Convocation Celebrates 175 Years of Teaching & Learning
Adele Starrs

On September 5, the Class of 2023, neatly dressed and brimming with excitement for the upcoming year, filtered into two tidy rows to process through Blair Academy’s storied grounds. They were assembled to celebrate Convocation and the start of the School’s 175th academic year. Marching through the Arch, built by Italian stonemasons in 1904, they paraded past historic Clinton Hall, still standing strong long after the last, devastating fire of 1922. To the east, they passed the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, opened in 2017, and home to some of the newest and most innovative technology on campus. From the newly-welcomed members of the Class of 2026 to the faculty and staff who have devoted themselves to the School for over 25 years, at this Convocation, the Blair family came together to celebrate the history of Blair, new and old, and 175 years of teaching and learning.

One of Blair’s most quintessential traditions, this year’s Convocation ceremony very much focused on Blair’s demisemiseptcentennial anniversary. After a benediction from Blair's Chaplain, the Reverend David Harvey, and a presentation of “Blair Love Song” from the Singers, Senior Class Council members Michael Diaco ’23 and Ellie Hyder ’23 began the ceremony by acknowledging the School’s long history and offering advice to the assembled audience for finding the best of Blair in the year ahead. “Let your light shine,” urged Michael, while Ellie counseled, “Let yourself be open to new experiences.”  

Head of School Peter G. Curran then shared some little-known facts about Blair history to show how far Blair has come from a school of a handful of students who attended class in the Old Academy 175 years ago to a school with 477 students, 463 campus acres and an endowment of approximately $140 million. During his remarks in the DuBois Theatre, Mr. Curran shared a website celebrating Blair’s history and a video honoring the School’s milestone anniversary. Depicting images from Blair’s beginnings, the stirring video showcased the transition that the institution has undergone since 1848 and described the student-centered philosophy that prevails to this day. To view the video, click “play” below:

“We have come a long way since the one-room schoolhouse,” Mr. Curran told students. While times have changed, he said, throughout its history, Blair’s fundamental mission has remained constant. “At the crux of all that we do at Blair is to prepare you for the future, both as academically focused scholars and as socially intelligent humans,” he said. 

Not only does Blair strive to instill in its graduates confidence, self-awareness, self-esteem and the ability to advocate for themselves, which puts them a step ahead and college and beyond, but faculty and staff also seek to arm students with the skills they will need for the jobs of tomorrow. “Our mission,” he told the community gathered in the theatre, “is to prepare you for the world you will inhabit beyond Blair and give you all of the experiences and tools to find personal and professional fulfillment.”

Mr. Curran went on to emphasize how much the Blair experience is defined by academic excellence, service to others, and fostering a dynamic and diverse community in which students feel a deep sense of belonging and challenge themselves to grow and thrive in an ever-changing world. While technology has many productive uses, he stressed the importance in our community of putting aside electronic devices. “Time spent on devices doesn’t just impact our productivity and ability to fulfill our academic potential. It also influences our ability to meaningfully connect with one another,” he noted.  

In his address, Mr. Curran reaffirmed Blair’s commitment to innovating inside and outside of the classroom while staying true to the Blair traditions that bind together so many generations of students, such as Convocation, which is the first of many events in 2022-2023 that will celebrate Blair’s history and look to the School’s next 25 years. Concluding his remarks, he challenged students to use the coming semester to be intentional in forging new relationships, step outside of their comfort zones, and embrace the power of using small gestures, or random acts of kindness, to positively impact the lives of others.

“We are very much a student-centered school,” he said, “Blair’s culture comes from our students, and I am so excited for the leadership of our senior class and from all of you to embrace our community norms and values.” As the evening wound to a close and students prepared to weave their way back to their dormitories after picking up some demisemiseptcentennial swag–in the form of socks that include the 175th anniversary logo—Mr. Curran left the community with one final thought. “It is extraordinary to think that we are all both part of Blair’s history and future,” he said. “I am so excited for the year ahead and all we will do to commemorate this historic occasion.”

Faculty and students departed, once again passing every young and old corner of campus, ready and excited to shape the place they call home—for the next 175 years and beyond. To watch this year’s Convocation ceremony in full, click “play” below:

 

Be sure to visit Blair’s demisemiseptcentennial website to learn more about upcoming events, as well explore the School’s milestones, get lost in vintage photos and test your knowledge of all things Blair.
  
 

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