Thirty years of girls

Nicky Parkinson '83, who started SMUS the year after girls first entered the Senior School, gives a grad bear to graduating student Allegra Lee
Nicky Parkinson ’83, who started at SMUS in 1980, the year after girls first entered the Senior School, gives a grad bear to graduating student Allegra Lee

This morning at the Junior School I showed the assembled students two of the little SMUS teddy bears that grads get after the Alumni Chapel Service, which occurred last weekend. A few years ago we also started to give our new Kindergarten students an SMUS bear when they are welcomed to the school, so there is a happy symmetry in this moment: you get a bear when you start, and you get a bear when you leave. It is fascinating, and in a way reassuring – in a “moral compass” steadiness and stability kind of way – for these very youngest members of our school to know that they are parts of a community that has lasted a hundred years already, and that will last a few hundred years into the future. It suggests that the values and foundations of this enduring school will anchor the future of the school and the future of themselves. Even our buildings suggest this – they are built to last centuries, and suggest permanence.

But to get back to last weekend: we had Alumni Weekend, and the main address at Chapel was given by Emily Reid, our Head Girl, who spoke to the grads, the Alumni and guests about the transforming decision thirty years ago to welcome girls into the school. It may not be widely known, but I taught at the school for a year, in 1980-81, and taught some of those very first girls, and coached the Senior Girls’ Soccer team. Both the school and the Senior Girls’ soccer team have gone to greater heights since – just have a look at this year’s outstanding Senior Girls’ team. As Emily pointed out the admission of girls really allows the school to claim it is making a contribution to the education of all of the world’s students, not just one gender. True, as Emily’s research into early reactions to the decision discovered, it likely improved the “bouquet” of the classroom, but it also made the entire SMUS experience richer and more complex. I believe it better prepares students of both genders for the world they are going to enter. I know, since those who are reading this have chosen this school, I am preaching to the converted.

I have to say, Emily’s address was eloquent, amusing and moving, especially powerful since it was punctuated by her using the School Vision as her closing line: To learn, to lead, to serve; discovering the promise in our selves and the world.

Tomorrow is the Spring Fair. All things – the organization, the donations and the weather – are aligning to make it a great day.


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