Middle School Convocation begins new era at Thayer

Thayer Academy Middle School students in the classes of 2030, 2029, 2028, and 2027 made history Monday when they became the first students to step foot in the Academy’s new Middle School building. 

Compton Jones '27

Compton Jones '27
Read the student speeches       

“And so the adventure begins,” said Compton Jones ‘27 as he welcomed fellow students, faculty, staff, administrators, and invited guests to Middle School Convocation 2022, the first event to be held in the transformed Middle School building on the Hobart Avenue campus. The majority of Jones’s audience sat on large steps within the Forum, the large gathering space Middle School alumni may remember as an open-air courtyard. Other audience members listened along a second-floor balcony connected to the Forum via a flight of stairs and leading to Thompson Hall on the far right. 

Jones directed the lion’s share of his remarks to his schoolmates, so his use of “adventure” referred more to the friendships, experiences, and personal growth in the offing for the next nine months than the yearlong, multimillion dollar project to reimagine the Middle School. Still, the oohs and aahs and the occasional “wow” heard that morning reflected rave reviews for the new school building, which now boasts an additional 12,000 square feet of learning space. Among other improvements, the Middle School features digital media, marine biology, and collaborative design labs; a performing arts suite that includes a recording studio, ensemble, and choir spaces; a visual arts suite; its own dining hall, and the multistory Forum, which is designed as an all-school atrium community space flexible enough to bring the entire Middle School together or be reconfigured for smaller groups to work, study, or connect. 

Jones urged fellow students to be themselves, to fearlessly explore new experiences, to build strong friendships, and to reach out when they need help. He paid special attention to fifth grade students and other new members of the Middle School community. 

Aashrita Joga ‘27, who joined Jones in the Convocation welcome, echoed that theme of support. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she told those gathered. 

Joga encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities but in their own way and at their own pace. She offered herself as an example of making the most of the Thayer experience, describing her journey from a 5th grader overwhelmed by the size of the Middle School to a confident 8th grader. 

“Nobody judged me (in those early years) if I didn’t know something,” Joga said. “Everyone was supportive and kind. We helped each other through any struggles. And because of that, I was able to feel like I belonged. I made forever friends. I felt more confident in my work and became more involved in the Thayer community. I got out of my comfort zone and found out more about myself.” 

Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28

Head of School
Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28          

Head of School Chris Fortunato P '26, '28 told students how excited he is for the new school year in a new school building and challenged them to do three things this year: to look up more than they look down; to strive to be a builder and not a cynic; and to be kind. 

“This is not a place for cynics,” said Fortunato, later adding that the job of each Thayer community member is to “treat each other with exceptional dignity and care.” 

To mark the new school year, Middle School students, like their Upper School counterparts, received school pins to wear as a symbol of school pride. They will also receive Thayer T-shirts to be worn during various school events or activities. 

In addition, said Fortunato, the Academy recently purchased the naming rights to a star. The star’s name is now Thayer 46; the number “46” honors the life and legacy of James “Jamie” Pener ‘23, who died in a car accident this summer. In addition to being on the lacrosse and cross country teams at Thayer, Pener was a proud member of the Adirondack 46ers, having climbed all 46 major peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains by the age of 14. 

The named star, said Fortunato, is a special way to remember Pener and a reminder that we are all part of something bigger. 

Middle School Director Galen Hamann ended the ceremonies with thanks to Fortunato for his efforts; she also lauded her faculty and staff members for their amazing work during both the pandemic and the construction process. 

Middle School Convocation 2022

 

Glancing up during her brief remarks, Hamann seemed to capture the spirit of the Sept. 12 event — “This is such a beautiful place,” she said. 

The Middle School as it exists today began in 1969. Its predecessor was Thayerlands, which was created in accordance with the will of Anna Boynton Thompson, one of the Academy’s original faculty members when it opened in 1877. 

This fall marks the Academy’s 145th Convocation.

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