A gorgeous day was the perfect backdrop for this Spartan tradition.
One of the dictionary definitions of the word “convocation” is “a large formal assembly of people.” But the Steward definition of “convocation” leans more toward “a lively mix of music, community, humor, and play.” That last part — play — is a schoolwide theme on campus for 2021-22.
This year’s Convocation was filled with Spartan Spirit, and it began with the procession of seniors walking alongside their Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten buddies, with whom they will get together for various activities all year long. After processing through the Colonnade, they arrived in the gym to the song “Time of Your Life,” which was performed by the talented members of the Steward String Ensemble (Austin Rose ’23, Claire Heaton ’24, and Ian O’Hallaron ’24, under the direction of John McAlister).
Associate Head of School Lisa Dwelle welcomed guests, and siblings Charlotte Olexy ’24, Dylan Olexy ’27, Collin Olexy ’28, and Evan Olexy ’31 led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Head of School Dan Frank welcomed students, faculty, staff, and guests, and asked the audience to participate in a “low-impact risk” — a fun, playful activity.
Mr. Frank asked the audience to use their hands to imagine several scenarios: giving someone a high-five, grabbing a pencil, and reaching for a glass.
Noting that the activity demonstrated the “connection between your hand and your head,” he said, “What we do … our action … has an effect on how we think, and how we think has an effect on what we do. When we put our hand and our head together, we are building heart.”
Mr. Frank said that the new school year brings many opportunities to build heart, through kindness, improvisation, and joy.
“I wish you happiness, I wish you joy, I wish you balance, and I wish you impact,” he said in closing. “Have a great year.”
Alumni Achievement Award Winner: Dr. Jill Narron ’85
Jill Narron earned her M.D. from the University of Virginia, completed her pediatric residency at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, and spent four years in the United States Air Force as a general pediatrician before returning to UVA for a fellowship in pediatric cardiology.
As a pediatric cardiologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dr. Narron embodies the description of Steward’s Alumni Achievement Award. She has lived out the Steward mission through inspiration, engagement, and care of others in the community.
A Transformative Impact
Carolyn Brandt, former assistant head at Steward and current Board of Trustees member, lauded Dr. Narron as an outstanding alumna who has had a transformative impact on many lives.
“I watched her blossom in the classroom and beyond,” said Ms. Brandt, adding that Dr. Narron had the highest academic average during all four of her Upper School years.
“She has devoted her life to working with young people ... serving as a pediatric cardiologist in Dayton, Ohio,” said Ms. Brandt. “Steward’s mission celebrates care, and it is no surprise that she earns high praise from families, not only for her medical skills but also her personal skills as a compassionate listener. She has commented that one of the things she likes about working with children is their zest for life ... not surprising, as it mirrors her own zest for life.”
Ms. Brant added, “With Steward’s word for the year being ‘play,’ it is most appropriate for the alumni award to celebrate someone who has devoted her life to helping children become healthy young people who can enjoy the fun of play.”
‘In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind’
In her remarks, Dr. Narron said she feels privileged to be part of the Steward family. She shared memories of life on campus in the early ’70s and talked about being a shy child who benefited from small class sizes.
“I can’t thank my parents enough for making the choice to enroll me at Steward,” she said. “I also give thanks to the educators and fellow students who challenged me ... and who made me believe that anything is possible.”
Some of Dr. Narron’s most cherished Steward memories include playing on the field hockey team (“I do not miss running the ‘train’ drill during practices,” she quipped), building theatre sets, learning French, and singing in the choir.
Her love for medicine blossomed at Steward. In addition to excelling in class, she worked at a local family practice, volunteered at a hospital, and participated in an externship at a developmental pediatrician’s practice.
Of her career, Dr. Narron said, “I can think of no higher honor than being entrusted with the care of my patients. To me, this is what it means to be a Steward, and these core values were instilled in me years ago, at this school: to care for oneself, others, the school community, and for a cause greater than oneself.”
Dr. Narron closed by saying, “In the words of Ted Lasso, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I would add to that, ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind.’ I hope you have an amazing year.”
Following Dr. Narron’s remarks, the Senior Musical Theatre Ensemble performed “Play.”
‘A Sheer Joy to Watch’
Director of the Upper School Adam Seldis talked about the vital nature of play.
“When you think about play, perhaps the first image that comes to mind is a young child in a sandbox: making, creating, modifying, improving, discarding,” he said. “Messy, perhaps even chaotic, it’s hands-on, low risk, high fun. And a sheer joy to watch.”
Noting the intrinsic benefits of play, Dr. Seldis said, “Which is why, at Steward, we are so happy to have play as our theme this year, because we see the benefit of play —unstructured and structured — throughout all the grade levels.”
Five Elements of Play
Ingrid Moore, director of the Lower School, spoke about the multifaceted nature of play, paraphrasing five elements of play from Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn.
“First, play is self-chosen and self-directed,” she said. “Play is an activity where the process is more important than the product. Play does have rules and structures but those come from the players themselves. Play is imaginative and often non-literal. And, finally, play needs an active but non-stressed frame of mind.” But, she said, “Play isn’t just for our younger students — not at all.”
Choice, Wonder, and Delight
Director of the Middle School Susan Atkinson said that Visiting Innovator Carolyn Schuyler’s recent presentation to faculty and staff was inspiring.
“One of the things that Carolyn emphasized ... is that play can be incorporated into just about anything,” said Mrs. Atkinson. “In fact, there’s a school in Denmark that uses this philosophy for all of its students. If three crucial indicators are present, then playful learning can be achieved. These three indicators are choice, wonder, and delight.”
Mrs. Atkinson noted, “As adults, we can acknowledge that we don’t have to control everything and that you, young people, have great ideas about what fulfills you and brings you happiness. We believe that this year will be a great year. One that brings fulfillment, accomplishment, and, hopefully, lots of play.”
Following closing remarks by Mrs. Dwelle, Upper School Dean of Support Livia McCoy performed “If You Believe” during the recessional.