Opening of Roxbury Latin’s 378th Year

“Teachers and scholars of the oldest school in continuous existence in North America, good morning and welcome back,” said Headmaster Kerry Brennan from the Rousmaniere Hall stage on Monday, August 29. That morning, the traditional Opening of Fall Term Hall began The Roxbury Latin School’s 378th academic year, as Mr. Brennan welcomed the 310 students, along with new and returning faculty and staff, to the start of the school year.

Prior to the Headmaster’s opening address, Class I president Tait Oberg read Dr. Maxine Greene’s “Toward Wide-Awakeness” and the entire school sang together lively renditions of America the Beautiful, For the Splendor of Creation, Commemoration Hymn, and The Founder’s Song, with senior Mathias Why accompanying on the organ. Mr. Brennan honored those in our community who are new, or long-serving, or taking on new roles in the school. He honored the members of Class I seated in the front rows, and he welcomed the sixies perched in the balcony.

Mr. Brennan’s address focused on two memorable urgings of his favorite graduate school professor—Dr. Maxine Greene, of Columbia’s Teachers College: first, to imagine things as if they could be otherwise, and second, to be “wide awake” to the world.

“Professor Greene reminded us that all kinds of things not only live on, but also find new life in the imaginations and the careful consideration of each of us,” Mr. Brennan began. “In the foreground we might think that was about artistic expression—pushing the boundaries, experimenting with media, juxtaposing divergent entities. But, in fact, she was talking about most of life… Maxine Greene wanted to empower each of us as a problem solver—whether in consideration of our solitary, individual life or on behalf of an organization; to be problem solvers with the license to imagine things as if they could be otherwise. How often in my business do I encounter someone who is reluctant to introduce even one variable, to challenge the status quo? And then when I might suggest that other elements are also potential variables altering the viability of the first, it blows the person’s mind. This, however, is how all of us should approach life—as a set of related but not dependent variables. This is usually the mindset when any progress occurs, whether it’s in inventing a new widget (the electric light for example) or it’s determining that one’s tried and true method of studying is just not doing the trick, and all your suppositions need to be blown up. Imagine something as if it could be otherwise.”

“Professor Greene also urged her students to be ‘wide-awake’—alert to our world, to what others are saying or doing, to altered, dissonant data that changes our perceptions, our realities, our truths—to not sleepwalk through life.” Mr. Brennan went on to describe the many things to which we all ought to remain awake throughout our lives: to opportunity, to our gifts, to injustice, to beauty, to our authentic selves, to the possibility of doing the extraordinary thing, and, finally, to love—of others and of ourselves.

“In thinking about how we might imagine something as if it could be otherwise, think of ourselves. Now would be the chance for you to reimagine yourself. Make new priorities. Project a different set of values. Open yourself up to new friends or a different group. Try something new. And, especially, be wide awake to the world. Take it all in. Process it robustly. Dare to change your mind. Listen to your head, but especially to your heart.”

After the Hall’s closing prayer, and the school community “passed the peace” to those around them, the entire school moved outside under sunny skies. Students, faculty, and staff gathered around the Senior Grass for the traditional opening day all-school handshake, which serves to welcome people new to the RL community—boys and adults—and for all to wish one another a happy and strong start to the academic year.

View a complete gallery of photos from RL’s Opening Day.