Harpeth Hall graduates encouraged ‘to wende’ in their next journey
In 2005, Central Park in New York City debuted a site-specific art installation by Christo and Jean Claude titled “The Gates.” For two weeks, bright and airy orange gates lined the walkways, brightening up the gray winter days for those who meandered through the park. And then, just like that, the exhibition was over. The gates were gone.
For senior Mary Roper, the temporary exhibit intrigued her. The artists worked for years for approvals for the art installation only to have it stay up for two weeks — on purpose.
“On the surface, this impermanent work seems pointless and futile,” Mary said. “However, when further investigated, the fact that ‘The Gates’ only stayed up for a short period of time is perhaps the most beautiful thing about them. Their ephemerality is what makes them special, unique, and something to be remembered.”
As Mary, this year’s Lady of the Hall, stood on the library steps in front of those gathered on Souby Lawn for Harpeth Hall’s Step Singing tradition, she reflected on what it meant that her time at Harpeth Hall was coming to a close.
When she first came to campus in the 5th grade, Mary knew that Harpeth Hall was just a temporary landing space. Harpeth Hall is a college-preparatory school, and that is exactly what it does – it prepares. The school prepares students to leave campus ready and eager to take on the world and whatever lies ahead after graduation.
The fact that a student’s time at Harpeth Hall is only a small portion of their journey makes the time spent there significant.
“If Harpeth Hall was ours forever, if we never graduated, it wouldn’t be the place we all hold so dear. It is because Harpeth Hall’s purpose is to prepare us to leave it that we grew so tremendously here, among the most beautiful campus and most incredible set of faculty and staff,” Mary said. “That our time at Harpeth Hall doesn’t last forever is one of the most beautiful aspects of this school. Just as Christo and Jean Claude only leave their exhibitions up for a mere two weeks, we are meant to leave Harpeth Hall, and that’s the beauty of it.”
On Sunday night, on the eve of graduation and the final step in their Harpeth Hall journey, the senior class gathered to pass down the leadership of the school to the junior class The special ceremony carried on the beautiful singing tradition started by the women of Ward-Belmont nearly a century ago. The ceremony also honored the Lady of the Hall, the highest honor given to a member of the senior class, and representatives from each Harpeth Hall class.
Standing arm-in-arm on the steps of the Ann Scott Carrell Library, the Class of 2023 passed on their leadership of Harpeth Hall by singing “Crowded Table.” Class president Mary Virginia Sullivan announced that the seniors would be planting a tree on campus in honor and remembrance of those who lost their lives and the families at The Covenant School, and to serve as a place of quiet reflection for those who need it.
The juniors accepted leadership of the school with their own song to the seniors “Landslide.” Then, the Class of 2024 pledged to transmit Harpeth Hall better, greater, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to them.
To close the ceremony, Amy Evans, a beloved upper school college counselor and the faculty speaker chosen by the senior class, shared the meaning behind her favorite phrase, “To wende.”
“The simple definition of wende is to make one’s way, to travel, to proceed, to move,” Ms. Evans said. “But the depth of the word connotes a journey, to direct one’s course and proceed on one’s own way, often on a winding path.”
As a college counselor, some may see Ms. Evans’ job giving advice and setting the direction of her students’ futures, but she sees it a differently. Her job is instead to listen to what a student thinks she is saying, then listen to what she is really saying, and then say it back — in a way that she can best receive it.
“I hope you realize what I’ve actually done is encouraged you to listen to yourself,” Ms. Evans said. “... The only guide you need is that voice inside of you, that deepest voice, that core voice. The voice you know tells you the truth above all others, even when it’s hard to listen.”
And, as they prepared to walk down Souby Lawn at graduation and head toward their futures, Ms. Evans’ encouraged the Class of 2023 to continue to listen to their inner self.
With each curve of the path, each surprises, new challenge, new joy, new difficulties, Ms. Evans encouraged the class to never underestimate themselves and to trust their own hearts and minds.
“To wende. To move and to travel, to journey down one’s own winding path. Tomorrow at graduation, your beloved Harpeth Hall teachers and staff will send you off down your own road of the unexpected, and we will do so with utter delight in your unfolding,” Ms. Evans concluded. “Don’t listen to anyone’s advice about where to go from here. Don’t listen to mine. Only listen to your voice, the call of the road in front of you, and the distant horizon of possibility. It is yours.”
Lady of the Hall and the 2023 Court
Lady of the Hall: Mary Evelyn Roper
Senior Representative: Grace Lauren Moore
Junior Representative: Courtney Camille Couden
Sophomore Representative: Katherine Frances Stankewicz
Freshman Representative: Oluwasemipe Adejumobi
Eighth Grade Herald: Eilya Calla Brandes
Seventh Grade Herald: Eleanor Hobbs Yarbrough
Sixth Grade Crownbearer: Ani Kathleen Bashian
Fifth Grade Crownbearer: Percy Caroline Ewald
Flower Girls: Helen Nichols Floyd and Annabelle Lewis Adams