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Harpeth Hall’s Lady of the Hall reflects on the lives grown ‘From Blossoms’

Lady of the Hall Betsy Rogers at 2022 Step Singing

There is a poem by Li-Young Lee about peaches bought from a boy at the bend of a road.

In the poem, the writer contemplates the beginnings of the sweet fruit and how, as it is nurtured from blossoms, its growth reflects the joy, beauty, and love that we carry through life.

From the time Harpeth Hall senior Betsy Rogers read the piece in AP Literature class, she understood that its message was meant for her and for her classmates. As she stood in front of those gathered on Souby Lawn on Sunday night — a crown of blossoms around her own head as this year’s Lady of the Hall — she shared how she felt the poem reflected the journey of the Class of 2022.

“As much as we celebrate our ultimate graduation from this place there is a lot of work that we and the people around us put in to get to that point,” she said. “That’s what makes Harpeth Hall special.

“We have a community of teachers, classmates, parents, and friends pour into us. They give us room to grow, to laugh at ourselves, to celebrate each other well, and their care is the reason we are ready to go out into this world as young adults — because it wouldn’t do to stay in this orchard. We are ripe for reaping, for taking the goodness we have felt here out into the world, because the world needs a lot of goodness.”

Students listen to the speeches during Step Singing 2022

On Sunday night, as part of the annual Step Singing tradition, Harpeth Hall’s seniors celebrated and shared that goodness with the classes that will now come after them. A special ceremony that has endured since the 1920s, each year Harpeth Hall’s graduating class passes leadership of the school to the juniors. The ceremony also honors the Lady of the Hall, the highest honor given to a member of the senior class.

As Betsy reflected on the days of precious joys, necessary life lessons, passionate teachers, and sweet, beautiful friends at Harpeth Hall, she asked those around her to do the same.

“Imagine that orchard within you,” she said. “Think of all the memories you have gathered from this beloved campus. The loving hands squeezes in the halls. The day the math lightbulb finally went off. The many frolics on Souby Lawn. The countless tears shed during assemblies — mostly by me. Consider these things and know we are lucky to have such rich orchards planted by Harpeth Hall.”

Seniors share their song at Step Singing 2022.

After Betsy spoke, her classmates joined her on the steps of the Ann Scott Carell Library to carry on a tradition started by the women of Ward-Belmont nearly a century ago. The Class of 2022 passed on their leadership of Harpeth Hall to the Class of 2023 by singing “Nobody Knows” by the Lumineers. Class President Kendall Burch announced that the seniors would be donating the remainder of their class funds to the Olivia Fund — which helps students and families at Harpeth Hall with expenses that are important to an inclusive school experience but are not covered in financial aid.

The juniors accepted the leadership of the school with their own song to the seniors, “I’ll Always Remember You” by Hannah Montana. Then the Class of 2023 pledged to transmit Harpeth Hall better, greater, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to them.

To close the ceremony, MarQuis Chappell, an English teacher and Harpeth Hall’s director of equity and inclusion, spoke about the opportunities that each class holds in its hands shaped by three elements of personal agency — truth, legacy, and listening.

“Contrary to what you see online, you do shape how others experience you,” he said. “... It doesn’t matter how fabulous you are or how fabulous you think you are. If you don’t know how to treat people no one cares. How you show up in the world matters. The things you say about yourself and others matter — publicly and privately.”

Mr. Chappell's speech, in many ways, paid homage to the women writers and scholars who shaped him. As he uplifted those voices, he called on the words of author Toni Morrison, who said that the most lasting thing anyone will ever have is their legacy. “Ask yourself,” Mr. Chappell said, “what will it be?”

“Choose this day,” he said, “whether you will be regarded as an agent of honesty, unity, and hope, or as an agent of discord, ruthlessness, and self-preservation.”

Lady of the Hall and 2022 Court

In making that choice, Mr. Chappell asked the students to consider one more thing — the leadership that comes through listening.

“Do better than all the adults, myself included, have done,” he said. “Before responding, posting, asking, telling, agreeing, leading, following, TikToking, Snapchatting, pause and listen to those around you — but most importantly listen to yourself. Listen to what comes up for you and then move forward.

“The world doesn’t need more leaders who are loud, or popular, or charismatic, or good at small talk, or radical, or strategic, we need more leaders who understand the value of pausing.”

On Sunday night, Harpeth Hall paused for a moment on Souby Lawn. Together, students, families, and friends listened. And through that act, they blossomed a little brighter together.

Lady of the Hall and the 2022 Court

Lady of the Hall: Elizabeth Evelyn Rogers
Senior Representative: Cori Reese Magsby
Junior Representative: Grace Lauren Moore
Sophomore Representative: Anne Mason Hart
Freshman Representative: Tara Elizabeth Hagerty
Eighth Grade Herald: Madison Lucille Camp
Seventh Grade Herald: Ruby Mae Russell
Sixth Grade Crownbearer: Georgia Lynn Wolter
Fifth Grade Crownbearer: Ilsa Grey Christopher
Flower Girls: Charlotte Elizabeth Fayard and Sophie Elizabeth Jacques