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Championing Education

In her opening remarks for Awards Day in May, Mary Halpin Carter shared recollections of her grandfather and the value he placed on education:

Welcome faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends. On Awards Day, we celebrate learning and achievement. We celebrate those students who have accomplished a lot in many fields—academic learning, the arts, service learning, and athletics.

I was remembering that my grandfather, whom my sister and brothers and I called “Poppy,” loved Awards Day at our school. Our school was grades K-12, so Awards Day was much longer than our assembly today, but my grandfather would drive up from Connecticut to Bancroft School in Massachusetts, even though we seldom won awards. Poppy appreciated the students dressed up and looking sharp. He liked the music, the sense of school tradition and most of all—he admired the sense of academic gravity and joy.

My grandfather’s dedication to attending Awards Day was all the more interesting because he himself didn’t go to school past the age of 13. He was an immigrant from Ireland; his family came when he was two years old, and they didn’t have an easy time of it. His mother was English and Protestant, while his father was Irish and Roman Catholic.

The bigotry that his mom experienced in the Irish New York neighborhood where he grew up; well, he never forgot how unwelcome she was made to feel—an immigrant among immigrants, but different in religion and nationality. And their neighbors harbored hurt from how unmercifully English overlords had treated their kin back in Ireland.

It is hard for us to imagine, that being British but from different countries and Christian but from different sects was cause for division—but isn’t that the nature of bigotry and stereotypes? People search for differences that aren’t nearly as significant as the ways in which they are the same?

My grandfather got his first full time job at age 13 and worked his way up through the textile business without a high school degree, but his respect for education and reading was deep. He put his four daughters—my mother and aunts—through private high school, college, and graduate school if they wanted. And he instilled in his grandchildren a sense of the importance of education—not for future income but, in his words, to become a “gentleman;” a lover of books and ideas and knowledge; a more intelligent, thoughtful person.

Ms. Byron loaned me the book Hillbilly Elegy, and in it the main character,  a poor boy named J.D., talks about the monumental importance that his minimally educated grandmother, whom he called “Mamaw,” was to his advancement. He wrote:

“We didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t have nice clothes, but Mamaw made sure that I had one of those graphing calculators. This taught me an important lesson about Mamaw’s values, and it forced me to engage with school in a way I never had before. If Mamaw could drop $180 on a graphing calculator… then I had better take schoolwork more seriously.”

Mamaw was a diehard advocate for her grandson’s education—pushing him to study and get scholarships and pushing obstacles out of his way. J.D. graduated from Ohio State and Yale Law School after serving in Iraq as a marine.

So let’s take a moment now, to remember that no one goes it alone. No one is her own creation. Behind every well educated person is a Poppy or a Mamaw or a teacher or a parent who believes in education and championed that person. Please take a moment this week to think of those figures in your life and let them know how important they are.

Mary Halpin Carter, Ph.D.
Head of School

Read on for a list of award recipients from the ceremony.

D.A.R. Good Citizen Award – Sophia Tarpey
Alumni Award – Jonathan Furlong
Mayor's Award – Emma Wagner
Class of 1994 Award – Cecelia Templeton
U.S. Military Academy at West Point - Presentation of Appointment Certificate – Sophia Tarpey
2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar – Gavin Shilling
The Ken Piatt Memorial Scholarship Award – Lee Sipes
The Matthew L. Young ‘88 Memorial Scholarship – Nathaniel Kelsey
The Clifford R. Nyquist Memorial Scholarship – Naomi Durand
Henrietta Mesches Memorial Scholarship – Emmah Nolan
Richard Crafts Memorial Music Scholarship – Jael Fleurant
The Lamplighter Athletic Award – Madison Kochanek, Miles Fey
The Scholar-Athlete Awards – Olivia Husak, Gavin Shilling
English – Paige Voss
Dennis F. Holland Mathematics Award – Olivia Husak
Barbara J. Stahl, Ph.D. Life Science Award – Nicole Mayer
Physical Science – Richard Eng
History – Richard Tarpey
Art – Susanna Barger
Drama – Kassidy Ford
Music – Kelly Collins, Naomi Durand
Latin – Richard Tarpey
Spanish – Samuel Grondin
Chinese – Richard Eng
STEM X – Tyler Crews, Yuhao (Marshal) Dong, Madison Kochanek
Rensselaer Medal – Zhiqiao (Kate) Jiang
The Wellesley Book Award – Emily Moll
The Harvard Book Award – Olivia Burdette
The Dartmouth Book Award – Samantha Hinton
Allison Cronin
Benjamin Garfield
JiaLang (Victor) Li
Julia Perkins
Lauren Rohlfs
Phoebe Socha
Cecelia Templeton
The R. Philip Hugny Award – Ryan Quinlan
The Ralph J. Scozzafava Award – Annalise Groves
The William B. Pfeifer Award – Phoebe Socha
The Marcus D. Hurlbut Award – Samuel Grondin
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