If you told me my senior year at Holderness that I would be here, in Chapel, giving a speech in front of the whole school, I probably would have thought you were kidding. Honestly, I bet if you told some of the faculty they would of also. And probably my dad too.
What is kind of funny about this is I always wanted to give a chapel speech. About what? I have no idea. Maybe if I had won president or vice president, but I didn’t and so now I am officially giving my chapel speech and am so excited and honored to be welcoming this senior class into the Alumni Association.
Seniors, you should all be proud of yourselves for coming to Holderness. It is not easy! Leaving home as a teenager is not easy. If you are a day student, leaving your local school and friends is not easy. You all picked the hard route. The path less traveled and what comes with that is a really tight-knit alumni community that were all brave enough to come to Holderness.
The other day I was talking with someone and they asked me, “Now that you are back at Holderness and are working, what are some things you notice now, that you didn’t before?”
As I thought about it I realized quickly that there are so many things Holderness teaches you without even knowing you are learning them. There are so many opportunities that I didn’t even realize I was lucky enough to have until I came back here 5 years later.
Like I said, I wasn’t voted a top four leadership position my senior year. That taught me more than being president may have. It taught me how to be a leader in a different way, and sometimes those are just as important. I brought those lessons into my life post-Holderness. And if you did get a top leadership, take pride in the values you have learned and bring them into everything you do.
Things you remember when you leave and find yourself talking about with your alumni friends years later are the overtime wins, championships, outback, walk backs, pantry, late nights in the dorm, sit-down dinner, Christmas dinner, the embarrassing amount of times you fell for the classic Bruce Barton joke to check in with someone across campus who isn’t looking for you, and maybe even a class you’ll never forget. Mine are senior year creative writing with Janice Dahl. Sohee Park read my poem in front of the whole school and I will seriously NEVER forget it, along with freshman Bio with Carrigan where Mardi Haskell pronounced guinea pig guh-niah pig while reading a question out loud.
At Holderness, you learn in more than just the classroom. That is special and something that not everyone gets in a high school experience. Wait till you tell your college friends you had to play 3-sports in high school. They won’t believe you. Be proud of that.
You are about to start a new chapter and it’s going to be amazing, fun, and you will learn a lot. That being said, you will have disappointments happen but you know how to handle them, and you will handle them, and more likely than not come out learning more than you would if it didn’t happen. It is because you have been doing this for the past 4 years, maybe 3 years, 2 years, or even 1. Holderness isn’t easy and you all made it. You have a strong foundation to move forward.
You try new things here. We put you in uncomfortable positions and you learn more from them. This gives you the opportunity to step off this campus and be ready for what comes your way. You all will walk away more prepared then you even realize.
You will be ready to keep trying new things, play that club sport, write for your college newspaper, be that teammate you were recruited to be, try to walk- on, join that club, go abroad, and voice your opinion. You may not notice now but you are prepared to do this. The best part is if you fall down or have a bad day. You have something way bigger than yourself to fall back on. The Holderness community follows you. Right now, that may sound scary but you will realize that it is comforting. You have friends to call or faculty members to seek advice, or alumni you haven’t met yet but will connect with because they have been through the same thing. So, take chances because they could work out and if they don’t you have a huge number of alumni that understand where you have come from and will be more than willing to help you in a drop of a hat.
I will ask you, to take your time finding what you are truly interested in and what you find your passion in because it takes time, and success is measured in different ways. It doesn’t have to be making millions. It definitely can be but it can also be whatever makes you happy. This is one of the coolest parts about being an alumnus from Holderness. You can always find one of us in whatever you want to do. We have people doing media or finance in NYC, songwriters, we have teachers, people serving in the military, a yoga teacher in San Fran, people doing politics in Washington D.C, professional athletes, a climate advocate in Boulder, and ski patrol in Jackson Hole. That is just the beginning. That is just some of the kids I went to school with. Whatever you decide to do, do it with passion, and you’ll find a Holderness connection to support you and help you succeed in whatever way you want too.
I have three pieces of advice:
Use your leadership skills you learned here. If you were a top leader or not. You all have more leadership skills then you know.
Have a good handshake. This is a Holderness staple!!! If you don’t feel confident in your handshake, my dad, Mr. Ford from the great class of 1974 will be giving lessons after this because in just a few days you will be shaking hands with Mr. Peck to get your diploma. And a good handshake goes a long way.
Say Thank You. Thank a friend that supported you, thank a faculty member that has left an impression on you, and thank your family because it was brave of you to come to Holderness and it was also brave of your family to send you. A thank you also goes a long way.
As I prepare for my next journey, my next experience, I leave Holderness again taking even more than I did 7 years ago. I am moving to a new area, new people, new life lessons, but something that remains the same is I am a Holderness alum just like all of you will be and it just so happens I will have another Holderness alum, Blair Weymouth, living down the street from me. That is our greater community. Our off-campus community.
As you prepare to leave Holderness, I know you are excited, I know you are expecting to leave it in your rear-view mirror and maybe you will for a little. But you always find your way back. The Holderness community spans way more than just this campus. That is the best part. You get to take everything you loved about your experience here and bring it with you wherever you end up going. And then there will always be someone there to connect with, talk too, ask for advice, reminisce on memories, or just to get a little bit of that community you never thought you’d miss but you do.
On behalf of the over 4,000 alumni, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Holderness School Alumni Association
Class of 2019, you can now remove the pins from the card and pin yourselves. Congratulations and Welcome!