Head of School Letter to Seniors 4.08.20
Our Dear Members of the Class of 2020,
My wife’s grandfather was born in 1897 in the Oklahoma Territory. His family had made the rush into the territory as Sooners in a covered wagon. I first met Burf, as he was known to us, when I was 18. From the first Thanksgiving that we shared together that year, Burf loved to regale me with stories from the course of his life.
He borrowed $500 from his parents to go to OU where he played varsity tennis. Burf had plans to go into the newly developing oil business after he graduated, but the devastation of World War I interrupted. He had to leave college before he graduated to become an artillery captain.
After World War I, Burf’s career was beginning to take off. Then the financial crash of 1929, and the ensuing Great Depression, meant that for many life became about just surviving. As a salesman, Burf traveled the south in his Model T, and in 1932, in the middle of this terrible time in our country’s history, he found the love of his life in Shreveport, Louisiana. Burf and Knox were married for more than six decades.
Burf and Knox had three young children to care for when the world descended into the crisis and chaos of World War II. Following the terrible attacks of December 7, 1941, a day that FDR said would live in infamy, Burf and his family dealt with enforced blackouts, war rationing, victory gardens in their backyards, and constant shortages of most goods.
After the war was won, Burf’s children were in middle and high school when the polio epidemic hit. His family was restricted to their own house and their own backyard for weeks at a time. Burf told me he thought TV was a passing fad, so there was nothing for his kids to do but be kids, play cards, and invent games.
Burf lived through the Korean War, the horrific assassinations of JFK and MLK, and the Vietnam War, and he saw how these events affected the fabric of our country.
Burf passed away on the afternoon of his 100th birthday. He lived for a full century. He didn’t live to see the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he didn’t live to see the 2008 financial collapse, and he didn’t live to see the crisis we are now experiencing with the coronavirus. But if he were still with us, I believe that Burf would tell me the same things that he told me about the century of his life. I believe he would tell me that what got him through the arc of the events of his long decades are just as important today: faith, family, hard work, and gratitude. Gratitude for all the blessings that surround us – even in a time of such trial.
As Burf must have grieved during so many of the momentous events of his century of life, many of us are grieving right now. I believe that no one is grieving more than you – the Class of 2020. Many of the things that you have looked forward to for so many years have now been canceled or become uncertain. Prom, graduation parties, your spring sports seasons, your arts performances, Baccalaureate at the Cathedral, and our Acosta House porch Commencement itself. For many, college has become more uncertain. There are financial issues, rumors of online classes at some schools even next fall, and more. The spring of your senior year – a most special time of your life – has been turned upside down, locked down, and in many ways taken away from you. And for all of this, our community grieves for you; our hearts break for you.
But as we look ahead to this Easter weekend and the days of rest that it will bring, I want to share a few things with you. First, we are working hard to do everything we possibly can to make the month of May as special as we can for you. At this point, we are still planning to return to school physically on May 4. If because of health concerns we are forced to continue with remote learning, know that we will still do all that we can to hold whatever events are possible. If it is possible, we will try to replace your senior prom. If it is possible, we will try to replace other end of year recognition events. If it is possible, we will still hold our Baccalaureate and Commencement as scheduled. If we need to adjust, we will work with you and your families to adjust.
Second, we understand that tests and exams can be more difficult in a remote learning environment. I am incredibly proud of both you and your great teachers and the work that you continue to do each and every day. We will continue to reshape our approach to end of year assessments in light of the situation we are in, ensuring the best outcomes for our students.
Finally, know that this time will pass. We will get through this generational crisis together. Know that while we are still in the midst of this most trying of times, our Episcopal family is going to support you, to guide you, and to lift you up.
Blessings to all of you, Class of 2020. You are in our prayers!