Convocation 2017

The ceremonial beginning of the academic year—Convocation brings together students, parents, faculty and trustees to reflect, collectively, on the year ahead and the ways in which each of us can contribute to the life of the school. The ceremony also pays special tribute to the members of the senior class and the school's newly-appointed trustees, recognizing the responsibility they have as leaders in the Gill St. Bernard's community.
 
At this morning's ceremony, Upper School Director Sue Petrone welcomed the gathering and offered some advice for making 2017-18 "the best school year yet, or at least a really great academic year." Petrone encouraged everyone to play fair, to be considerate of others and—borrowing a phrase from country-music icon Tim McGraw—to "always stay humble and kind."
 
Following Petrone, senior Connor Kirk read Max Lucado's You Are Special. The story centers on little wooden people, Wemmicks, who continually judge one another by applying stickers: gold stars for approval and gray dots for disapproval. The story's protagonist, Punchinello, is covered with gray dots, which makes him very sad, until he begins to understand that "the stickers only stick if you let them." With this realization, Punchinello has everything he needs to live according to the promptings of his own heart and the story draws to a close.
 
In his remarks, Head of School Sid Rowell echoed the message of You Are Special, saying, "We often tend to label others in ways that may be shallow and even hurtful. However, if we can commit to that journey of self-discovery as Punchinello did, it is possible to understand that each person, every person, is special and loved." Reflecting on this message in light of recent events—from the tragedy in Charlottesville and the devastating hurricane in Houston to escalating global tensions—Rowell offered the core values of compassion and courage as the best response to these challenges. He ended by asking everyone to "commit to becoming a community of kindness" and offering his best wishes to the Class of 2018.
 
Afterward, Chair of The Board of trustees Janine Udoff, P '16, '17, '21, '23 officially inducted Rajiv DeSilva, P '21, 25, and Britany Silverman '97 as new trustees. In her remarks, Udoff also cited on You Are Special, inviting every student to "listen to your own voice and belive in your own abilities."
 
Convocation concluded with the Seniors Investiture Ceremony, as each member of the class of 2018 pledged to work for the good of the school and to exemplify the characteristics of faith, honor and consideration.
 
Best wishes to the Class of 2018 and to all as we begin the 2107-18 academic year.
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Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.