What We Are Building With

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There are construction workers everywhere you look around campus these days.  Work is ongoing to expand the Smith-Hofheimer Lower School, primarily to add space for the teaching of STEM and the Arts.  A new stadium is erupting on the south side of the football field, including locker rooms, rest rooms, concessions, and a rejuvenated Bell Tower.  Most dramatically, the James B. Massey Jr. Leadership Center, at the very heart of our campus and of our mission, is almost completely under roof.  The indefatigable leadership of Stewart Howard ensures daily that the energy and care going into these projects is breathtaking.

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All of which got me to thinking about the Three Little Pigs.  Trust me, dear reader, this one’s going to end well.

You remember the story.  Pig #1 builds his house of straw, pig #2 uses sticks, and pig #3 uses bricks.  And when adversity comes in the guise of the ravenous Wolf, the first two pigs learn quickly that if you want to build something to last, you must take the time and effort to do it right.  The first two pigs end up very grateful that their brother put in the extra time and labor.

Okay, what does this have to do with the Massey Center and the other two projects?  Surely I cannot be suggesting that we are using anything but the finest materials and labor.  Of course not.  I pass within feet of the Massey Center many times each day, and while I don’t know much about construction, I can see (and hear!) a whole lot of steel, aluminum, concrete and bricks being hauled around, lifted up in the air, and joined together.  To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lotta welding goin’ on.

No, what the children’s tale got me to thinking about was a modern-day fourth little pig.  If it took place today, what material would a fourth brother use?  If I understand its history correctly, bricks were the strongest building material around when the story started making its bedtime rounds.  Yet I sense that we are using something much stronger.  And it isn’t steel and it isn’t concrete.

rendering-2First of all, these buildings are not monuments.  They will house human beings – students, athletes, teachers, and administrators – as we together seek to perfect our mission of supplying communities with graduates that will make wherever they dwell a better place.  To do that we must have the wisdom and the drive to determine properly what things we should do here on Wesleyan Drive to make our graduates better people so that they might follow that call. What will follow from the creation of these spaces is youngsters who become technical and social innovators, young men and women who know better how to act as teammates seeking a common goal, and adults who, when called upon, more naturally lead those teams of citizens trying to make the world a better place.  That sounds a little corny, but it is nothing less than true.

rendering-4So what are we building these lofty – minded structures with if it’s not just steel and concrete?  To answer that, you must remember that while these buildings are not only not monuments, they are also not free.  They are the result of the overwhelming generosity of the members of our extended Academy family.  The sheer number of donations making all this possible is unprecedented for our school.  And in the last few months I have learned, more clearly and more poignantly than I might have understood before, that the overwhelming majority of that generosity stems not from a vague desire for philanthropy, but from a regard for the power for good that resides in this place.  For many that regard is deeply personal, often specific to an individual like Mr. Massey.  And so I have come to understand what building material we are using that is stronger than bricks or steel or concrete.

It’s love.

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