‘All of our students still hold . . . the power to change the world’

I have told the students and staff on many occasions, upon returning from a long alumni or recruiting trip overseas, that I never miss them as much as when school is in session and I am not on campus. I can no longer say that. I miss them so much more now —  when I am here, while we are ‘in-session,’ but they are not on campus.

Perspectives, Spring 2020

By Brian P. Easler

Head of School

I have told the students and staff on many occasions, upon returning from a long alumni or recruiting trip overseas, that I never miss them as much as when school is in session and I am not on campus. I can no longer say that. I miss them so much more now —  when I am here, while we are ‘in-session,’ but they are not on campus.

I walked over to the Senior Bridge at 7:50 a.m. on Monday, March 30, the day we began our spring trimester of Online Distance Learning. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, birds were singing and the Rubicon was bubbling under the bridge. Missing, though, was the  usual throng of students making their way up the hill, the sound of their excited conversations about what they did for vacation, maybe a boy sprinting out of Rich Hall half-dressed because his “alarm didn’t work.”

Instead, there was just the heavy absence of our most prized members of the community and the life of the Academy — their enthusiasm, their laughter, their spirit and their energy. Mostly, for me, there was a lack of the usual collective promise that they represent. When I watch our students day-in and day-out, I see their potential and I imagine the positive impact they will have on the world around them. I see them as possibility incarnate. But . . . now, with everyone relocated from the campus community to the hundreds of in-home classrooms around the globe, I don’t see them at all.

With all of this swirling around in my head, standing there on the Senior Bridge on that beautiful morning, my thoughts naturally jumped to Commencement Day when that Bridge is the focal point of such intoxicating exuberance and celebration. It is probably the most memorable day on campus for many, the pinnacle of the WMA experience, and I felt the weight of what the Class of 2020 and their families will miss out on . . . what the whole student body will miss. I sat down on the bridge with a heavy heart.

And then I remembered that even though I don’t see them right now, even though they are not here and will not be able to enjoy the usual end-of-year rituals and ceremonies; even though I will not be distracted by a campus-wide cheer and look out my office window and see a student in full sprint chased by another with huge smiles on their faces as the Fish Game culminates; even though this spring will be completely different from those before it . . . the essence of it will remain unchanged.

All of our students still hold in their hands and their minds the power to change the world and the desire to face that challenge — and they will be better prepared for it having gone through this. They are still the personification of hope, promise and entrepreneurial spirit. They are still the focus of our collective pride and adoration. This truth, regardless of current circumstances, will never change.

In that moment I stood back up on the Senior Bridge and actually believed I could feel their energy radiating from around the globe and converging here, where it always does, on the campus of our beloved WMA, like the generations of alumni before them and whom they are about to join . . . and my heart was filled with joy.

Because I won’t be able to present the Class of 2020 with a valedictory this spring as I normally would, with a few last pieces of parting advice, I will do so now . . . by offering one simple suggestion.

“Please do not let yourselves or your experience at WMA be defined by the impact of this crisis. Your time here has been far too valuable to let that happen. You will have your time to celebrate; it will just be different. Embrace this as something you cannot control and a challenge you will overcome, and be proud of what you have accomplished here. We are certainly proud of  you, we salute you and we could not be more pleased to have you join our alumni ranks forever.”

Respectfully,