Memory is an arbitrary thing, but when I think about this past school year, 4 scenes come quickly to mind.
Scene One took place on a blue sky October afternoon, when our soccer and football and teams travelled to Aurora to play the Saints. If you weren’t there, you may have heard about the great kick, the wonderful catch, or the tremendous run. In the midst of this, though, there was a quiet player who dwelt in relative obscurity out on the edge of the football field. One of the hidden heroes of the day was Matt Wong, who spent his afternoon out on the island, where he was matched up, one on one, against a bigger, stronger, and more physically gifted opponent. Matt never backed down. He was not intimidated. And he was unrelenting. I believe Matt won the battle that won the day. In doing so, he taught all of those in attendance something about courage. And I remembered why, since his days as quarterback of the junior varsity squad, he’s been known as “Matty Ice.”
Scene Two took place in late November at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kouremenos. Christine Kouremenos, their daughter, your teacher, and our colleague, had passed away hours earlier. I confess that I didn’t want to be in that living room, because I was afraid of the pain. But when Mr. Poon, Ms. Berezowski, Ms. Kaye, and Ms. Gauthier invited me, how could I say no? What I learned from my colleagues that day was the importance of presence. Sometimes life isn’t about providing answers. (Sometimes there aren’t any.) Sometimes, it’s enough just to be there – especially with those who grieve.
Scene Three took place on a February morning in the Lett Gym, where we hosted the Special Olympics. What stays with still me was the way our guys went out of their way to welcome the Special Olympians. A crowd of UCC students gathered in the lower foyer to form a gauntlet of applause. They clapped and hooted and cheered all of our guests all the way into the gym. It was the kind of “tunnel of affirmation” you might expect to see next to the Oval before a varsity game on A day. Our special Olympians felt more than welcomed. They were celebrated. Some of them got into the spirit of the moment, and they started cheering for themselves, too – which struck me as a very UCC thing to do! To see the looks of delight on their faces, though, made all of us all realize that our Olympians were already playing a home game.
Scene Four occurred during the annual Quarter Century Club celebration in May. Up at the podium, in front of the entire assembly of past and present, faculty and staff, Mr. McKay and Mr. Sharpe, both talked openly, honestly, and somewhat movingly about the importance of their friendship. Mr. McKay and Mr. Sharpe are in some ways two fairly traditional guys; they are men who have taught, coached and mentored UCC boys for decades. They are also what some might call “besties.” Critics of boys schools believe we fail to model male intimacy, but I learned something about the value of friendship that night thanks to those two men who are, as another Quarter Century Club member might put it, “The best of friends.”
Finally, way back on a Monday September 16th after talking about masculinity, and about how our culture often influences how we think about manhood, I invited you to send in commercials that touched on this topic.
A number of folks submitted some great ads, and this morning I’ll end with two of the best. These were sent in by Mr. Smith and Markus Vulver, respectively. The first is about when a Snickers is perceived as being more than just a candy bar. The second is about when a friend is really more than just a friend.