President, Head begin new year with speeches

Head of School Dr. Jeanne Huybrechts drew on her childhood experiences and President Thomas C. Hudnut from two books he read this summer when they spoke at the Parents’ Association Fall General Meeting at the Middle School Sept. 19.

Huybrechts said she learned life lessons from a water-ski club she was in as a child.
Hudnut said the protagonists from  two books he read this summer showed promise as teens, but took divergent paths.

Huybrechts’ speech, “Eyes in the Back of My Head,” referred to having spent the summer “looking forward and backward at the same time.” 

Huybrechts connected her experiences water-skiing with the Lake Erie Rough Riders skiing club to her job here.

She and her siblings helped organize the annual ski show, an event that they looked forward to yearly. While her siblings practiced their ski tricks in preparation to dazzle as stars of the show, Huybrechts helped out with less glamorous tasks, such as creating and sewing costumes. 

While she admitted to making her share of mistakes, she called them “low stakes screw-ups,” saying they were “mistakes we could recover from, precious life lessons that could only be learned the hard way.”

She compared her role in the water-ski club to being Head of Harvard-Westlake.
“Supporting talented people — that’s what I love doing, and I get to do a lot of it here,” Huybrechts said. “Happiness comes from discovering what you do well and then finding a way to do it every day.”

In past years, Hudnut has spoken about all the books he read over the summer.

Trying something different this year, he spoke extensively about just two books: “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, the story of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, and “Mountains beyond Mountains,” by Tracy Kidder, the story of Paul Farmer, a doctor who has devoted his life to fighting drug-resistant tuberculosis. 

“Either of them could have graduated from this school,” Hudnut said. 

Hudnut pointed out that one man is “the bad guy,” who eventually landed himself in prison, while one is “the guy in the white hat,” who has devoted his life to helping others.  Only one of these men, Hudnut said, exemplified the qualities — cheerfulness, resilience and generosity — that he thinks it is important for students to learn here. 

“These qualities will last forever and form the legacy not only of our students but of our school,” Hudnut said.

Hudnut preceded his speech by honoring the Chinese Parents’ Association.
He presented them with an award recognizing their donations to sponsor a new building at the Middle School.