Speaking at Blair's first Chapel of the 2017-2018 academic year, the Rev. Lisa Durkee shared stories of her baseball-playing youth and slightly rebellious middle-school years to bring home an important point for the School community: Don't let fear of failure or embarrassment keep you from trying something new or taking action when action is needed.
Ms. Durkee, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is Blair's newly appointed chaplain and chair of the religion and philosophy department. She brings a wealth of pastoral and teaching experience to her role at Blair, including 10 years as pastor of two churches in Massachusetts and 15 years as an independent school educator. The mother of two daughters (college freshman Keira and Emma '20), Ms. Durkee is also a writer, guitarist and singer, who opened Chapel with a few bars of spiritual song. And, as luck would have it, her coming to Blair brings her back to her New Jersey roots.
Opening her Chapel with a quote from Julia Sorel, "If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances," Ms. Durkee told faculty and students about her childhood experience as the first girl to play little league baseball in Metuchen, New Jersey, and her mini-rebellion against wearing a gym suit in middle school. "There wasn't any thought about equality or rights in what I did. I simply wanted to do—anything that was in front of me," she said of her desire to play baseball—and despite some initial nervousness and a few comments from those who objected to girls in the little league, she enjoyed a good four-year run in the league.
The gym suit rebellion came about when she took a stand against the "injustice" of girls having to wear a specific (and highly uncomfortable, non-breathing polyester) one-piece uniform for gym class at Franklin Middle School, while boys wore a T-shirt and shorts. Sent to the principal's office for reporting to gym class in her own T-shirt and shorts, Ms. Durkee's case for gender equity in gym attire won the day, and school policy was thereafter changed.
"I earnestly hope that when you have the idea to do something that interests you, you will go for it!" Ms. Durkee urged students as she concluded her talk. "Don't let naysayers or convention keep you from it, and especially don't worry about embarrassment or hurt. Trust me. Those memories don't last as long as the effects of your actions."
To watch a video of Rev. Lisa Durkee's Chapel address, click "play" below.