Gratitude and Meaningful Contributions

I am particularly grateful for our Athenian community this week. As our neighbors to the north battle unimaginable devastation, Athenians immediately jumped into action, creating supply drives, taking in the displaced, saving animals from shelters, and coordinating a school-wide response. When tragic events happen nearby, Athenian’s founding values of service and community hit home for all of us. I know that it takes a commitment to send your student to Athenian, and I am humbled by how easily and eagerly Athenians extend their commitment to our broader community.

As these events unfold around us, we must remain clear of vision and purpose. Our founder, Dyke Brown, started Athenian on the belief that “intellectual fitness in combination with moral virtue and concern for societal needs and civic responsibilities is the only way to truly educate our young.” I believe in the Athenian mission now more than ever. I see our students and alumni responding to crises in the world by wanting to help, and they know—even the 6th graders—that they can. We must continue to offer an Athenian education because we need young people who believe in goodness, who want to serve society, and who are committed to the well-being of humanity. Brown’s insight from sixty years ago remains true: “This is the kind of person our nation and the world needs, and this is the goal of The Athenian School.”

I am reminded of a poem Dick Bradford often reads in the fall, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost. Nothing that is beautiful can ever last, as is the devastating case in Napa and Sonoma. Loss is inevitable, and I want to teach our kids that the cycle of life and death reminds us how precious certain moments are, how much we have to be grateful for, and how each one of us can be a shining light in another’s time of darkness.

In the coming weeks, we will be reflecting with our students around many of these themes. We will encourage them to explore their feelings, to investigate life’s injustices, and to lend an able hand. We will leverage the resources of our School to offer aid where we can and to instill a sense of civic responsibility in the young people we educate.

Now, we simply want to ask you to think about what is meaningful in your life and where you can make contributions that support your values. I donate my time and money to humanitarian relief organizations, to support orphans in Uganda, and to Athenian, because I believe in those causes and I want to model for my children how just one family can make a difference. Please join me in reflecting on what is meaningful in your own life and where and how you and your family can make the world better than you found it.

Thank you for being a part of this community. Your children inspire me every day and I am grateful for the energy, joy, and love they add to the world.

With humble gratitude,

Eric F. Niles

Head of School