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Pingry Honors Two Pillars of the Community at its Annual Stifel Award Assembly


Pingry Honors Two Pillars of the Community at its Annual Stifel Award Assembly
Sara Courtney

The ability to keep going in the face of great adversity is something that all of us, at one point or another, will have to confront. To keep striving requires courage, and, so often, support from one’s community. This was the message of Pingry’s 35th annual Stifel Award Assembly held in Hauser Auditorium on Wednesday, April 27. The Henry G. Stifel III Award is named for Mr. Stifel, a Pingry lifer who was paralyzed in an automobile accident during his junior year. Established by the Stifel Family in 1984, the award honors “the person who best exemplifies those characteristics exhibited by Henry G. Stifel III ‘83 in the aftermath of his accident and spinal injury: courage, endurance, optimism, compassion, and spirit.” Mr. Stifel is a former Pingry trustee and Letter-In-Life Award recipient, is a Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and works at Morgan Stanley.

Mr. Stifel has shared his story with the Pingry community for 35 years now, and each time he shares his message of overcoming challenges and significant setbacks through courage, optimism, and spirit, is a heartfelt and affecting one. This year, the award honored two members of the Pingry community, Alex Massey ‘23 and Mr. Bobby Wulff, who is the first Pingry staff member to receive the award.

The assembly seats were filled with quiet students, the soccer team up front, and the halls were standing room only, when Head of School Tim Lear introduced Interim Director of Institutional Advancement David Fahey ‘99. Mr. Fahey, the Assistant Varsity Soccer Coach, presented the first award to Alex, a beloved presence on the soccer field and in the classroom, as well as an accomplished violinist, having played four years with the New Jersey Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as Pingry’s orchestra.

Mr. Fahey gave a moving speech that touched on the quiet strength and steadfast courage Alex displayed after his father passed away in September 2022 and when, just three weeks later during a big game, he suffered an on-the-field collision that resulted in a concussion, requiring him to step back from playing the sport he loves. That he came back to the school and community he loves, amidst such great adversity, and showed such optimism, has been an inspiration to his coaches, teammates, and the entire Pingry community. As Mr. Fahey observed, “It is somehow both normal and astonishing all at once.”

After receiving the award, Alex gave a moving speech thanking his family, teammates, coaches, teachers and college counselors, and his father. “I once heard someone say when you lose your father young, you spend the rest of your life trying to make him proud,” said Alex. “And that is exactly what I try to do every day.” Looking out at the sea of faces that supported him through such heartbreak, with his soccer teammates seated quietly up front, Alex encouraged everyone present to remember that it is never always apparent what people are struggling with, that often whatever darkness may be enfolding them remains hidden. “Because of the people around me, dark became light,” he said. “So I encourage you all to be that person for someone else. Be that person who smiles and says hello in the hallways. Because you never know what someone is going through. Sometimes the people who look the best are the ones who are actually struggling the most.”

After the standing ovation for Alex, Dr. Thu-Nga Morris, Assistant Head of School K-12 and Lower School Director, presented the second Stifel Award to Mr. Bobby Wulff, Building Trades Supervisor in Facilities at the Lower School. At the Lower School, Mr. Wulff is a much-loved presence since he joined the Pingry community in 2011. As Dr. Morris spoke to the students, many of whom remember Mr. Wulff from their own days at the Lower School, she praised the way he is always fixing seemingly impossibly broken motors or HVAC equipment, how he is often building things for the staff and students to enjoy, cheerfully demonstrating to the students how to use tools, and, occasionally, playing “in the dirt” with the Kindergarteners. Simply put, “When Mr. Wulff says he will do something, you can count on him to get it completed.”

A year and-a-half ago, Mr. Wulff was diagnosed with a serious illness. Because he is a “loyal and dedicated member of our community”, Dr. Morris praised the way he continued to show up for the staff and children, bringing such optimism to the community that was rooting for him. His endearing, reliable presence is a source of pride to all who know him. As Dr. Morris said, “He is not only a caretaker of our buildings and grounds, but also a caretaker of the people who make up our community.”

Clearly touched by the outpouring of love, Mr. Wulff thanked his family and friends and the entire Pingry community, telling them how, even with the challenging road ahead, he was so grateful to be standing here today. For the audience of friends and teammates, college counselors and faculty, elementary students and graduating seniors, the message of the Stifel Award was deeply felt: that in the face of adversity, keep going–your community is rooting for you.



Contact: Sara Courtney, Communications Writer

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