On Tuesday, February 12, the life and legacy of Dr. Stephanie Stephens Balmer, Harpeth Hall former Head of School 2014 - 2018, was celebrated at a Remembrance ceremony on Harpeth Hall's campus. The school planted a Chinese Pistache shade tree on the south lawn of Souby Hall in her honor, and students, faculty, staff, and other members of the community gathered around it and the back porch of Souby Hall to dedicate this special tree - and also to sing and to hear faculty and students share memories about the former head as we head into President's weekend which marks one year since her passing.
The rain passed just in time for the ceremony to begin. Head of School Jess Hill who led the planning of this beautiful event, welcomed the community with heartfelt opening remarks.
She introduced Mary Meacham '23, who read "When I Am Among the Trees" by poet Mary Oliver.
Senior, Sarah Bellardo, who was an advisee of Dr. Balmer's, shared a reflection about how Dr. Balmer made an impact on who she is today. She concluded her remarks, "Even though she is not physically with us, I still see her in so many ways in this community. I see her in the way her family carries on her legacy with strength and grace. I see her in the close relationships between students and faculty, mirroring the way she valued her relationships with every student and called us each by name. I see her when a senior greets a fifth grader, reminding me of the unity that she fostered among all grades. And I see her today, as we plant a tree to remember the radiant light and love that she brought to our community." Read the full text of her remarks here.
The upper school chamber choir sang "One Voice", followed by a faculty reflection of Dr. Balmer by Coach Karen Sutton, Harpeth Hall's Director of Athletics. Sutton spoke eloquently about the significance of planting the tree in Dr. Balmer's honor, "Like Dr. Balmer – this tree loves the sun, is adaptable to all conditions, and is beautiful. A favorite memory is seeing her after some time in the sun with her sunglass tan and her radiant smile. In her time as Head of School at Harpeth Hall, she planted seeds in all of us, and these seeds will continue to grow and flourish."
Finally, Ophelia Pilkinton '19 closed the program with an excerpt from Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and the following tribute and wish from the Student Council at Harpeth Hall:
"Dr. Balmer along with her personal brightness, had a love of bright colors. Each of you received a colored paper ribbon. These ribbons are biodegradable, eco-friendly and will dissolve safely into the soil the next time it rains. It was important to the Student Council to provide a space for everyone to have a moment of personal reflection. In this spirit, following the Alma Mater, we hope that you will tie your ribbon on Dr. Balmer's tree, and any tree or shrub in this area, to celebrate and honor her."
Ms. Hill echoed these thoughts, "Each of you have your unique experiences with Dr. Balmer, and I hope you will take the time to remember them today."