Better Than Before

Facing facts and forging ahead.


 

Dear Alumni,

As I sit to write this letter on a beautiful early summer day, our four-month-old granddaughter is slumbering peacefully in her mother’s arms across the room from me. She is the very picture of serenity, hope, purity, and innocence. In so many ways, she is the perfect antidote to the dual viruses — COVID-19 and racism — that are afflicting our world right now.

At some level, I suspect everybody in our community has been touched by COVID-19. After all, the coronavirus doesn’t much care who you are or where you live. If you or someone close to you has suffered from the disease, then you know the heart-wrenching toll it can take on mind, body, and spirit. Likewise, I suspect everyone in our community has been impacted by the massive social unrest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. No matter your race, creed, national origin, or political persuasion, the ripples of the overdue march for justice and equality for all people have likely reached your shores. If you are a member of our BIPOC community (or an ally), the roller coaster of emotions has likely been deeply wearying and stressful. 

Despite our wonderfully remote and isolated campus, Pomfret is not immune to these viruses, and over the past few months it has become increasingly clear to me that in order to be the very best version of ourselves — to be the Pomfret we must be — we need to seek and establish our own version of antidotes to both of these menaces. 

I have mentioned before the serendipity that the Chinese character for crisis is the same character for opportunity, and we recognize the full weight of both sides as we confront these infinitely complex and demanding situations. In order to “heal” from these viruses, we need to more fully understand both what our challenges are and what is at stake. We have included many voices in this work already and will continue to solicit input from many more as we chart a new path forward. 

In particular, we are treating these dual viruses by taking a double dose of our institutional values: Community, Growth, Integrity. They have shaped our thinking, our decision-making, and our communication throughout. We now look to a future full of the promise of healing with genuine optimism because of our commitment to these values. 

In the academic arena, we will use the disruption caused by the coronavirus to enhance our pedagogical toolboxes, to be more empathic to our students who come to us from all corners of the globe, and to focus on educational equity. We will develop new competencies as teachers that will allow us to engage more fully with our students, whether they are with us on campus or not. We will double down on our efforts to not have content be king, but instead emphasize more individualized learning outcomes for our students. And we will never again take for granted the time we have together as members of this richly interwoven community. 

We will simultaneously build on the momentum of the recent international demand for social justice by recommitting ourselves to the anti-racist and inclusive principles ingrained in our values, and by holding ourselves accountable to the charge to and the goals established by our Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We will be a more welcoming, anti-racist, and aware community as a function of both individual and institutional commitment to the challenging and necessary social justice work ahead. And we will not rest until all students and faculty feel as if they truly belong at Pomfret.

To paraphrase the great Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, there is meaning to be found in suffering. We have learned much over the past few months, and we will continue to grow as a function of our willingness to learn from the complex issues we have been facing and to build on that knowledge. We can and will be better than we were before. My granddaughter deserves better. Our students deserve better. You, our alumni, deserve better. It would be naive to believe that we have solved the crises that still need our, well, divided attention. But when we choose to be hopeful, to commit with our full hearts and minds, we can accomplish great things. 

Certa Viriliter!

Tim Richards
Head of School


 

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