It Started Here
This year's giving day is inspired by unique moments of self-discovery.
BY WILL MITCHELL ’84, DIRECTOR OF ADVANCEMENT
When I introduce myself as Pomfret’s Director of Advancement — which is just a fancier way of saying “Director of Fundraising” — I often receive expressions of sympathy for having a job whose central concern is asking others for money. “I could never do your job,” people say, with the subtle implication that “asking for money” is about as attractive as public speaking. In return, I try to explain that I actually feel gratitude and joy in doing this work for Pomfret.
As a Pomfret alumnus, I have a personal appreciation for Pomfret’s mission and impact. My love of literature and history started at Pomfret. Mr. Merjian, Mr. Wells, Mrs. Keator, and Mr. Wiquist, inspired a boy who loved Peanuts comics to eagerly consume lengthy works of nineteenth-century English literature and examine their historical context. Who knew I could be brought to tears by the feeling of injustice experienced by the lead character in Tom Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Fundamentally, Pomfret opened my eyes to a wider world, which allowed me to begin to explore my place in it.
My greatest joy, however, is in the many conversations with alumni and parents who share their own Pomfret stories. They think deeply about the character and the future of Pomfret, their philanthropy to the School, and the impact they hope to make at Pomfret and beyond.
It was a privilege, for example, to meet with the alumnus who described a “pivot point” early in his life during a sculpture class with Art Teacher Alice Dunbar. With a father who was a doctor, he had often imagined pursuing a profession related to science or math. He described how Ms. Dunbar’s class, and the many collaborative projects that followed, opened him up to interests, abilities, and affinities that he never knew he had. It gave him the confidence to think in a completely new way about what he might do in life. How moving it was to watch him retrieve from the office of his successful architectural firm the teacup that Ms. Dunbar had made for him as a student more than fifty years ago.
It was gratifying to visit with the young alumna, now the owner of a thriving interior design firm, who related the “creative energy'' she discovered inside her while under the guidance of Art Teacher and Artist-in-Residence JP Jacquet. She described graduating from Pomfret to find an equally robust world of adults — fellow alumni — ready to assist and mentor her based on a powerful, shared experience, sometimes decades apart.
It was powerful to speak with the mother of a new student who recalled crying tears of joy after her first faculty conferences. With a chuckle, she described how her son had arrived on the Hilltop only weeks before the conferences, playing up his “cool jock” persona. But our faculty had seen through the facade, she told me. They saw him for the complex, multifaceted young person he truly was.
What is your Pomfret story? What started here for you? What do you trace back to your time at Pomfret? As you reflect on these questions, I hope you share my hope and excitement for the 364 young people at Pomfret whose stories are just beginning. Who are the faculty mentors changing the early trajectory of their young lives? How are they discovering who they are here and seeing — perhaps for the first time — who they might become?
Please mark your calendar for our Day of Giving — Tuesday, April 26 —when we celebrate all of our individual, unique, “It Started Here” moments with gifts that will shape the 364 stories that are starting here.