It’s doubtful that Lawrenceville’s founders, in 1810, ever imagined a virtual convocation, but the School continues to creatively keep its best traditions vibrant, if different. (You can watch the entire ceremony below. Photos will be posted on Lawrenceville’s Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr pages as they become available.)
Lawrentians gathered around computer screens on September 13, on campus and around the globe, to kick off the School year with Convocation 2020. The pre-recorded ceremony started, as Convocation always does, with the ringing of the Edith Memorial Chapel bells, as a gentle reminder for the community to gather.
Lawrenceville’s Hallelujah! Chaplain, the Reverend Dr. Greg B. Jones, gave the invocation. He welcomed everyone back to Lawrenceville, whether they were residing on campus or watching from another location. In his prayer for Lawrenceville, he asked for students to find “excitement and a zeal for learning,” for teachers to rise to the challenges presented by the pandemic, for staff and the administration to strengthen the School, and concluded with hopes that “when all things are set again right, we will find [Lawrenceville] a stronger academy.”
In his address titled, “On Truth,” Head of School Steve Murray spoke of America’s social justice challenges and how they continue to impact the Lawrenceville community. “Our nation may be divided, and even our alumni body may not all agree, but we have a choice, we don’t have to live divided,” he said.
Murray echoed a message he’s shared in the past: that intentionally diverse communities like Lawrenceville serve what he called a “fundamentally important purpose.”
“More so than in our neighborhoods, our churches, the restaurants we prefer, our social clubs, here at Lawrenceville we come into contact with an enormous range of individuals – as roommates, as Housemates, as classmates, as teammates,” he said. “And we will get it wrong at times, we will misunderstand each other and sometimes hurt each other. This is not a sign that we are broken – these moments of imperfection are the inevitable result of coming together, here on this campus, and having a go of it. And we show our strength as a community when we avoid pulling back into retrenched, single-minded factions the moment we stumble. We show our strength when we have the will and resolve to trust, to listen, and to see competing truths.”
Murray continued, “If we can see the divisions we are experiencing as opportunities, if each of us can work to see the kernels of validity in the views of those seemingly at odds with us, we can and will find a way to come together and to heal, and show the nation how it’s done.”
Lawrenceville, he emphasized, has more than an opportunity, it has an obligation to heal divisions. “We have worked so hard to reopen this campus so that we can actually be together, and it will take hard work and discipline to keep our campus open – but that gives us a shot, and let’s not squander it. We cannot be afraid to hear each other, to respect each other, and yes, to love each other, and show the rest of the world how it’s done.”
Lawrenceville’s Rabbi, Lauren Nemiroff Levy, was ceremony’s final speaker, offering a heartfelt benediction to “our beautifully diverse group of Lawrentians, all individuals in your own right, all from a vast array of diverse locations and beliefs and shades of color and races and traditions and identities.”
She reminded students that faculty and staff are here to “help you, support you, encourage you, believe in you, and uplift you.” In this time filled with unknowns, Levy said, “We pledge you a year filled with the very best we can give from our tireless work of our faculty and staff, who have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep you safe and nourished in body, in soul, and brain. We ask for blessings to abound and that that we be granted strength to build and grow together. Let our year and our community be a strong one and a healthy one.”
Convocation concluded, again as it always does, with “Triumphant Lawrence,” played on the Chapel bells instead of sung by the community, but still “Forever and for aye!”
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose. Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.