Thayer Academy held its 145th Convocation Wednesday morning in the CFA’s Hale Theater, reuniting as a community with the hope of a great school year ahead.
In his welcome remarks, Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 reminded Upper School students (the Middle School will hold a separate Convocation this year) that many of the memories and friendships made this school year would last a lifetime. He also shared a “secret” he hoped would guide them on their journey.
“Everything you need to succeed can be found in the people in this room,” Fortunato told students. “Everything is a team sport; and this, my friends, is your team.”
The head of school gave students three rules for their time at the Academy: look up more than you look down; strive to be a builder and not a cynic; and be kind. At one point, he asked audience members to greet those seated next them, encouraging the kind of community that embraces engagement.
“We want your worlds to be bigger, not smaller,” Fortunato told students. “Our worlds get smaller when we step away from curiosity.”
As co-presidents of Student Government, Peter Chen ‘23 and Conor Mannion ‘23 also delivered Convocation remarks. The two welcomed students old and new, and they expressed gratitude for the occasion while acknowledging a painful loss within the Thayer community.
For Chen, time at the podium offered the senior the opportunity to thank those who made him feel welcome as a 9th grader. He wished the same experience for those students, staff, and faculty new to the Academy.
“I hope you all find a home here like I did,” said Chen, who encouraged fellow students to “go for it” when it came to trying out for the play, joining a team, learning an instrument, or embracing similar opportunities.
Mannion also expressed gratitude, but his words were bittersweet. Speaking clearly and confidently, Mannion remembered his friend, James “Jamie” Pener ‘23, a classmate who died this July in a car accident in Maine. Mannion recalled Pener — a Brookline resident and member of Thayer’s lacrosse and cross country teams — as a gifted athlete with a keen sense of humor and an even keener sense of loyalty.
“He literally ran circles around me,” joked Mannion, a cross country teammate of Pener, whose parents, Katie Bacon P ‘23 and Mark Pener P ‘23, attended the Sept. 7 event.
Mannion told the Convocation audience that he sometimes had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at Pener’s jokes. But Mannion also remembered Pener purposely trailing behind on a warm-up run to keep Mannion company on a day Mannion needed it most.
“He realized his job was to be a good friend,” said Mannion, who then urged his audience to “find what makes you happy and defend it like your job.” A little later, Mannion finished by saying this about his friend: “I am forever grateful to hear — and be a part of — James’s story.”
Fortunato closed Convocation by informing the audience that, as a symbolic gesture, Thayer had recently purchased the naming rights to a star. The star’s name is now Thayer 46. The number “46” refers to the Adirondack 46ers, of which Jamie Pener was a proud member, having climbed all 46 major peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains by the age of 14.
“We are part of something bigger,” said Fortunato, adding that the named star should remind the Thayer community “that we are all connected and that James will forever be a part of our team.”