Message from the Head of School
Just out of high school, Olivia Avery ’16 wrote a touching, and very funny, piece called “Signs You Went to a Quaker School“. Olivia, who was recently back at AFS as a beloved part of our expanded Covid faculty, did a beautiful job of capturing the idiosyncrasies of attending a Friends school, and of course, very specifically, AFS.
A few years ago, I was interviewing Adam Schorsch ’03 as a part of the process of inviting him to join the School Committee. At the time, Adam was working in the hypercompetitive world of Manhattan commercial real estate. He told me that his Quaker education had been formative for him in ways that he was just beginning to understand. He was seeing that he was different in ways that were truly valued in his professional life because of his AFS education. He was seen as a good listener, as someone who could take a longer view in what could be a highly transactional, short-term oriented business. He was able to see issues from multiple perspectives and often discern a way forward that might have been missed otherwise. And his rock solid integrity and sense of ethics made him a trusted colleague and negotiator.
I think that most of our alumni come to see that they had a very different type of education than most once they are out in the “real world,” an education that not only defined their time at AFS, but continues to shape their lives and take on new meaning in each chapter of adulthood. I hear it often from my daughters, Jenna ’10 and Sarah ’13, in our late night kitchen conversations when they are home for a visit, a gratitude for an education that spoke to them as full human beings. They find themselves in roles of leadership, stewardship and progressive change in each setting in which they have worked, inspired by their experience of what authentic community can and should be. And the deep conversations with AFS teachers that began for them as children and students, continue to this day over text messages, phone calls and visits, testament to the power of teacher/student relationships at AFS to inspire and truly change lives.
I am so pleased that this edition of Oak Leaves is focused on the stories of alumni in which I think you will see some common threads. A grounded sense of self that inspires a lifelong search for meaning and contribution and the confidence and faith to follow internal leadings in their lives. A common commitment to service. Lively intellect, deep relationships and an orientation to lifelong growth as a person.
These stories are a reminder that an AFS education, while rooted in an incredibly rich and lively student experience on our campus, really shines in setting in motion lives well-lived long after Commencement in the Grove. And I believe that the most important aspect of an AFS education goes well beyond excellent academic preparation and the many skills and capabilities that students leave us with. In the spiritual dimension of Friends education, students are given the time and the example of peers and adults in their midst to seek out, recognize and value things of greatest worth and to listen for the calling within them that will put their distinctive gifts to best use in a world that needs them. Many thanks to Jon, Nelson, Bridget, Nisha, Ryan, Mike, Jana and Mini for sharing their stories with us in this edition of Oak Leaves and inspiring us by “letting their lives speak” so beautifully.