On October 11, 2017, Saint Mary's 14th Head of School was installed in a ceremony in the school's historic chapel. Alumna and member of Saint Mary's Board of Trustees Dr. Mary Dana Hinton '88HS delivered the following address on this historic occasion.
What an honor to be invited to speak to the Saint Mary's School community on such an auspicious occasion. Today, we are a part of the history books of the school, as we welcome and install Brendan O'Shea as the 14th Head of School. As we bestow the symbols of the head of school on Brendan, we connect the legacy of Saint Mary's and the future of our world. As such, even more than being a part of this recorded historical event, at this moment we stand at a threshold; and, on this threshold we find our mission, your leadership, and our students inextricably linked. Allow me to briefly address each.
Brendan, as you receive the symbols of the head of school today you, in many ways, become born anew. No longer are you Brendan O'Shea citizen educator, but you become the public face and beating heart of the Saint Mary's School mission. Because you can never hear it too often, the Saint Mary's mission states that we are a community dedicated to academic excellence and personal achievement, preparing young women for college and life. Our values commit us to academic excellence and personal achievement in mind, body and spirit. We promise honor. You, Brendan, must demonstrate these qualities in all you do, each and every day.
On this day, you surrender to this mission you will pledge to uphold. You will represent to the world what it means to be a part of the Saint Mary's community. You will facilitate our current students' Saint Mary's journey; help our alumnae see themselves and their accomplishments in light of our mission; you will inspire faculty, trustees, donors and friends as you carry that mission forward; and, as you lead the School on a day to day basis you must make every operational decision in light of that mission.
Our 175 year old heritage and mission demands that we create a community wherein young women are empowered to be their best selves. You now steward this mission that began long before either of us and will continue well after us. We are mere shepherds.
As a leader, Brendan, this is not an easy task. Like today's scripture states, you will have moments when you will genuinely worry about what decision to make; how to lead; whose counsel to take. You'll face the frustration of leading in a time when answers are as complex and fraught as the questions themselves. It is at these moments that it will be critically important for you, as a leader, to lose yourself to the quiet voice of the spirit. I encourage you to make time each day to just be still and listen to what is in your heart and to be prayerfully guided by the spirit. Nurture the quiet voice of spirit, the one that enables you to balance being vulnerable with moving the community forward with confidence. It is the small voice of spirit that prompts you to lead with faith, with purpose, and with courage. It is the gentle voice of spirit that helps you make good decisions in times of chaos. Nurture that voice and trust God's grace to equip you to lead.
Brendan, nurture not only your own spirit and voice but be mindful of how you must lead in order to support and nurture the spirits and voices of these magnificent young women around you. In this complex world, it is more important than ever that you not only find your voice as a leader but as a leader of women. Never forget that Saint Mary's empowers women. As you recognize your exclusively unique role at Saint Mary's, I invite you to recognize and call upon the unique contributions of every person present today in fulfilling that mission. Your community and our spirit are eager to support you.
And, we look forward to your leadership of our community as we chart a future for Saint Mary's. You must help our community articulate the vision for Saint Mary's going forward; you must help each of us understand what it will take for Saint Mary's to not only survive well into the future, but to thrive in ways that are grounded in our mission and dynamic in our approach.
It is within that context that today we place our entire community into your hands. Most importantly, we place the current 270 students into your care. And, while you steward and lead, please never forget that it is the hopes and fears, strengths and vulnerabilities, wisdom and questions of the young women before us, and those yet to come, that are our collective priority.
E.E. Cummings wrote: "We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust,sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." Brendan, today you are officially charged with creating a space wherein every young woman at Saint Mary's recognizes that she is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, and sacred.
We ask you to help reveal the human spirit of every young woman we serve and to believe in them without hesitation. The young women you serve (and do know that as a leader what you do first and foremost is serve others), our Saint Mary's Girls, come to us with great curiosity, amazing aspirations and unfettered potential. A critical part of your job is to help them encounter, engage, develop, and live into their strengths and potential. Young women will arrive at Saint Mary's with great aspirations. Aspirations are the plans our students make for themselves and they are often grand. The young women we serve have clarity about what they want for their lives.
Yet potential is different and much less clearly articulated than aspirations.Potential is the passion, intellect and possibility we are charged with seeing in them and bringing forth. Potential is what a young woman is capable of, even if she is unaware of her capability and capacity. Potential is that which she may not recognize in herself. That which feels impossible for her to imagine. That which may be a powerful signal to others but invisible to her. However, it is our job as a community – and especially yours as the head of school – to not only assist students in achieving their aspirations but in helping them recognize, embrace, nurture and live into their potential. You, Brendan, must create an environment wherein all look for and support that potential in every young woman we serve.
At every opportunity, you must remind these young women that they are enough, just as they are. When the world asks our students to be invisible, to squelch their aspirations or to deny their potential, they are looking to you for leadership, affirmation and support. At these times, you must encourage them to stand in opposition to the tauntings of the world and to embrace their strength.
Steward our mission. Lead with the spirit. And, nurture our students. That is what we ask of you today, and we believe in your ability to excel on every front.
To return to my opening comments, today we stand united at a threshold. To paraphrase Gunilla Norris:
On the threshold the entire past
and the endless future
rush to meet one another.
They take hold of each other and laugh.
And it is on the threshold that we find God and are found by God
Brendan, I wish you every success as Saint Mary's 14th Head of School.
Congratulations and God bless you.
Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D.
Saint Mary's School Class of 1988HS
Saint Mary's School Trustee