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In the Spirit of the Season

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Andrew Menke gave these remarks at Waterford Night on December 16.

Good evening.

Thank you for being here. We come together tonight to enjoy each other’s fellowship and to say thank you. Waterford Night is a wonderful tradition begun eight years ago to thank you, our most loyal donors.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge two people who have given so much, certainly in the spirit of this evening, of their time, wisdom, courage, and vision. With us here this evening is Waterford’s founding family, Nancy and Dusty Heuston.

In this season of tradition, we celebrate our amazingly strong community whose familial feel is built on ritual and ceremony. So, I share a memory from my childhood:

When I was a little boy, living north of Washington, D.C., we used to spend each Christmas at my grandparents house. My brother (one year older) and I used to dress up in lederhosen. My grandparents lived in a wonderful old home. I remember the smells. My grandmother in the kitchen baking bread, my grandfather tending the fire smelling of tweed and talcum and this faint smell of cinnamon, always with a cigar between his teeth. Believe it or not, I loved this curious combination. And I can almost smell it now…

Do you have memories like that?

It evoked support, stability, permanence, home...with aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around a long wooden table, fire going in the big, oversized hearth in the dining room. My grandfather would make a toast--he too worked in schools. He toasted the love of his family, his health (sadly, the cigars got him later in life), then would inevitably turn to the greater good...the nobility of virtuous work, with and for others, and his appreciation for the opportunity to serve, to give back, to make a difference, beyond himself.

I can remember my brother and I sitting impatiently in our sandpaper short pants (If has anyone ever worn lederhosen, I can assure you, they are not in the leisure wear category) watching the steam rise over the mashed potatoes and wanting him to finish so we could dig in. We would eat then race to the tree to open one present and my mom would bring out her guitar and we - the lederhosen gang - would sing. We’d string popcorn as garland, play games…warm and content…we’d fall fast asleep in front of the fire.

I can remember my dad drowsily placing me in bed. I’m sure many of you have similar traditions and rituals.

And now fast forward these many years later and here I am in this remarkable school with all of you telling a story about Christmas and my grandfather as if you are my family and in so many ways I feel that you are, that we are, family. Schools, I think, are like that.

We are bound together by this profound place that is Waterford School. A place by its very nature that is communal and familial and very aspirational. And like this holiday time, inspirational. AND a place that has needed all of you--The Waterford Family--over the years, to nurture and build an established tradition of support resulting in this extraordinary educational community of significance and stature

To illustrate…did you know?

  • Waterford’s class of 2016 had 6 National Merit Finalists
  • Waterford’s AP pass rate is 93% compared with the Utah average of 58%
  • In the past 5 years Waterford graduates have matriculated to 110 different colleges and universities
  • Waterford’s ACT avg is 28 compared to the Utah average of 20
  • Waterford’s SAT avg is nearly 2000 compared to state average of 1500
  • In 2016 Waterford students won 105 scholastic art and writing awards…including 12 gold key awards
  • Last year’s robotics team qualified to compete in the World Championship
  • Waterford’s 2015 Ethics Bowl and Debate team won the national championship
  • Waterford has won 38 state championships in ten different sports – crew qualified for the national championship in both 2015 and 2016
  • Nearly 20% of Waterford students benefit from financial aid
  • 22% of our population are students of color
  • 65% of our faculty hold advanced degrees

We could go on and on: The Nutcracker, Merchant of Venice, Jungal Book, Strings Concert and Vespers, in just a bit. Yes, we may all be a little bit biased, but you support THE BEST SCHOOL IN UTAH.

OK enough boasting. Let me tell you about lunch on Tuesday. Wandering around with my salad, The New Guy plunked down with a set of eighth grade girls. For a conversation starter I asked, "What do you love about Waterford?"

And the floodgates opened…

"I love the arts…the fact that we have them…so many places don’t…"

"I love photo, and drawing, and theater...it’s focused and serious…we don’t just do jazz hands and call it a day”

"I love the balance…the time and respect the arts receive here at Waterford…"

"I love the campus…feels like a college…each building dedicated to a subject…love being outside between classes"

"I love the small classes"

"Teachers…THE TEACHERS…focused on me (with small classes)..they really know me and my needs and my interests...they help me to learn…They help me to have the skills and confidence to pursue learning on my own...to develop my interests and passions…"

"I love Canvas…keeping track of assignments...believe it or not, 8th graders said they love the Learning Management System!"

"I love Mr. Rosett, Ms. Heuston, Mr. Bromley, Ms. Fagan, Mr. Layton…he made us do a retest…which made me mad at first…but I really appreciated it…he wanted to be sure we knew the material…And Mr. Douglas…I don’t even like history but he makes me want to come to class “…his class is not about memorizing...his class is about analyzing…”  

And I loved this comment:

“Some of the boys though…they’re like…they’re like a migraine!”

And they went on and on about classmates, and subjects, and experiences…about how they’ve changed, grown, and what’s ahead. I came back to my office beaming. This is why we give. It is why we are so grateful. You are change lives!

In a true spirit of philanthropy, the meaning of which is “in service to humanity,” and its intersection with the purpose of a liberal arts experience - those subjects or skills that are considered essential for one to live their life as a free-thinking citizen - you make a difference in the world, right here, each and every day at Waterford.

Thank you for loving Waterford and for being the keepers of the flame, the caretakers, the stewards. You are planting trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. You are helping Waterford to be ever better at delivering it’s compelling and captivating mission.

On behalf of all of us here at Waterford, thank you for all that you do to fuel this amazing place.

I wish you and your family Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year!