Hey, Hero, Listen for the Call!

For this month’s blog, I have decided to share a section of my opening chapel talk given to students at Midway on September 1.  As my post last month noted, I have chosen this word “quest” around which to frame my speaking and writing to the community this year. This chapel talk, titled “Hey, Hero, Listen for the Call!” used the famous biblical passage of Moses and the Burning Bush from Exodus 3:1-17.

Simply defined, a quest is “a long or arduous search for something.”

Now, you are actually more familiar with quests than you might realize. The heroes’ tales we know well, from ancient mythology to the present day, follow a general structure associated with quests.

First, a hero to be is called to partake in a journey to accomplish a great or important task.

Next, the hero departs the comforts of the world he or she has known and travels into the unknown.

As the journey unfolds, the hero encounters an array of challenges and setbacks which test her courage.

At critical junctures, influential and essential mentors appear to offer aid to the quester.

Ultimately, having successfully completed his or her quest, the hero returns home a transformed person with new wisdom to be shared with others.

In my chapel talks to come, we will look at these different parts of the hero’s quest. Because, my friends, you are in the earliest days of your own 9 month quest also known as the school year.  Your greatest reason for being at Parish, in fact, is to prepare you upon leaving here to chart your own hero’s journey – one which will impact the world in a profound way.

We must start today, then, at the beginning and with this question: Are you ready and willing to hear and accept a call?

I mean, you could choose to sit idly by the next nine months oblivious to or afraid of an emergent opportunity to transform yourself or something you care about for the better.   You could, should you wish, choose to just survive and cross off each day until summer comes again. Or, like the hero you most admire, you can choose to answer the call and journey toward an alluring vision for yourself – or for the teams, clubs, or organizations which mean the most to you. 

Should you choose to pursue a quest, though, you must first be awake and alert.

Because, you see, you don’t know from where your call will come or when it will beckon.

Sometimes it comes from a positive place: your art teacher notices your interest and talent during class and calls on you to consider applying for an upcoming art competition. 

Sometimes your call comes from pure happenstance. The new student in the grade sits near you in the first days of school and sends clear signals that she could use a hand finding her way at Parish.

Sometimes your call will even come after something bad or difficult has happened.  Perhaps you miss a key shot in an important game or miss out on the lead role in the play you coveted. A loss can call you to rethink how you might prepare better or differently.

And sometimes, as scripture teaches us today, our call will come from the unlikeliest of places.

A voice – God’s voice – beckoned to Moses from a burning bush of all places.  His difficult and important task was to lead the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and return them to a “good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a beautiful vision that must have been for the enslaved Hebrews!.

But hearing the call and saying “I choose to accept the quest” are two different things.  Scripture tells us Moses was 80 years old at the time he received his call from the bush on top of Mt. Horeb.  He doubted his ability to lead the Hebrews home, saying to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He almost didn’t accept the call.

Fortunately, though, Moses did accept his call. He parted the waters and led God’s people home. 

Where are you headed this year? How will you transform yourself or help carry a group of which you are a part its own “land of milk and honey?”

Will you be ready to hear a call when it comes?

The Quest Begins

Luke Skywalker, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Bilbo Baggins, Siddhartha, Odysseus, even Marlin from Finding Nemo.Luke Skywalker, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Bilbo Baggins, Siddhartha, Odysseus, even Marlin from Finding Nemo.

You likely associate one, if not all, of these characters with his or her adventure. Luke sought to destroy the evil empire; Odysseus wished to return home to Ithaca after battling bravely in the Trojan War; Marlin searched the seas for the lost Nemo.
Indeed, each of these individuals pursued a quest.

The quest motif is, in fact, age-old. Renowned scholar Joseph Campbell identified 17 stages of the hero’s journey traceable to the myths of the most ancient people.

In his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell described the hero’s journey this way:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

In just a few weeks, 1140 heroes attired as Parish students return to our campuses, which for now serve as the primary settings for the unfolding life journeys of these young adventurers.

In fact, for each of us a new school year offers the opportunity to embark on a hero’s quest. True, days at Parish may lack the “supernatural wonder” of The Hobbit’s Lonely Mountain or the “fabulous forces” of the river in which Siddhartha discovered enlightenment. Ideally, though, for our students in particular, a more refined list of quest elements will be experienced between now and next May:

A CallLeia

Princess Leah beckoned Luke Skywalker through a holographic message played by R2-D2. Which individual or what class topic, cause, or experience this year might call our students to “venture forth” to explore a world new to them? Will they be ready to hear and answer that call?

A Treasure

The call evokes a vision which captivates the hero. This treasure – the hopeful aspiration of a more perfected form of self or place – fuels the quest. For Siddhartha, for example, attaining enlightenment powered his lifelong journey. Are our students able to articulate the higher form of themselves they hope to attain by the time school ends next May? Is it something more ennobling than “make an A in math?” For parents, the urge to hear the call for our children or define the object of their quest can be overwhelming. We should strive, though, to poke and preserve: Poke our children from what Campbell calls the “conventional slumber” of their present condition while preserving (and celebrating!) their autonomy to choose their journey’s direction.

OdysseusThe Trials

Events and circumstances confront the hero and raise doubt that the treasured state will ever be attained. Odysseus and his sailors encountered innumerable challenges and threats such as the lotus-eaters, Cyclopes, and Scylla and Charybdis. Our students, too, will face trails this year – lapses in focus; peer antagonists; rejections and runner-up finishes. How will they respond? It can be most painful as a parent to watch our child endure such trials. We can offer safe harbor amidst the storms and should do so while recognizing that we cannot control the weather conditions our heroes – our children – face during their journeys.

The Mentors 

BilboGandalfTeachers, sages and protectors offer guidance and assistance to the hero at critical junctures in the quest. Gandalf advised Bilbo as the dwarves sought to reclaim the treasure from Smaug in The Hobbit. Dory offered assistance to Marlin as the search for Nemo unfolded. As an educator and parent, I’ve discovered a piece of wisdom: other adults may be better positioned to mentor my  boys and in doing so will not diminish my effectiveness or worth as a parent. As we parents grow more comfortable letting our children go to the influential sages who appear along the path, we are better positioned to join our children in offering gratitude for that mentor’s presence and counsel.

The Transformation

Ultimately, the hero returns – transformed in some significant and permanent way. Odysseus returned to Ithaca a man more measured and humble after enduring seven years on the island of Calypso and the trials of his journey home.

1stDay2016Each year, we capture first day photos of our students as they depart for school. As you do that this year, note in writing some other feature of your child beyond the physical ones conveyed in the photo. Track this trait – be it patience, sociability, tolerance for risk or self-confidence – and see how it evolves over the next nine months. Chances are, come May, you will be as amazed by the evident transformation in this feature as you are in his or her physical growth.  Of course, places – your business, church, favorite charitable organization – undertake quests of their own. Parish is no exception.

We have heard the call to Reimagine how students experience school. We envision a more perfected learning culture – one which inarguably prepares the students of today for the complex global society they will lead tomorrow without sacrificing their level of engagement, love of learning or mental health. Our journey has crossed the threshold. We have begun piloting different time models and methods of instruction. Each new experience helps us understand better how to fit a student’s learning experience to his or her needed level of challenge; or how to build powerful, enduring learning habits beyond the ability to memorize content; or how to feature engaging, authentic learning experiences which, in many cases, students help shape and direct.

None of us know for sure what this year holds in store. That, in essence, is the thrill associated with any journey. As we prepare to depart, we can be prayerful that our young heroes embrace the opportunity before them and, with your help and ours, advance their journey to becoming the impactful people God has put them on earth to be.

Boundless Gratitude

I live in a sports-watching home.

So it is that the boys and I (and Mollie on occasion) interface with a fairly narrow band of advertisers.


In March, during the NCAA tournament, an ad dubbed “Real Winners Care” aired repeatedly for the Dove Men product line. Images from the commercial captured athletes, pushed beyond their physical and mental limits, receiving aid from a competitor or teammate.

Beyond its suitability for airing during March Madness, one of America’s most revered annual sporting events, Dove’s marketing serves a purpose for my final First Monday.

As the month of May begins most of us – parents, faculty & staff, and especially our students – feel like the athletes in the ad look! The “final lap” of the nine-month race of the school year has begun. We have, as cliché-spouting announcers love to say, “left it all out there” in our respective quests. We will reach the final day of school unaided (we hope!), but can relate to the sense of depletion captured in the images of these athletes.

Indeed, I also appreciate how the commercial casts a final hue on the theme which has pervaded my writing to you and chapel talks to the students this year: boundless thinking and acting.

The impactful people and institutions I know and respect possess boundless dispositions. Their mindsets consistently uphold hope, possibility and opportunity over despair, helplessness and cynicism. As a result, these individuals and organizations consistently move forward with energy, conviction and perseverance.

In this space since August, I have highlighted how our programs forge bold leaders who see around and through obstacles and build bridges across lines of divide (September, March). I’ve profiled frontier-exploring young alumni constructing fulfilling lives (November, February). I’ve related how initiatives of ours, Parish Connect and ParishBridge, transcend the boundaries of the campus to help our alumni and seniors, respectively, spawn powerful networks. And I’ve explained Parish’s own challenger’s quest (April). By profiling those who influence us (October), I’ve sought to include you as we explore new frontiers in education where we reimagine how today’s schools might best equip our children to thrive in tomorrow’s complex world while keeping their spirits and love of learning fully intact.

Indeed, the enthusiastic pursuit of such audacious aspirations can leave even the heartiest quester ragged and stumbling!

So, where do bold leaders and boundless thinkers turn for reprieve and restoration?

Well, summer vacation certainly doesn’t hurt!

But I have also learned an important lesson this year. When taxed by the effort required to break new ground or staggered by the unexpected body blows life inevitably deals us, a foolproof replenishing agent exists: gratitude.

In December, I wrote of the research of Martin Seligman, the founder of the field of positive psychology. He and his colleagues have demonstrated that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

In my experience, if practiced regularly, gratitude expressed for what has transpired, what is and what may be suppresses anxiety, assuages disappointment, and amplifies boundless thinking.

So as the school year’s final month dawns, and with it comes the exhaustion borne of a full investment of our efforts, the time to drink from the reservoir of gratitude has arrived. Our community will engage in several traditions designed to thank faculty and staff for time served; to recognize volunteers for their dedication to this place; and to model for and instruct our students on how they can communicate heartfelt thanks.

How does your school community use May as a month to teach and demonstrate boundless gratitude?

Parish’s Challenger Brand Quest

Ikea. Warby Parker. Southwest Airlines. Red Bull.

You have likely heard of these companies. You might even be able to identify a trait or behavior which makes each unique – Ikea’s flat-packed furniture and distinctive catalog, for example.

These companies sell different products, but they share a defining identity: they are challenger brands. Simply put, while brand leaders in their space have zigged, these companies have zagged.

RedBullMost energy drinks, for example, sought to outdo one another attracting athletes in traditional sports to their product. Red Bull, on the other hand, embraced an edgy identity and aligned itself with extreme activities like cliff diving or airplane racing which demand not only physical performance but mental acuity.

WarbyParkerChallenger brands reject a fundamental driver of their category. Warby Parker’s founders disputed the notion that designer eyewear had to be prohibitively expensive. It shifted manufacturing in house, offered a home try-on program, and developed an- e-commerce site to enhance the consumer experience.

SouthwestOften under-resourced compared to legacy brands, challengers also refute the prevailing culture prevalent within their category. Southwest brought a new approach to flight scheduling and boarding. But it also redefined the passenger’s high fare, long-haul, impersonal flight experience with its fun-loving commitment to “positively outrageous service.”

Challenger brands project what Adam Morgan refers to in his book Eating the Big Fish as a “Lighthouse Identity” – a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for – articulated in strong emotional terms. As path forgers, they demonstrate a curiosity about where their industry might go and the courage to alight toward the emerging path.

Now Parish does not sell eye ware, produce furniture, or transport passengers, but we do share with the companies profiled above the mindset of a challenger brand.

I have written and spoken extensively on boundless thinking this year. How fitting it is, then, to highlight Parish’s lighthouse identity as an educational leader transforming teaching and learning so as to better prepare today’s young people for the “complex global society.”

Our present effort to Reimagine School stands as a challenger’s quest. We contend that long-held operating paradigms of schools – some of which are highlighted in the chart below – require deep reconsideration if today’s children are to be prepared for tomorrow’s world.

ReimagineComparisonThese operational features have defined the student (or consumer, if you will) experience. Other societal factors have arisen within the last generation: increasingly competitive college admissions, the global economy, and social media among them. Together, they have cultivated a learning culture in college preparatory schools fixated on outcomes and metrics (e.g. GPAs, test scores, college placements) and thus steeped in anxiety.

Julia Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford dean, is just one of many who have gathered data – derived in her case from college counseling offices (see image below) to demonstrate how unhealthy the prevailing culture of the college preparatory school industry has become for young people (her TED Talk is among the most frequently viewed).

Lythcott-HaimsIndeed, this culture is bad for our kids and needs reimagining.

Since 2009, we’ve unfurled a fleet of signature programs to uncover and feed the passions of students. More recently, we’ve piloted initiatives designed to blend disciplines, personalize instruction or enhance enduring habits of mind. Presently, we are deep into Reimagine School and how time, technology and curriculum delivery might best serve our students in the future.

We believe we can be a North Star in our industry – a school that garners attention for unquestionably preparing students for tomorrow’s world without breaking their spirit or squelching their love of learning.

There remains one other noteworthy trait of challenger brands. As a result of their fearless commitment to challenge category norms and embedded cultural characteristics in their sector, they become the brand “everyone is talking about” and evoke the “highest sensed momentum” in consumer’s mind. They become thought-leaders.

As you can learn more about in this video, Parish has been visited by close to 70 schools, colleges, businesses and community leaders since 2013. We have commanded attention for posing the provocative questions; demonstrating a boundless spirit; and leading the way.

We embrace our role as a challenger brand. We derive energy from our quest to better serve our students and our global community by producing a new generation of leaders replete with robust minds and thriving, intact spirits.

Forging Bold Leaders with Inclusive Mindsets

“In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world… Put challenging issues before [your children] at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help your children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.”  

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016

A lot can happen in six months.

When I wrote and delivered the statement above as part of my Parents’ Night remarks in September (referenced in my September 2016 blog post), Colin Kaepernick had just a week earlier kneeled for the first time during the national anthem. An already divisive election season – to which I also alluded in my comments that evening – was still two months from yielding a generally unexpected result. The drumbeat of headlines and news stories on domestic Executive orders, travel bans and immigration policies had yet to register a social media click.

Indeed, our children live in a complex global society.

In this space throughout the year, as well as in my chapel talks to the community, I’ve highlighted boundless thinking. I’ve pondered the characteristics of individuals and organizations that, like Parish, embrace such a mindset of hopeful optimism and possibility. I’ve offered examples of how our program, alumni and community demonstrate it.

While some may find my musings uplifting, I recognize that for others, a bleaker world view may prevail.  Images of society riven by divisions and boundaries flood our senses from a variety of sources.

As educators (and parents), we’ve been presented an opportunity. I would frame it using questions:

  • Will we watch our children slide passively into one of the isolated and insulated ideological camps which characterize our present national profile?
  • Or will we explore and evaluate with them the contours of today’s knottiest issues so that they become bold standard bearers of civil discourse and architects of collaborative solutions?

In my September remarks, I offered my answer as both a dad and Head of School:

“I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.”

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016

No one would mistake “deliberate” progress for boundless accomplishment. But when it comes to building intentional, mission-aligned programming to prepare our students to navigate and mend the evident fissures in our complex global society, I think a steady advance is noteworthy.

At Parish, three interwoven programs buttress the formation of impactful leaders.

First, daily chapel instills time-tested lessons in love.  Love for one another, love for our neighbor, love for those with opposing views and, yes, even love for our enemy.

PLeads_GirlPowerLunchSecond, a robust homeroom, advisory and experiential learning program complements the ethical foundation chapel establishes,  using the ParishLeads framework to build student capacity for relationship building, empathy and awareness of difference.


Finally, as I wrote in  January 2016, we have initiated complementary programming in the area of Diversity & Inclusion. Guiding this effort has been the revised mission and diversity statements approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. Now in her second year, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Tyneeta Canonge has convened several groups to assist in the development and implementation of initiatives in this space: Divisional Diversity Committees, The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – comprised of parents, a school Trustee, and faculty and staff members – and a thriving Student Leadership Diversity Board in our Upper School.

D&LFocusAreas_blogTogether, these groups have helped craft action steps in several key areas identified in the accompanying chart.

In doing so, we have kept in mind the developmental needs and readiness of our students. We have also evaluated closely the time allocation deemed appropriate for the work.

The below visuals offer a summation Diversity & Inclusion programming developed and implemented thus far this year.



This work of forging bold leaders with inclusive mindsets has – especially in these unsettled times – left segments of our constituency uneasy. Some feel chapel need not be every day, or that it is too Christian, or not Christian enough. Others think an advisory period committed to ParishLeads usurps time from our academic purpose. Some believe we are not moving swiftly enough to be a more inclusive school community –  defined as one which is whole, unified and loving, but at the same time sensitive to and respectful of opinions and backgrounds of difference in our midst. Meanwhile, others believe we are moving too quickly or that our program content serves more to divide than to unify.

We accept this feedback and appreciate it. We will continue to improve our communication on programming in this arena. Notably, I am pleased to introduce a new blog resource within our Diversity & Inclusion webpage – Voices & Views – where you will find resources, examples of activities in which students have been engaged, and news on upcoming programming (third trimester activities are now posted).

Enriched by this feedback, our mission-driven commitment to this work will remain steadfast.  Tomorrow’s complex world demands the boundless, collaborative and attuned leaders we believe it will yield.

Life Prep Not Just College Prep

In my November blog post, I highlighted how Cole Jones’ ’14 post Parish experiences demonstrate the boundless mindsets of our first wave of graduates.

In January, Cole returned to campus and took questions from the juniors in my class, all of whom are members of the Leadership Institute ’18 cohort. It was perfect! With no advanced prompting from me, Cole shared his personal mission statement (something my students had just been asked to do) and espoused how leading a life of possibility requires one to develop a working relationship with fear (messaging I have shared this year with all students in my monthly chapel talks).

leadershipclass_crop“Cole speaking to us today was probably one of the most impactful moments I’ve had at Parish…He grabbed my attention from the beginning when he started to talk about working on a 67 foot schooner…The way he carries himself with his values and adventurous attitude is inspiring…I think that Cole helped us realize the importance of our personal credo. To be honest, a couple of weeks ago I didn’t see the point to the personal statement/credo, but now I see it as something I can use to guide me. I have come straight home to open my laptop and revise my credo making sure it’s what I want it to be…”

Member of Leadership Institute cohort’18 reflecting on visit from Cole Jones ’14.

Every school should be blessed with graduates like Cole and Emily Sher ’13. Whenever Emily is in Dallas, she stops by for a visit. Emily understands the power of networks and mentors in today’s complex global society, so she diligently cultivates ongoing relationships with her Parish teachers.

Emily also represents the best of what Parish seeks to produce. She’s a learned and intelligent person to be sure, but Emily is also defined by her tenacious work ethic, refined relationship building skills, and indefatigable drive.

Emily’s path to powerful internship experiences called on her to evidence each of these traits and more. She had chosen the University of Miami over an early acceptance at Wake Forest (I still remember our conversations weighing that decision!) because she embraced the challenge of a more cosmopolitan, diverse city. She has thrived at Miami, but financial firms like UBS and Morgan Stanley, which had become the focus of her career path, did not recruit directly at the University.

emilysher_2Undeterred, Emily took the initiative to apply to the Bermont/Carlin Scholars Program within Miami’s Business School. She was one of 20 students accepted after a two-part interview. As a Scholar, she completed a team-based summer project learning more about one of the major financial institutions, took a fall recruiting trip to New York to hone interviewing and networking skills, and ultimately landed a prized internship in Manhattan with Morgan Stanley this past summer.

At the conclusion of her 10 week internship focused on institutional wealth management, Emily was offered a full time position with Morgan Stanley which she will begin after graduation. Needless to say, that was an exciting exit interview (and productive summer internship) for Ms. Sher!

ParishBridgeLast February in this space, I introduced ParishBridge, one component of which is a professional experience of 15-50 hours depending on the senior’s course schedule.

Through ParishBridge, we are introducing our oldest students to the power of internships, network building and learning beyond the classroom. In an amazing and unexpected twist in ParishBridge’s first year, nearly 10 percent of the class of 2016 turned ParishBridge professional experiences last spring into summer internships (many of them paid!) last summer. In our second year, members of the class of 2017 – observing their peers in last year’s pioneer class – have been poised to capitalize on this unique opportunity. Already, they’ve investigated potential professional experiences with the likes of Disney, the Dallas Mavericks, the Perot Museum and Top Golf.


Combined with ParishConnect (which I highlighted last month), we are building a powerful and unique set of services. Together, they will equip our oldest students and young alumni with the skills and experiences they need to establish powerful networks – ones which will be essential to their thriving in the “complex global society.”

I anticipate that boundless futures, like those of Cole and Emily, will be the norm for Parish graduates to come, and I can’t wait to watch their individual journeys unfold!

Delivering on My Promise

In December, I vowed to restock my sense of boundless hope and optimism. I pledged that the global, domestic and campus-related challenges of 2016 would not deter my aspirations for a better tomorrow.

As a man of my word, my initial First Monday of 2017 will highlight Parish-related initiatives which buoy my spirit, especially when I consider their imminent positive impact.

Gene E. Phillips Activity Center is on its way
I love watching construction projects. The architects, project managers and construction workers possess such admirable skills as planners, problems solvers and artisans. I find witnessing the incremental and tangible results of their work to be immensely satisfying. As you can see in the image series below, in just four months tremendous progress has been made in bringing the Gene E. Phillips Activity Center to life!


By summer the Center will offer our students an additional 24,000 square feet for learning, competing and performing. This space will seat close to 500 and feature lighting and acoustical attributes which make it an attractive option for music, dance and community events. Already, we are planning for how it can be utilized most efficiently to best serve the community. Jennifer Wilson, Head of Lower School, leads a committee presently investigating opportunities the Phillips Activity Center might offer, such as:

  • alleviating the need for early morning athletic practices and/or allowing Middle School teams to practice more often;
  • shifting when Physical Education classes meet thereby liberating key instructional time in the morning for 3rd and 4th grade students;
  • serving as a site for select ParishArts music & dance performances;
  • hosting key community events such as when we partner with The Perot Museum of Nature & Science to host FIRST LEGO® League robotics competitions in December and February.

I am confident the first new facility added to our campus in over a decade will have a dramatic and positive impact on our community when it opens this August (2017).


Momentum for the Performance & Community Center build
Amidst the excitement of the Phillips Activity Center taking shape before our eyes, I am equally enthused about the progress this fall toward making the Performance & Community Center (PACC) a reality. As you may have read in our special announcement, we have received several major gifts in the last few months, putting us over $7 million in pledges since July 1, 2016, including an incredibly generous $5 million anonymous commitment. Our development team, comprised of Diana Sobey, Carrie Burton and Daniel Novakov, and led by Amanda Meter and Marci McLean, has positioned us for success. Our Board of Trustees has pledged close to $3 million to our two venue projects while providing thoughtful and responsible direction to our construction and fundraising effort. My optimism peaked by these tangible signs of support, I am even more energized to bring our dreams for the PACC to broader segments of our community this year. We want to put this second vision-supportive facility to the service of our dedicated faculty and talented students within the next four years.

parishconnect_lowParishConnect launches
As I wrote in November, our young Parish Episcopal alumni (remember, having had only 10 graduating classes, they are all still young!) represent a great source of excitement and hope for me. We have an immense opportunity before us as a school: to define, in richly distinct terms, what we want our relationship with our alumni to be. Beyond annual homecoming events and reunions, might we impact and enrich the lives of our graduates once they have reached the “complex global society” as meaningfully as we did when they were students at Parish?

alumni_lsThis question fueled the creation of ParishConnect, which we launched softly last summer and announced more broadly in our most recent Pantherbeat. It will assume a much more public identity in our community this year. Overseen by Advancement & Alumni Coordinator, Lauren Henderson, ParishConnect links our graduates – both those proceeding through the final years of college and graduate school and those who’ve recently entered the workforce – with professional contacts from our parent body, both present and alumni. Less a job center and more a Parish “LinkedIn,” ParishConnect helps our young alumni explore the professional topography in their chosen field of interest. It also helps our graduates develop their skill constructing powerful networks, a vital conduit for making things happen in today’s interconnected world. As you can see from Lauren Sandstedt’s ’13 feedback at right, the value of ParishConnect has already been realized.

ParishConnect represents just one component of a more comprehensive plan to engage our alumni. As day-to-day school operations shift more distinctly to Michelle Lyon (after July 1 in her new role as Assistant Head of School), I will enthusiastically engage in a more coordinated way with our alumni – through ParishConnect – by offering an ongoing series of “Purposeful Lives” seminars & workshops, and by staging a variety of campus and city-based social events.

Indeed, my supply of hope and optimism overflows! I am blessed to have been called to the work of school leadership, especially at time of such dynamic change in our world and especially at a place like Parish – a community which has always embraced a sense of what’s possible.