We are graced tonight by the presence of many educational leaders; it is an honor to welcome them.
Among them are
- our speaker, former University of Arizona President Dr. John Schaefer;
- former St. Gregory Head of School Bill Creeden;
- both the former and current Heads of Green Fields Country Day School, Rick Belding and Matt Teller;
- our own Board of Trustees, and our fine faculty;
- and perhaps most importantly, a founder of three schools in three states, including St. Gregory, Mrs. Bazy Tankersely.
Leadership, like everything else, is fast changing in the 21st century. The military is overhauling its philosophy and practice of leadership, as I have heard this year from my new Tucson friends who are Air Force officers; it realizes we must place a higher priority on flexibility, initiative, creativity than ever before, and that command has become more about influencing than directing others.
Author Dan Pink published this year Drive, a book demanding the complete reinvention of management; he calls upon us to place autonomy, mastery, and purpose at the paramount goals of each and every work-place and institution.
Similarly, in his recent book Tribes, the brilliant Seth Godin explains that
The power of this new era is simple: if you want to, or need to, or mus, lead then you can. Every leader I have met shares one thing and one thing only: the decision to lead.
The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
These developments in leadership have been anticipated for many years by educational leaders: the best schools and universities have always been places where principals, headmasters, and presidents have chosen to lead in ways that honor and celebrate the individuality of their followers.
School leaders know our role is
- to unleash, not constrain, by respecting the value and significance of autonomy;
- to urge, stimulate, and support growth toward mastery by all those within our circle of influence;
- to provide the vision such that those with whom we work can see and find purpose in their project.
Among our graduating class today are many students, of enormous diversity, who have made the decision to lead. In this group are
- excellent student council leaders;
- others who have influenced by your exquisite literary, dramatic, and musical grace and eloquence;
- some who have set the pace in your classes by the force of their phenomenal intellects;
- and others who have contributed greatly by your athletic accomplishment.
A remarkably large number of you have demonstrated leadership in many or all of these ways, not just one or two, just as Dr. Shaefer has accomplished greatness in scholarship, administration, and the photographic arts.
Our nine peer leaders especially have impressed me. My first introduction to student leadership at St. Gregory occurred even before school began last August, when peer leaders gathered with confidence and competence to guide, challenge, and support the faculty in a series of activities, including belaying us as we climbed the high ropes course,
Not all of these students are the most obvious or the most natural leaders. As one has said, “Before this experience, I never thought I could be a leader.” But she, and her peers, made the decision to lead, and lead they did.
Listen to Fred Roberts, our Dean of Students, and now the director of our exciting new Leadership Institute.
The commitment, initiative and responsibility displayed by this year’s Senior Peer Leaders were like none other in the 10 years the program has existed. Whether it be rock climbing on Mt. Lemmon, working with sixth graders on the low ropes course, or guiding the faculty through a problem solving activity, these seniors were polished, poised, and professional. This peer leader group has not only set a very high standard for future, they have served as stellar role models to the younger St. Gregory students and as colleagues to the adult facilitators with whom they have worked.
These fine students inspired me last fall to build on its excellence and expand leadership education at St. Gregory without delay. By doing so, I personally and we as a school community both asked and received a great deal more of our peer leaders, more than they had any idea when they joined the group. For example, on the very day of their Prom, these nine spent eight hours on campus magnificently mentoring seventh graders from across greater Tucson at our 1st annual Leadership Summit.
Among our peer leaders are also scholars, athletes, musicians and theatrical performers; I have gotten to know them well, and I say with certainty they have been good friends and display regularly the qualities of respect and responsibility that are the hallmarks of excellent character.
It is accordingly my great pleasure and honor to announce that the Head of School Prize this year is awarded to the nine peer leaders who have done so much to inspire my headship and direction of St. Gregory; and to each of them I am providing an inscribed copy of the book Tribes. As its author Seth Godin says, and let me say this both to our peer leaders and to all of our graduates here tonight: If you think leadership is only for other people, you’re wrong. We need YOU to lead us.
As I read your names, please join me on stage so I can present to you your book.