Greenhill’s 66th Founder’s Day

On Friday, September 9th, all Greenhill students and faculty assembled in Phillips Gymnasium to celebrate Founders’ Day. Jason Yaffe, Director of Academics discusses the meaning behind Founders’ Day.

Greenhill’s birthday falls on the infamous date of September 11th. For a date that will be etched in history as one filled with hatred and sadness, Greenhill’s 66th birthday last week was filled with honor, respect, and compassion. Sitting on the floor of Phillips Gym, the vibe was especially joyous this year. The second graders around me swayed, arm in arm, as all sang “Best Friends Should Be Together,” new community members were welcomed with great cheer, and all marveled at the mini history lesson Mr. Tom Perryman ’81, the Assistant Head of School, delivered.

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As a history teacher myself, Mr. Perryman’s descriptions of segments in the school’s past were inspiring. He brought the 1500 plus audience members back to Greenhill’s first day in 1950 when an opening bell started a new adventure for thirteen faculty members and sixty-two students. He spoke of fishing down near the creek for crawdads as a student, and dancing the night away in the school parking lot at Homecoming, surrounded by Lower School students, teachers, and even parents.

The evidence that Greenhill has changed since those early days was quite clear. What has remained constant, however, are the school’s core principles and best practices. One look at page 8 of From Humble Beginnings: The First Fifty Years of Greenhill School, written Mr. Perryman and his brother David ’83, speaks to our foundation. On that page, an advertisement for the school’s inaugural year describes how Greenhill emphasizes “personal development through teacher-pupil relationships.” That statement still reflects the kind of school we are today.

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The more I listened to Mr. Perryman’s vivid descriptions of other eras, the more I became acutely aware of our core principles in action during the Founder’s Day assembly. Here are some samples:

• Honoring the school’s history by celebrating three students from the class of 1998 who had the foresight to create the Heart of the Hill program, a multi-age group tradition designed to unite us all.

• Respecting the need for peace and unity in a world that can sometimes be filled with anything but that by singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.’

• Showing compassion for new students and teachers in greeting them with thunderous applause and cheers, knowing that everyone was once in their shoes as a new kid on the block.

• Honoring the Greenhill Legends (faculty and staff with 25 years or more of service at Greenhill), Faculty Leaders, and Penny Nicholson Award winners.

• Respecting the developmental needs of our early learners by building in time during the assembly for them to stand, stretch, and move.

• Listening intently and demonstrating compassion for one special fourth grader who announced plans for the day’s ice cream social.

In all, I felt even more committed to carrying out Greenhill’s mission as I left the gym. I also realized I should probably revisit From Humble Beginnings: The First Fifty Years of Greenhill School, from time to time, to remind myself that the core of our School is both strong and timeless.

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