July 31, 2022
Dear Hilltopper Families,
Greetings at the end of an incredibly hot week. Despite the heat, renovations continue in our historic building known as the Megaron. The renovations have me thinking about how our past informs our future, and how both tradition and innovation define who we are as a community. In reimagining these spaces, we honor our past while providing students with the spaces that prepare them for today’s world.
The Worcester Historical Museum publishes a trivia question on Facebook each week, and twice this summer the question had a direct Worcester Academy connection. In late June, one post featured Robert Mitchum who portrayed Worcester Academy graduate Norman Cota in the film, “The Longest Day,” – a fun fact that I did not know. The second post asked readers if they could identify a photo of the Worcester Academy teacher who was part of the first expedition to the North Pole, and the timing of this question was rather unbelievable.
Donald MacMillan, who taught at Worcester Academy from 1903 to 1908, was recruited by Admiral Robert Peary on what was widely believed to be the first successful expedition to the North Pole. As uncanny as it sounds, on the very day that the Museum posted MacMillan’s picture, we were taking down his sea canoe from above the fireplace in the Megaron so we could store it as we renovate our iconic building.
I cannot stop thinking about this coincidental timing and of all the many things it says about our school. For one thing, while our history is utterly fascinating, our humility sometimes gets in the way of sharing our incredible stories. Indeed, the very history of the Megaron is noteworthy. Commissioned by legendary Head of School, Daniel Abercrombie, the building dubbed the “Academy’s Living Room” was the first of its kind. Its grand opening in 1908 was attended by Ivy League Presidents. Thanks to the generosity of Ron Capozzoli ’49, who fondly recalls shooting pool in the Megaron, we are thrilled to welcome our students back for the grand reopening of The Capozzoli Family Megaron in September (details to follow).
Daniel Abercrombie was an innovative school leader who traveled to Germany in the late 19th Century to study various types of schools. Upon his return, he envisioned a space for students to learn how to conduct themselves in the workplace and in adult social situations. In the Megaron, students learned how to work, play, use proper etiquette, and converse with classmates and adults. In a way, he was championing social emotional learning decades before the phrase gained popularity.
We reopen the Megaron at a moment when social emotional learning has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. Today our students need a living room just as much, if not more, than they did when Abercrombie envisioned the space. We have high aspirations for our student leaders, and believe they will lead by example and respond to our call for honor and accountability--in the Megaron and elsewhere on campus. This space is theirs, and so is the choice to act with honor.
Last year, our annual theme was “authentic personal growth,” and that remains a point of emphasis on the Hilltop. This year the core value we will emphasize is honor, which includes the notion of accountability. Caring for spaces such as the Megaron is one way we can all demonstrate greater accountability, while also honoring our history. In this way, our past will continue to inform our culture, as we innovate to meet the times.
When students arrive in a few weeks, they will see some new faces including: Jacqueline Arce, Head of Middle School, and MacKenzie Kuiper, Dean of Student Life. MacKenzie will lead the Dean’s Office with some familiar faces in new roles, including: Dan Sullivan, Assistant Dean of Student Life; Zak Johnson, Director of Residential Life; and Kevin Snyder, Student Activities Coordinator. Working together with student leadership, these adults will emphasize expectations as much as consequence and, in so doing, the Megaron will again serve the function of training students to lead honorable lives.
Please check your email for more updates about our orientation events and opening days. Until then, here’s to some cool summer breezes.
Head of School