Courage, connection, care, and community were the watchwords Thursday morning as Thayer Academy welcomed students back to campus as part of traditional Convocation ceremonies.
There was at least one new wrinkle, however, as inclement weather and COVID-19 safety protocols combined to necessitate two separate indoor ceremonies, one for Upper School students and another for their Middle School counterparts.
Overseeing his first Convocation, new Head of School Chris M. Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 welcomed students, faculty, and staff to the new school year and also thanked the Thayer community for the warm welcome he and his family received over the summer.
“We are all Thayer,” Fortunato told students, reminding them that they share a connection to Academy students dating back more than a century and a half. He emphasized the importance of relationships in building community and the obligations Thayer community members have to one another to embody the Academy’s mission of contributing to the common good.
“We have a responsibility to make this school better than it was a day before, a year before, or a decade before,” said Fortunato.
Fortunato asked all students three simple questions: What will you stand for? What do you need? And what will you give? He conceded that discovering the answers to those questions may take years, but he urged them to start asking today. “You’re surrounded by a whole lot of people who are going to help you think that through,” he added.
Taking the time to answer those same questions himself, Fortunato pledged to model the qualities he seeks in others. “I will stand for all of you, each of you, and I always will,” he said.
The new head of school reminded both student groups that, at Thayer, treating people well is not optional.
“Everything we do is built upon how we treat each other,” explained Fortunato.
Fortunato’s comments were echoed by the day’s other speakers, which included Middle School Ambassadors Cassidy Mullin ‘26 and Ella Aiello ‘26 as well as Student Government President Dylan McDonough ‘22.
“Do at least one new thing this year,” Mullin told her fellow classmates. She said that having the courage to try volleyball created many new and interesting experiences for her.
Aiello expressed eagerness for the new year and told middle schoolers to have the courage to reach out.
“If you need help with anything, don’t hesitate to ask,” she said. “Everyone is here to help you, and we’re all in this together.”
McDonough discussed the many strong relationships he has with classmates, faculty, and coaches but said those relationships took time and effort.
“These relationships don’t simply happen,” he said. “You need to work at it.”
The senior also captured the spirit of Convocation when he told the audience: “I look forward to an amazing year together.”