Academy World: Spring 2021
I often eat lunch these days in Alumni Memorial Chapel, which has been converted into a temporary dining hall as we do our best to maintain social distancing during the pandemic. As I enjoy my lunch, I can’t help but look up at the portrait of Fred Watts which hangs high on the rear wall of the Chapel overlooking what used to be the center aisle.
"I have known Fred Watts for 22 years, since 1998 when I first began working at Wilbraham & Monson Academy as the Director of Alumni Affairs. Fred had recently retired from the Academy, but he was no less active in the life of the school or influential in the community or with the alumni."
Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Chris Costello ’96 founded a nonprofit organization in Montreal, Canada, after he recognized there was a large population of homeless residents, including many who suffered from foot problems.
In 2020, his company—Toe2Toe—made a shift and went toe-to-toe with COVID-19.
With COVID-19s grip firmly around the neck of the world, Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Nick Gourley ’18 wanted to help in some capacity.
But how? The former president for the Class of 2018 had no experience in the medical field. What could he do?
Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Matt Koziol ’93 had visions for his farming business. He pictured an agritourism spot, where people could enjoy all aspects of a rural property. He estimated it would take him 10 years to get there.
Then the novel coronavirus struck in 2020. For many business owners, COVID-19 was crippling. For Mr. Koziol, it turned all of his dreams into a reality—in a hurry.
In the business world, there has been very little “new normal” during COVID-19. Ever-changing, mandated regulations at the state and federal level have made it nearly impossible for companies to find any consistency.
Since March 2020, businesses have had to adjust on the fly.
Any time we overcome a challenge or persevere through adversity, we learn from it. The adversity forces us beyond our normal day-to-day routines and systems
in ways that require creative thinking and inspire innovative action in order to succeed. Like a good teacher, a challenge can cause us to question our expectations and our modus operandi, and push us into a realm where necessity encourages inspiration.
When I boarded the airplane on that hot summer night of 2012 from China to the United States, I knew I was embarking on a life-changing adventure, for I did not know anyone in this distant land. As I found myself lost in O’Hare with three gigantic suitcases, not knowing where to go for my connecting flight to Hartford, I questioned whether I was making a mistake by leaving my family and friends behind to attend a high school in New England.
Then known as Wilbraham Academy, the school’s idyllic environment was simultaneously challenged—and not spared—from either the 1918 flu pandemic or the first World War.
From “The Hill” to the front of Rich Hall, along Main Street, down Faculty Street and now past the Athletic Center, Academy alumni have designed and left their own, unique 10-inch-by-7.5-inch mark on our campus. All told, approximately 6,500 Senior Stones are permanent fixtures of both individual and Academy history.