Bill Burgess '77, President of St. Mark's Board of Trustees —
It's Where We Grew Up

Several years ago at our 35th Reunion, Charlie Curtis '77 and I must have been feeling nostalgic. We were chatting about our feelings as we all gathered in the warm embrace of the campus. We were struck by both the strong emotions that all seemed to have about being back as well as the interesting and often personal conversations we had with our classmates, even with those who I would not have called a close friend at the time. It occurred to me for the first time that the passion to share time and reflections about life's ups and downs with classmates and former teachers was really a reflection of returning home. I finally realized that St. Mark's was "where we all grew up" as I said to Charlie. That seemed to resonate with Charlie as he has since mentioned it in a letter to other classmates. In fact, I have given it a lot of thought since then as I reflect on the formative experiences of my life and contemplate my role as Board President.

To be sure, not all of our experiences were perfectly splendid all the time while we were at School. It turns out that one of my most important experiences in "growing up" at St. Mark's was the result of a non-voluntary separation from the School for a few weeks. I'll spare you the details here but I assure you that, at the time, it was no fun although highly instructive! For the most part, however, my experiences at St. Mark's challenged me without running me over; allowed me to stretch and define myself in ways I could not have predicted; and gave me the building blocks of ethics, service, endurance and responsibility that I could build upon as I went through life.

Even though I was a day student for my first three years at St. Mark's (we had Second Form back then), I spent much more time with adults and peers at School than I did at home or with anyone in my town. For many of my friends back home, going to school was more like punching the clock at the factory: check in, check out; a means to an end. I doubt that any of them would think of their school as a place where they grew up. It is a special place indeed when you can call your school your home.

So as we think about the current and future St. Mark's, I am compelled to focus on those things that are most important to growing up. What are the skills our kids will need to tackle the challenges of this century? What are the habits of the mind and centering keels of behavior that will allow them to contribute productively, bettering their own lives and the lives of others? How do we do all this in a nurturing environment that is respectful of the fact that hundreds of parents are entrusting us with the opportunity and responsibility to live and work with their children at a formative time in their lives?

I am confident in the leadership of John Warren '74, who has consistently demonstrated his deep caring for St. Mark's School and the children we educate. As a Trustee, I am encouraged by the ongoing implementation of the 2020 Strategic Plan and the impact it is having on the intellectual vibrancy of the community. Equally, as a relatively recent past parent ('07 & '08), I am pleased to say that, while the experiences of my sons were more "modern" than mine, the School is still a wonderful place to grow up. With the perspective that comes only with age and experience, I am confident that future generations of St. Markers will look back on their time at the School with nostalgia and great appreciation just as I do now.