A letter from Joy McGrath ’92
I write to you this morning from my office in Founders Hall. To some it is Walden Pell’s office, to others Robert Moss’s, and to some—like me—it is Jon O’Brien’s or Tad Roach’s office. I feel the energy and wisdom of these remarkable people in each corner of this room, where so much work has been done to steward and guide St. Andrew’s, and where so much work remains for us to do.
The journey of our school, like all journeys, began with a few small steps. The school’s founder, A. Felix duPont, along with his most trusted friends and advisors, began this journey with just 35 boys and a very young headmaster, Walden Pell. Although in those early days the St. Andrew’s circle was small, the vision was bold: from its birth, the school’s identity was rooted in the idea that the best possible education is one that is “open to all.”
As it happens, the collect for July 1 in the liturgical calendar celebrates Pauli Murray, an Episcopal priest, lawyer, and pioneer of the American civil rights movement, who died on this day in 1985. In 1945, Murray wrote in Common Ground, “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” Her words remind me of St. Andrew’s mission and identity as a place open to all.
Murray chose these words well; after all, who wants to be part of a “puny” group? Fortunately for us, although St. Andrew’s may be small, it is expansive. As a school, we work hard, we read widely, we debate unanswerable questions, we listen humbly, and we question fearlessly. We draw our circle to include and embrace with love every student, every alumnus, every member of the faculty and staff, and each family and friend. Thousands have passed through these flagstone hallways to be educated, to grow up, and to grow in spirit. Each one has gone forth into the world to do well and do good. And the world needs each St. Andrean, your service and your leadership.
“What is often called exceptional ability is nothing more than persistent endeavor,” Murray wrote in her book Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage. I am grateful for the opportunity to lend my “persistent endeavor” to St. Andrew’s School as your new head of school. With your help, we will draw an ever-larger circle.
Yours in faith and learning,