Celebrating the community at convocation


Teddy O'Connor, Staff Writer

Throughout the years Convocation has brought everyone in the community together, the entire Upper School plus the eighth grade, the Upper School faculty, parents, and a special speaker. This year’s convocation was a memorable one, due to the fact that it would be Dr. Maureen Fonseca’s last. To start off this wonderful event, Fonseca announced the first annual Faculty Awards at Convocation; the recipients were Emily Zoochi, Michelle Dennis, Mary Chappell, and Paul Freidman.

The following criteria are associated with these awards: A minimum of five years of teaching at The Masters School, with outstanding teaching and or leadership contributions. The teacher must have innovative approaches to teaching and learning, including the development or continued growth of new syllabi, courses or programs.

Zoochi won the faculty award for Illinois Award for Language. The Illinois Fund was established by former Trustee William M. Collins of Chicago and nine other Chicago-area donors with connections to The Masters School – therefore, the name Illinois.  Mr. Collins’ wife, Louise Neff Collins is a graduate of the class of 1931 and their three daughters attended: Deborah Collins Pappas ’56, Judy Collins Hannestad ’59, and Kathleen Collins ’63.

Dennis won the Parvin Award for Mathematics. W. Rodman Parvin was a trustee and the treasurer of the Board from 1942-1957.  Mr. Parvin’s daughter Mary Parvin Goodman graduated in 1942 and his granddaughter Barrie Goodman Pickering in 1965.

Chappell and Friedman are a team, teaching seventh grade humanities. For their inter-disciplinary work they won the Lightner History Award. In 1963, Eleanor Lightner Frazier, Class of 1912 and Margaret Lightner Billings Class of 1939 initiated the idea of honoring their family’s legacy.  Now 24 strong, the Lightner/Meads family’s legacy began with Helen Dean Lightner Class of 1901 and was most recently represented by the first boy in the line, Griffin T. Meads Class of 2011, a one hundred and ten year span.

Fonseca first welcomed Brandon Schneider, then Serena Wessely, co-chairs of community government, to address the school. Schneider’s address mainly consisted of his astonishment when he first visited the school. He did not believe his parents when they said it was time to move onto a place like this until he visited. “Community is what makes Masters, Masters,” Schneider said during his speech.

On the other hand, Wessely spoke about her Great Grandmother, and her Grandmother, saying that they were both fearless forces of nature. Some lessons that she learned were to always put one foot in front of the other, Kris Kringle style, and continue moving forwards. It was here that Wessely finally found her footing, and the lessons she has learned along the way have allowed her to also become a force of nature.

Next, Academic Dean, Chris Goulian introduced our keynote speaker, an alumna, Dr. Amanda Kemp, but first, to a standing ovation, offered his thanks to Fonseca’s fifteen years of service to The Master School. Goulian gave the entire community Kemp’s backstory, a professor, and mother of two kids. In 2007 she started Theatre for Transformation, whose mission statement is to transform our community through performance that inspires learning, social justice, and racial harmony among diverse audiences. This year’s theme is diversity and Kemp’s work folds in with this theme. “Afterall,” Goulian said, “That’s what convocation is all about, bringing people together.”

Kemp first spoke of her deep respect for Fonseca. Afterwards, she started her speech off with her favorite poem, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver:

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Keynote speaker Dr. Amanda Kemp presenting a poem. Photo by YiYi OuYang/Tower

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Her favorite line was the first; you do not have to be good.

“You’re gonna get it wrong sometimes,” Kemp said. She emphasizes loving what you CAN love. Kemp, throughout her speech spoke about the metaphors throughout the poem, and reread important lines. Kemp approached her speech slowly, emphasizing many different lines, and going deeper into their meaning.

Tracy Limpe’80, P’18, President of the Board has served on the Board of Trustees since 1999, and was appointed in 2009. Limpe started the closing address by thanking Fonseca for being an incredible human being and for all of her warmth, openness, and generosity over the years. “Masters has so much to celebrate,” Limpe said. She had just taken a tour of the MAAC construction, and announced a recent $2 million dollar donation from the Hamill Family Foundation. The Hamill Family Foundation also gave $2 million at the start of the project. Limpe encouraged all those who could to help out as well. She began to talk about reflecting on what the secret sauce of Masters is. She found that it’s the true diversity, in the thought, and individuals who make up the community. To conclude convocation Limpe said, “Culture begins at the top, thanks Dr. Fonseca.”