents did not, perhaps, expect. Sure, you students are intelligent, artistic, creative, and athletic – but we parents all knew that already.
What we did not know is that this Class would be gifted in other ways. For, over the years, we have seen that it is an extraordinarily cohesive and mutually supportive bunch that is especially welcoming to new students who have joined its ranks.
This is a class of good friends – people who like each other, who share a close bond, who root for each other’s teams and attend each other’s shows and concerts, who tolerate each other’s foibles and rough edges, and who truly want each other to succeed. These are qualities that will serve the Class of 2007 well as it ventures out to college and then to the world.
Members of the Class of 2007, I think you can always count on each other to provide a strong network of support as you move forward in your lives. I expect that, as reunions of Academy classes occur in the future, the reunions of this Class will always be among the most well attended. I want to thank each of you, because it has been a pleasure watching you grow and develop, and an honor to have our son call you his classmates – and his friends.
And now, for this Class, we all have reached the eve of the supreme hour. We have seen this institution take our gifted children and shape them into the fine young people that are here today. And as the day of graduation draws near, we realize that the greatest gift of all has been our years in this place, with this Class, and the memories that we will share and treasure forever.