Pingry welcomed its nine newest members during the Upper School Fall Awards Assembly.
Convocation, the official opening of Pingry's school year, is an event of reverence and tradition as Middle and Upper School students reaffirm their commitment to the Honor Code. Dressed up for the occasion, students stand for the formal procession of the Headmaster, Chair of the Board of Trustees, trustees, and faculty, all proudly wearing their academic gowns, a tradition passed down from the universities of the Middle Ages. With the School's leadership assembled in Hauser Auditorium, each speaker's remarks help to set the tone for the year.
In his Invocation, senior faculty member Miller Bugliari '52, P '86, '90, '97, GP '20, '24, beginning his 59th year on the faculty, reminded the senior class that they are role models for the student body.
Inspired by Walt Whitman's poem "Song of the Open Road" (with which he became familiar in Pingry's American Literature course), Student Body President Michael Weber '18 used the concept of the "open road" as a metaphor for the school year—a road filled with events, caution, conviction, and courage. Along the way, he said, "you will discover much about yourself," such as knowledge, joy, strength, or passion for a subject. However, Michael pointed out that, in the poem, a man travels the road by himself, whereas Pingry students are surrounded by hundreds of people who can provide guidance along the way. Nine months from now, students will reflect on a beautiful journey.
Following Michael's comments, Honor Board Chair Ally Pyne '18 posed the questions, "What is the Honor Code? How does it shape our community?" Her answer: trust, support, and accountability. In fact, she does not want to see perfection—rather, we should make mistakes and learn from them under an Honor Code that emphasizes accountability and kindness. Instead of falling into the trap of not holding people accountable for their mistakes, which can ultimately make certain behaviors become accepted, Ally encouraged everyone to "buy in" to the Honor Code and not be the weak link. Praising citizens of Texas for their extraordinary actions during and after Hurricane Harvey, she said all of us should be inspired by the examples of communities in which ordinary people make a difference.
Michael and Ally then collected Honor Code pledges that Middle and Upper School students had signed in their advisor groups. "The Honor Code is the most fundamental part of our value system at Pingry. This ceremony demonstrates student ownership of the Honor Code, and we hope that you will always remember this day and your promise to each other," Ally said.
Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Edwards '78, P '12, '14, '18 reflected on the perceived degrees of success of the band U2, baseball teams, and golfers based on their rankings and salaries—for example, does the baseball team with the largest payroll advance to the World Series? Perhaps not. Or do highly-ranked band members translate to a highly-ranked band? Perhaps not. Mr. Edwards's conclusion: "Individual talent is not enough" because maximum success results from blending individual talents. At Pingry, students should coalesce into a group, because a team championship is often more rewarding than an individual victory; a musical ensemble's harmonies can be more beautiful than a single melody; and class discussions are enriched by multiple voices. "Develop your talents," Mr. Edwards said, "but don't lose sight of helping the larger community."
Headmaster Nat Conard P '09, '11 recognized the Magistri, faculty members who have taught at Pingry for at least 25 years. Collectively, the 25 Magistri on the 2017-18 faculty (with individual service spanning from 28 to 59 years) have served Pingry for nearly 1,000 years!
"Free throws and cookies" were the subjects of Mr. Conard's remarks. He related the late basketball star Wilt Chamberlain's poor record with free-throws (third-lowest career percentage in NBA history, 51 percent), contrasted with Rick Barry's success rate (90 percent; ranked first in NBA history when he retired). But Mr. Barry shot underhand. For the 1961-62 season, with Mr. Barry's guidance, Mr. Chamberlain switched to underhand free-throws and improved to a career-best 61 percent success rate. Thinking he looked foolish, though, he reverted to overhand for the 1962-63 season, and his success rate dropped again. Some of the free throws he missed in championship games might have cost his team victories.
On the cookie front: in an experiment, researchers split students into groups of three to work on a project, with one student randomly assigned as the group's leader. Then, the group was presented with a plate of five cookies—two cookies remained after each person ate one, but who would eat the fourth cookie? Usually, the "leaders" took it, and quite happily, as if their leadership earned them the right.
Relating these two stories of self-interest—in the case of Mr. Chamberlain, "working for the common good might be uncomfortable"; in the case of the cookies, all Pingry students are fortunate to be members of the Pingry community—Mr. Conard noted that the Honor Code unites the Pingry community, guiding our choices. When making our decisions, the question becomes, "Would this choice be consistent with the attitude and spirit of the Honor Code?" With that in mind, and considering each of these stories, Mr. Conard asked the students to reflect on what they would do in each situation...would they revert to overhand, knowing it could disadvantage their team? Would they take the fourth cookie?
Transitioning from thoughts of cookies to being a community filled with Pingry pride, the entire assemblage sang "Old John Pingry" by Pingry's late English teacher and Director of Admission C. Brett Boocock.
Top photo: Student Body President Michael Weber '18.
Middle photo: Honor Board Chair Ally Pyne '18.
Bottom photo: Michael and Ally collecting signed Honor Code pledges.
Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, email@example.com