Opening Days Mark Start of 2021-22 School Year

The Island was alive with activity this week as Loomis Chaffee’s 726 students from across the country and around the world gathered for opening activities for the 2021–22 school year, culminating with the first day of classes and an all-school convocation in the Olcott Center on Wednesday, September 1.  

The activities began on Wednesday, August 25, with the arrival of preseason football players, and the following days were filled with other fall preseason sports training, faculty preparations, dorm move-ins, programs welcoming new students and their families, and reconnection of friends, classmates, teammates, and colleagues.  

Events for new students and families included a reception organized by the Loomis Chaffee Parents Association and informational programs for families as students settled into their dorm rooms and met their roommates. New students and their parents met faculty advisors, and Head of School Sheila Culbert spoke with parents before families said their goodbyes. All new students participated in orientation programs on Monday and Tuesday. 

At Wednesday morning’s convocation, Student Council officers, Sheila, and Associate Head of School Webb Trenchard, welcomed the assembled students with humor, guidance, and advice for the year ahead.  

Senior Evan Caufield, the Student Council president, opened the convocation with greetings to new and returning students and set an optimistic tone for the start of the year, and the other officers, all seniors, offered advice gleaned from their experiences on the Island. Co-Vice President Pilar Wingle challenged students in each grade to expand their horizons while taking care to understand and appreciate the unplanned moments that life at Loomis offers.  

Co-Vice President Ryan Fortani offered guidance and suggested that students “lean forward” into new opportunities. “At Loomis, when you lean forward, you might fail, but there’s a sea of people waiting to help lift you back up,” he said. 

Treasurer/Secretary Mary Kate Briglio reminded students to step outside of their comfort zones and, by doing so, become their best selves.  

After expressing a warm welcome to the school community, Sheila began her remarks by acknowledging the difficulties of the last 18 months while reminding students of the optimism, hope, expectations, and excitement that a new school year always brings.  

Sheila shared examples of academic communities that grow and change through embracing diversity, listening to differing opinions, and observing known objects from an unfamiliar perspective. She recounted the story of the periodic table, which was created in the 19th century by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev and grew from its original 63 elements to its present iteration of 118 elements because Mendeleev and other scientists knew that more elements would be discovered and that the original document would evolve. 

The collaboration among a community of doctors from around the world to create multiple COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year, Sheila suggested, is another example of the importance of listening to differing ideas when working toward a goal.  

Sheila also cited Heather Dalton, a British-born historian who lives in Melbourne, Australia, who noticed the presence of a cockatoo in a medieval European altar painting. Her observation led to a change in the way historians think about the patterns of trade and, therefore, culture during the Middle Ages.  

“Being part of an academic community is about joining a broad, multi-faceted, lively, and constantly evolving conversation about how our world is constructed,” Sheila told students. “It is those conversations that we want to expose you to so that you can develop your own questions, your own insights, and, most importantly, your own conclusions.” 

This year’s school theme is positivity, respect, and kindness. Sheila spoke about the importance of these simple values as students, faculty, and staff seek to improve and enhance the academic community at Loomis.  

Webb closed the assembly by extolling the virtues of kindness, patience, flexibility, joy, courage, and optimism. He urged community members to hold a deep respect for others, celebrate diversity, and make sure that everyone feels like they belong, “for these are the irrefutable core values of the Loomis community.” 

To view more of the activities, connect to the Opening Days Video