Wedding knowledge with goodness: Dr. Richard Melvoin gives Cum Laude address

On Wednesday, 18 April, Roxbury Latin celebrated in Hall the eleven members of Class I whose efforts and accomplishments earned them membership in the Cum Laude Society. The school was honored to welcome as the Cum Laude speaker Dr. Richard Melvoin, who this June retires after 25 years as head of Belmont Hill School. The all-school ceremony honors the life of the mind—affirming that at the heart of a good school is scholarly engagement. The following seniors were inducted into the Cum Laude Society:


William Geddes Connaughton

Zachary Aaron Levin

Robert Volpe Cunningham

David Ma

Connor Shaw Dowd

Andrew Mallon White

John Joseph Golden

Reis O’Neill White

Gabriel Adalberto Grajeda

Dylan Zhou

Benjamin Thomas LaFond


Dr. Melvoin began his address with the words of John Phillips (the name behind two other respectable schools): “Though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and…both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.”


“Whether you are a member of Cum Laude or not, every one of you have been given an extraordinary education. The question is, of course, what are you going to do with that? My fervent hope is that you will do something which is indeed useful to mankind, something that will make the world better.”


If figuring out just how to do good in the world is daunting, Dr. Melvoin offered good news: Not only are there an infinite number of ways, but it doesn’t matter what you study in preparation: anything can be used for good. He encouraged the boys not to feel pressured into narrowing their academic focus prematurely. But wedding knowledge with goodness can begin right where we are:


“We can and should at our schools ensure open and civil exchange of ideas; we need to make sure all views can be heard, even as we need to find ways to disagree. Indeed, many of us worry that the people in our society are taking in views only from those with whom they already agree. Part of the challenge for you gentlemen is not only to note the danger of knowledge without goodness but also to ensure that a full range of points of knowledge and a full spectrum of ideas can be heard.”


Dr. Melvoin charged his listeners not only to listen to all points of view, but also, if we are to live lives ‘useful to mankind,’ to “identify pollution of language when it comes, call lies what they are, and stop allowing this devolution of the integrity of what news and facts need to be.”


Dr. Melvoin concluded with the words of American writer Marianne Williamson, who wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”


Dr. Melvoin grew up in Chicago. He holds degrees from Harvard College and the University of Michigan, where he earned his doctorate in history. His teaching career took him to Deerfield Academy, Harvard/Radcliffe Colleges, Mt. Holyoke College, and the University of Michigan. Prior to his Belmont Hill tenure, he returned to Harvard as Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, and Lecturer in History and Literature. He served as board president of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition from 2003 to 2006, and he recently served as president of The Headmasters Association. Rick’s wife, Bunny, was a beloved member of the faculty here at Roxbury Latin for 12 years, where she taught English and served as Director of College Counseling.See photos here.