Carol Moriarty P’02 ’05 ’07
Andy Ory P’16 ’21
Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65
Dear Concord Academy Community,
We all know the power and beauty of chapel talks. With the tolling of the first morning bell, our campus community quietly enters the Chapel. The first- and second-year students take their assigned seats in the center pews. The wings are occupied by the juniors and seniors, while the faculty and staff settle into the last row or the gallery. Down one aisle, a line of students forms as one friend after another greets that day’s chapel giver. They share hugs and kind words, drawing smiles and good feeling. Behind them, the altar is decorated with signs, photos, and memorabilia from the chapel giver’s life—all assembled the night before by friends.
From the belfry, the ropes creak, and the second bell tolls. As it fades, the Chapel is so quiet even a whisper could be heard, but there are none. Classmates, friends, faculty, staff, and, often, parents, grandparents, and other relatives too, have arrived for one reason: to listen.
The senior approaches the podium. Steeped in the ways of CA, they have many times before witnessed others entering this moment. But today it is their turn, as CA has always shown them it soon would be. The student becomes the teacher, and for the next 15 minutes what transpires is profound. It sums up a learning experience that has challenged and transformed students one by one, generation after generation, to deepen their understanding of who they are and to grow in the confidence to live it, voice it, and share it.
Chapel talks are an assertion of values—of CA’s values and those of the students whose education has been entrusted to us.
As we have reflected on this campaign letter to you, we have thought often of the way chapel talks have affected us across the years. Like the students at that microphone, we will never have another opportunity like this to state before you—before the CA community at large—why this campaign matters. It matters for one reason: because CA matters.
CA’s faculty and curriculum push students to levels of exploration, discovery, and intellectual agility that prepare them for every academic and career experience to come. That is one reason CA matters.
But like everything at CA, our faculty challenge students in ways that are imbued with a particular value. Here, learning is not simply an academic experience, for it is also deeply personal and relational.
Concord Academy’s first head of school, Elsie G. Hobson, Ph.D.
In an academic setting, success is often measured by awards, prizes, and recognition. That approach can create a compelling energy around the learning experience. Some schools have a dress or honor code and prescribe certain paths that every student is expected to follow. But CA is different. We orient our students’ experience around love of learning itself. We teach students that the deepest and most enduring intellectual growth comes from developing one’s capacities, interests, and principles in collaboration with others engaged in that same pursuit. By empowering our students to live according to the value of common trust, we enable them to take responsibility—for themselves and those around them—and to ensure that this community works for everyone.
Classified ad in The New York Times, August 31, 1922.
Elizabeth Hall speaking at Commencement before an open Academy Garden.
Rare is the school in which faculty invite students to respond not only to the teacher’s ideas and questions, but also to one another in every class and laboratory, every studio and hall. At CA, whatever understanding or solutions students might develop emerge through encountering and contemplating every point of view in the room. Here, students grow and change through the insights of all those with whom they share the experience. We have committed to this practice because we have seen the depth of learning it creates and how it prepares students to thrive in the complex world they will make their own.
We believe CA matters because these ideals matter. Over the course of nearly a century, they have made a profound difference on and beyond our campus. This campaign is our chance to make sure these ideals carry forward for every student who has been, is, and will be part of CA.
This March 1954 Yankee magazine advertisement beckoned Elizabeth Hall to New Hampshire to see what would become CA’s Chapel.
The original newspaper ad posted to attract CA’s first students stated: “The school life is planned to develop the qualities of initiative and self-reliance, to stimulate intellectual curiosity, and to give a thorough preparation for college.”
Such a simple and clear invitation, and yet so much more: preparation not just for college, but for life.
In 1954, Elizabeth Hall would provide a model for living bravely, for meeting challenges with creativity and ingenuity. She identified a need at CA—a place for quiet—and she proposed an audacious solution. She would buy an abandoned meeting house in the New Hampshire woods 80 miles away and, with the help of a small crew of people, including one student, would take it apart, board by board, transport it to Concord, and rebuild it at the foot of the Academy Garden.
The CA community came together to reassemble the Chapel board by board.
Soon after its reconstruction, in the winter of 1956, CA’s students, aided by one of their teachers, had another novel idea—person by person, letter by letter, they would carve one of the most beautiful passages from all of scripture into pine and mount it on the wall above the altar. The passage is a call for love of learning and service to the best in one another. And in the Chapel’s new beginning, the creation of the carving, the sounding of the bell, and the quiet of the chapel talk echoes another message: Every voice matters, every individual is needed, and if we come together around those ideals, we can shape a purpose greater than ourselves.
It is easy for those of us familiar with CA to lose sight of how distinctive these values are. We know of no school more committed to intellectual challenge and personal and communal awareness—that strives more to live by these ideals, in word and practice, in every setting, every day.
At the conclusion of each chapel talk, there is no applause, no shouts of praise or congratulation. The 400 or so listeners have shared a more subtle, more meaningful moment than that. Instead, the student steps down to greet family and loved ones, and then to join their peers. Together, they walk through the Chapel doors and toward the new day.
A campaign is a risky endeavor. It is a public declaration of what an institution believes it can be. It is a statement of values and possibilities, an affirmation of the past and a goal. We can build this long-needed performing arts center. We can unify this campus around the Chapel as our physical and symbolic center. We can invest in financial aid, our faculty, and the resources necessary for today’s and tomorrow’s CA to thrive.
With this campaign, the CA community declares anew what it believes, what it has learned, and what it can become. Chapel talks define us, and this campaign is CA’s chapel talk. When we walk through those doors, we will do it together. We invite you to join us.