Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Bement School, Graduation, Reflections, and General Motors

Graduations mark milestones in not only the graduating students' lives but also serve as testaments to the families, teachers, friends, and neighbors, who have supported the students. We live in Amherst, Massachusetts, which has been recently selected to be the best college town in North America (beating out such great locations as Berkeley, Cambridge, Washington, DC, and even Montreal)! The beauty in our town is breath-taking and each of the four seasons brings its own uniqueness. Since we are a college town with UMass Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College as the focal educational institutions, and with Smith College and Mount Holyoke College in neighboring towns, education is always valued here (indeed, this sector is the biggest employer). During the glorious months of May and June many graduations take place and it is always a joy to participate in them. I have written recently about the UMass Amherst graduations and festivities at the Isenberg School. Today I am writing about another, truly special, school, The Bement School, from which my daughter graduated yesterday.

The Bement School
, located in Deerfield, MA, is a K-9 grade school and includes accommodations for boarders in the higher grades. Day students come from several different states and the boarders, who live at the school, which is in historic Deerfield, hail from South Korea, China, Mexico, Singapore, and from across the United States. There have been boarders, in the past, from European countries, as well. The school is a truly special place in which students are nurtured, teachers are respected, individuality is supported, arts and music treasured, and doing one's best and working hard in a community of kindness, recognized.

My daughter, along with her 21 9th grade classmates, graduated from Bement yesterday, on a picture perfect day in ceremonies conducted outside. She, with 5 of her classmates, has been at Bement since kindergarten, so yesterday marked a decade of association with this incredible educational institution. I had been appointed the John F. Smith Memorial Professor at the Isenberg School of Management, just before her matriculation at Bement, and purchased a GM Chevy Venture when she started kindergarten ten years ago. This was only appropriate since my chaired professorship was endowed by John "Jack" F. Smith, Jr., a UMass Amherst alum, who was then CEO and Chairman of the Board of General Motors. Well, I am pleased to report, that my Chevy venture is still running great and my daughter is now a Bement graduate. GM has been in the news a lot lately and with its reconfiguration and support by the Obama administration, I hope that it becomes reinvented and a new US manufacturing icon.

As for my daughter's classmates, I can only thank them and their parents for their outstanding support, for their unique and special personalities, and for their work ethic and wonderful talents. This class has experienced so much together -- from numerous sports events and musical and theatrical performances, to community service, to dances, to lasting friendships that have been made through shared adventures and trips. The landmark experience, which I wrote about early on in this blog was their trip to the Dominican Republic in January 2009 to help out in "La Suiza," a boy's orphanage. All returned transformed and with a deepened appreciation of their values and the importance of community service, kindness and love. This group of Bementers has been through deaths of parents of several of their classmates and illnesses of their classmates. They have stood together, laughed and cried together, and have become more resilient together. Yesterday, at graduation, they sang together and marched together, while everyone applauded their receipt of their diplomas.

I also thank Ms. Shelley Borror Jackson, the Head of Bement, who arrived as head the same time as the 2009 graduating class of Bement. Under her outstanding leadership, Bement has marked a decade of growth with the building of the new Upper School and library, memorable experiences (children learning how to swim, skate, and ski, and to climb mountains), and wonderful education (children learning new languages, world history, advanced math, science, and the love of reading and writing), that we will treasure in our hearts always. Most importantly, Bement lets children grow up at their own pace.

Thank you, Bement, for your outstanding teachers, coaches, and staff! If only every child could receive the type of education that you provide!

I share some photos with you of Bement Graduation Day, June 5, 2009.