Head of School’s Notebook: Lessons at the End

June 11, 2021

In the final week of the school year, just a few days before commencement, Fritze Mayer ’21, one of the leaders of our Servons Speaker Series, offered some last bits of wisdom from the senior class. 12 places she thanked, one for each trimester of her four years at Cate: Harkness tables, Parsonage patios, fields and courts, beaches and benches, Heartbreak Hill, various floors – some carpeted, some wood, some concrete – and the many adornments on her dorm room walls.

It is an ingenious thing to thank a place and to understand fully what happens there and why. She called her “note to the community” a “list of gratitude and values.” It is also the knowledge that she takes with her and leaves behind. Most insightful to me were the floors of her dorm rooms, where Fritze would lie occasionally, “Finding the places where I am grounded. Only when I am firm in my body,” she continued, “can I work through the things that feel ungraspable in my head.” 

I have always marveled at the insights brought on by endings and our efforts to capture in some tangible way the experience we are concluding. Another senior, Susana Vosmik ’21, finished her remarks several weeks earlier saying, “These years have gifted me three journals worth of growth and memories, furious scribblings, lazy drawn out musings, and heartfelt love letters.”

Today we sat together one last time as a full faculty to remember the very journey that Fritze and Susana and their classmates did over the year and particularly over the last weeks. Images and conversations, people and places, memories and meanderings all converge in a thrilling cacophony of sound and sensation and surety that is the school year. As Fritze said in her ode to Heartbreak Hill, there is a wonderful reliability to it. “It is part of the journey up or down, reminding us that moments will pass and time marches on” whatever direction we travel.

Indeed it does. On Sunday, June 6, 74 seniors earned their diplomas from Cate School in a ceremony that was conspicuous for its casual familiarity, the character of the newest class of Cate alumni, and the energy and vitality of the assembled friends, family, classmates, and faculty. What a distance we all traveled in this unprecedented year.

In due course, perhaps as Fritze and Susana suggest we will be able to put the many disparate and memorable moments together into a cohesive whole. For now, though, it is the individual memories that compel us – the “timeless raindrops” as Norman Maclean called them – that together form the river of thought and dreams that every year bring us to Cate and when we have learned what we need carry us on to whatever or wherever is next.