As I Step Down
This past Sunday, as I was leaving St. John’s Church, I saw a friend I had not seen since the pandemic hit and caused our church to close. He told me that another parishioner had been hit hard by the closure and had been going hungry —“he was starving,” he said — so my friend took him to get something to eat. My friend doesn’t have a lot of money and has sometimes fallen on hard financial times himself, but as he said, “I had some money in my pocket, and I could help, so I did.”
This spirit of generosity and giving is what I have come to know as the core of this community during the 36 years that Ann and I have lived in St. Johnsbury. When we arrived with two young children to live in Brantview, we were greeted by a welcome basket and friendly community members who immediately made us feel at home. That outpouring of generosity and care was intensified less than five years later, when our two-year-old daughter Clare was diagnosed with leukemia and died within five months. The meals, the babysitting, the medical care, the shoulders to cry on, the prayers — all of the concrete examples of a loving community — made us fall in love with this place and its people even more. Over the years, our children have been taught, coached, befriended, and cared for by members of this community, and Ann and I have been welcomed, included, and befriended as well. We almost feel like genuine natives…almost!
Beyond St. Johnsbury, we have been welcomed and befriended by people throughout the Northeast Kingdom, including our new hometown of Waterford and, yes, (despite the rivalry!) Lyndonville! As I have traveled through our region, I have encountered hundreds upon hundreds of Academy alumni and their families (many of whom are also alums), and whether we were mourning a loss or celebrating a championship, I was conscious of the unity of spirit that held us together. Likewise, I was amazed at the outpouring of support from around the Kingdom — by alums and non-alums alike — when the Class of 2020 took their tour through town in the Commencement Parade.
I have loved standing with a sea of green in Patrick Gymnasium or along numerous sidelines, end zones, or rink sides. I have loved working alongside my colleagues in education and my partners in the arts and social services serving young people, bringing cultural events to the Kingdom, and combatting poverty, illness, and crime. I have also appreciated my critics who have held me accountable and made me better, even when we continued to disagree, but especially when they taught me new ways of seeing and acting. I am a better person for having lived here.
Finally, within the Academy community, our family has found a home — literally on campus for 22 of our 36 years — and I have found a vocation, close and lifelong friends, and a group of teammates whom I love dearly. It is hard to get my head around the knowledge that we no longer live on campus, that I will no longer serve as leader of this community, that I will no longer see my friends each day, and that I will be supporting the team from the sidelines. It’s a lot. The kind words of people like Julie Hansen and Todd Smith and all those quoted in our son Patrick’s story in the Caledonian-Record have not made it any easier to step aside.
However, today, June 30, that is what I am doing, confident that Sharon Howell and her team will continue to do great things, and that this community will continue to be as generous and caring as it has been over the past 36 years. For 19 of those years, I have been privileged to see up close how many people sacrifice for the common good of this community. Organizations and individuals of all kinds, with all sorts of vocations and gifts, work tirelessly to make our community, region, and school one of the best places to be in the world. And as my friend’s example reminded me, the work needs to continue — as long as there are hungry, homeless, or suffering people among us — even if we do the simplest things with whatever means we have.
As I step down from being headmaster and step aside to allow Sharon Howell to lead us forward, I am committed to continue working as part of this generous and caring community as much as I can in whatever ways God calls me. I feel so grateful that I live and have served here among such people and that my family and I have been blessed to live among you for so many years. Thank you to all of you who have made these years — especially the last 19 — so full and rewarding.