2016 Commencement Reflection

Welcome to the Morristown-Beard School 2016 graduation ceremony as we celebrate our 125th anniversary. It is a great honor to be presiding over this wonderful school at such a historic moment. 

I am pleased to see all of you here to rejoice in the achievements of this remarkable group of young men and women.  This is a time for looking forward and for celebrating all that you – Class of 2016 – have accomplished.

Given that we are celebrating our 125 Anniversary, I think that it is appropriate to reflect, for a moment, on our history. In 1903 Beard School had its first graduating student.  Amy Van Nostrand’s graduation from Miss Beard’s School and matriculation to the highly esteemed Vassar College set a high bar for future graduating students.  With Amy’s graduation, began a tradition of the Tree Speech, where a graduating senior expressed her gratitude for all that the School had given her.  Following the speech, trees were planted to inspire future classes to thrive and blossom.  The symbolic spade was then passed down to a representative from the junior class, who offered a response to the outgoing class.  In this way, the Tree Speech, the tree planting and the spade became links between incoming and outgoing students, who were all inextricably connected by the School’s mission to instill in its graduates integrity, courage, responsibility and empathy.

When I arrived to Morristown Beard School, I had heard about these Tree Speeches, and they were the inspiration for my Bench Talks.  

So here is my final 2-minute Bench Talk of the year.

Class of 2016, you are filled with energy, passion, and creativity.  You are scholars, artists, actors, musicians, dancers, technological wizards.  You are writers, scientists, track stars, baseball phenoms, and experts on Mars. But perhaps your greatest collective talent is your ability to feel your connection to the world and to the sustaining force of each other and this community, and it is this last quality on which I would like to linger. 

You are, in a way, like a forest, and I am going to give you a little biology lesson on why this is so.  Trees that grow close together are connected by a labyrinth of fungal connections called the mycorrhizal network.  Through this network, trees in the forest become so intimately connected that they can actually share sustenance.  That is, the mycorrhizal fungal networks can act as conduits between trees, so that older, well-established trees can offer sustenance to younger trees that are still trying to establish their root system - or trees that are getting plenty of sustenance can offer nutrients to trees that are malnourished.  Even different species of trees can communicate with and support one another via their mycorrhizae.

You, Class of 2016, like trees in a forest, have demonstrated a remarkable ability to love and support each other.  You celebrate the sustaining force that this community can offer you, and for that we are grateful. I hope that you recognize this strength that you have developed here at MBS and that it will sustain you throughout your lives.


More News from Morristown-Beard School