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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

From the Desk of Joy McGrath ’92

Reflections from our Head of School

In the Treetops
Joy McGrath ’92

Yesterday, spring came to St. Andrew’s early, for one day, with warm temperatures, bright sunshine, and the Front Lawn busy all afternoon with the comings and goings of students, some of whom lingered for a game or a chat. I observed all of this from the windows of our house because I came down with COVID last weekend. I am used to being among the students and my colleagues all the time—at meals, chapel, School Meeting, sports, and the hallways—and in between Zoom meetings I tried to gather as much intelligence about campus life as I could by looking through the windows of our house that face Founders and the Front Lawn.

There was much to inform and entertain me in observing the arborist who is working on the grand sycamores that flank the entrance to Founders Hall, which welcome every person who visits our school, and have for over 90 years. The trees are enormous, as you may recall from your visits to campus, and the long, horizontal branches must occasionally be relieved of weight and dead wood. This work will help us preserve these trees for as long as we can before they must make way for new ones. This week, the arborist’s inspection revealed substantial rot in one sycamore on the northwest corner of the building. Tucked near the school’s business office, it will need to be removed during the spring recess. 

I can’t help but feel this event is a milestone, as the trees were planted around the time the old wing of Founders was completed, as you can see in the photograph shared here. They are nearly a century old, as is the school, and so of course we should expect to have to replace them. Knowing this does not make it any easier to see one of these elders go; they have watched over us all, firmly planted on the windward side of the building, facing down the weather and the prevailing winds year after year. Indeed, they have watched over me intermittently since I was 16 years old, a new V Former arriving at St. Andrew’s for the first time. 

Each time I walk into Founders or pass by its western façade, I scrutinize the two giants that flank the entrance—which fortunately we hope to preserve for a while longer—examining the roots, peering into their crowns, admiring their gigantic leaves. I hope our students have also acquired this habit, as it inspires me, and it may inspire them, to reflect on those things more important and more durable than ourselves and our sublunary pursuits. The grandeur of the trees humbles us, and the act of looking both literally and figuratively raises our sights, reminding us of what is divine in nature, and how our intersection with the natural world elevates and inspires human flourishing. This daily reminder is particularly important in a school, where young people grow into adults and in the process form their character. I am grateful that our campus and all the living things on it create an ideal landscape for this precious education, in all seasons, and especially so in the spring.

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