Good evening and welcome to our 117th St. Clement’s School Closing.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the original peoples of these lands, the Mississaugas of the New Credit. We also acknowledge the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples who also shared these lands.
As mentioned, this will be our last closing in Massey Hall for a while as it will be updated for the future in order that it continues to be one of the very best entertainment venues around.
Preparing for the future is something that is- and must continue to be- front of mind for the School and particularly for our girls and young women.
St. Clement’s School was established by Canon Powell, Rector of St. Clement’s Church, who wished for a different kind of education for students. He believed that learning could and should be an exciting and enlarging experience, that it should encourage mental agility and curiosity, and at the same time, develop a commitment and responsibility amongst students to their fellow citizens.
Sitting with us this evening are 64 hard-working, bright, passionate women and leaders in their own right. They have, during their time at SCS, developed and demonstrated their strength of conviction, their beliefs in many important causes, their capacity to challenge processes and their resilience and perseverance during complex times.
These traits, amongst others are what we wish for all of our girls and Alumnae. As we close another school year and celebrate the accomplishments and progression of each and every girl, it is a reminder of the important work that we do.
Canon Powell’s vision has come to fruition and ours is no different.
But the context is.
Last week I read an article celebrating the life of Dr. Jill Ker Conway who passed away two weeks ago at the age of 83. Dr. Conway was a feminist, scholar, author, first Vice President of the University of Toronto and first female President of Smith College for Women in Northampton, Massachusetts. In the article, Dr. Kathleen McCartney, current President of Smith College, articulated that one of the things that she really values about Dr. Conway’s life as a model is that she had different chapters in it.
For most people over forty in the room, our chapters in life might be quite similar: we would have started school, engaged in a variety of disciplines that we ultimately narrowed down as we got older, gone on to a post-secondary experience, perhaps enrolled in a post-grad program and then moved on to a career in a particular discipline.
Our experiences and contexts inform how we see and consider things.
The difference now is that our girls’ chapters will be written- and unfold- differently than ours.
Life beyond education is now- and will be- very different from what many of us in the room are used to. I see this as a challenge and, more importantly an opportunity. I am excited about what lies ahead for St. Clement’s and for our girls and Alumnae.
St. Clement’s has never been about things, but rather about experiences that contribute to who we all become. We are about a close-knit community responsible for providing a challenging and rigorous educational experience for our girls. In addition to important foundational work, we work to ensure that we are preparing our girls young and old to be adaptable and flexible such that they are able to try new things and challenge themselves. We encourage our girls to use their voices but equally guide them to listen and hear in order to understand varied perspectives. We guide our girls as they acquire personalized tools and strategies that will assist them to be resilient, well-organized and productive citizens.
This vision is in place to ensure that our girls leave us with the skills and tools to manage things and themselves during the ups and the downs, to seek help when required, to lead the causes and people that are important to them, to know when and how to reach out to help those around them regardless of who they are, and to be good people.
Make no mistake, this does not mean that working through their chapters will be straight forward, that events are always pleasant and that the way is always clear.
As author Maya Angelou reminds us, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Tonight we celebrate each and every one of our girls for the beauty they have achieved and, in particular, we honour our Grads of 2018 not just for where they are now and what they have accomplished but as we send them off with confidence.
As I close, I would like to share a blessing written by Irish poet John O’Donohue, entitled For A New Beginning:
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning had been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promised that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.