Celebrate the recipients of the Alumnae Awards and reconnect with classmates.
Alumnae Luncheon Remarks from Alumnae Board President Mih-Ho Cha Neenan '81:
Good afternoon and welcome everybody. I’m Mih-Ho Cha, Class of ’81 and President of our Alumnae Association Board. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us today. We’d like to begin this celebration with a moment of silence.
Thank you. Please take this time to enjoy lunch and your table’s company. I’ll be back shortly.
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Hello, again. I’d like to thank the hard-working advancement team for their time and care in putting this special weekend of events together. Courtney Trafton, thank you for all you do on behalf of the Board. We’re grateful for your time and care.
It’s an exciting time for Lincoln School. You’ll hear about the things that are happening here in a bit from Suzanne Fogarty.
Right now, I’m up here to talk about us. But before I do, please indulge me in a little Jeopardy nerd-out with two quotes – one from a classic novel and the other from a favorite beach read.
First, the novel. Please remember to phrase your answer in the form of a question:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
That’s right! It’s Dickens’s famous opening line to A Tale of Two Cities. That was a bit of a softball.
Now let’s ramp it up a bit: “It is the motive, not the danger, that shows a hero. We have vastly better evidence in the heroes of peace, who never fail to appear in accidents, in wrecks at sea, in fires on land. These are they who take risks… to save life, not to destroy it. [W]e do injustice…, when we grant our chief applause to the showy, organized rational destroyers rather than the unnoticed, miscellaneous saviours, who do their work, demanding no need of praise, who never claim to be heroes but who support, upon their bent shoulders, the hope of the world. Glory to the builder, not to the destroyer.”
Ok, so that’s kind of a trick question because 1) I rarely go to the beach and 2) It’s actually from an obscure 1902 essay about war and peace that I found in a book of Quaker writing.
So, you’re asking: What do these quotes have to do with this moment? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about this event, what it means, and why it’s important. We’re here, specifically, to honor three of our very own: Lee, Heather, and Gaia, each of whose impressive achievements and contributions you’ll hear more about from their classmates.
But today’s also very much about time and moments. The past and the future. Tradition and change. What connects us through it all and what we share.
Lately, it’s almost impossible to escape the word ‘unprecedented’, and as I prepared for today, staring at my very, very blank laptop, it was against the backdrop of devastating news of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, an also devastating earthquake in Mexico, and political or military tension of varying degrees on most continents. Unprecedented? I’m not sure, but certainly unsettling, and I wonder: When they’re well into adulthood and far beyond Lincoln, how will today’s students remember this time? How do these girls envision their futures? Who are their quiet heroes?
Each of us experienced Lincoln in a particular era, and our memories are tied to those times. When I think of the OPEC oil crisis, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t “Phew, that was a geopolitical doozy!” but: “Oh, yeah! I remember: That’s when we started wearing pants at Lincoln!”
My flashbacks are peppered with mimeographed school bulletins, pink Tab cans, low-heeled-brown-tie oxfords, and dreaded Presidential Fitness tests. So when I hear about the innovations at Lincoln or I see the gleaming new STEAM Hub, it strikes me as a completely different place, and, like many of you, with a pinch of envy, I think: I wish I could go here now.
Lincoln’s every day business is to equip its students to go confidently into the future, and under Suzanne’s bold leadership, it is. But sometimes it’s good to look back and retrace our footsteps. If we look at the arc of history, it’s clear to see that Lincoln has always been ahead of the curve.
Ok, cue laughter, because now is when my classmate Jennifer, who if she were here, would heckle me and say, “Really, Cha? Ahead of the curve? What about the bloomers?”
Okay, so Lincoln has never been fashion forward. But that was not, nor never will be its concern. Yes, we wore bloomers under our gym tunics. Yes, we also had gym tunics and we changed in a dark and musty locker room that was like something out of a Stephen King novel, but I digress.
No, our school was founded upon a progressive idea for its time: that girls deserve an excellent education. Bloomers notwithstanding -- the rest of the world has been catching up to us ever since.
Since 1884, Lincoln has moved forward, navigating unknown skies while holding steadfast to its core values. And for each of those 133 years, alumnae have been -- through our support, engagement, and example -- the wind beneath Lincoln’s wings.
We’re deeply embedded in the warp and weft of the school. Today, we’re trustees, faculty, administrators, preservationists, coaches, benefactors, fundraisers, parents, guardians of tradition, and champions of change. Like Heather -- who has contributed selflessly and without fanfare to Lincoln out of love – alumnae stewards are in every hall and corner of the school.
But we’re also weaving our way far beyond Rhode Island, into the fabric of the world. Today, there are more than 3,500 of us in 23 countries, each having pursued a unique path and guided by our individual light. From California, Lee is inspiring workplace loyalty. Out of Brooklyn, Gaia is shaping conversations about values through her art.
We’re everywhere and we’re doing everything.
We’re doctors, journalists, lawyers, and professors. We’re launching start-ups, and we’re transforming generations-old family businesses to evolve with a changing marketplace. We’re designing buildings and advancing science. In corporate finance, we’re raising the glass ceiling. We’re creating art and making policy. We help immigrants gain citizenship, and we incubate ideas for positive change in the world. We lead Fortune 100 companies and television networks, volunteer in our communities, and, not least, we care for our loved ones.
We’re literally all over the map, doing our own thing, pursuing goals and following dreams. But, wherever we’ve been, wherever we’re headed, wherever we ultimately land – whatever shape our lives take -- it comes down to this: We’re all cut from the same plaid cloth.
I was struck by this when I read the latest issue of our magazine – which, I should point out, has a new look and feel, thanks to the deeply thoughtful work of Ashley Rappa, whom Lincoln is fortunate to have.
This issue is rich with alumnae profiles and news. But two stood out to me in particular: an interview with Katie Faulkner, Class of ’83 and a personal essay from Mary Lioce-Narvell, Class of ’75.
As some here know, Katie is a founder and principle of a leading architectural firm in Boston. Mary, who lives in London, wrote about having pivoted from a budding career in interior design to playing “the actress in a supporting role” as her husband’s work took the couple to four countries in as many decades. Two alumnae from different eras who’ve journeyed down two very different roads.
But here’s the amazing thing. Look a little closer at Katie, in Boston, and Mary, in London. Lee, Heather and Gaia, and it’s not hard to connect the dots.
It’s at Lincoln that Katie learned how to pursue her interests without fear of judgment, to draw upon the humility required to be okay with the failure she’d inevitably encounter on the road to success. It’s at Lincoln where she developed the grit she needed to follow her intention and to reach high.
Mary’s essay moved me most, I think, because she shared – with humility and generosity -- an intimate thought that most of us have encountered, particularly on a day like this, when we sing the praise of others. While marveling at all the changes on campus during a recent visit, she had a twinge she described as a “percolating feeling of underachievement.”
But, on reflection, Mary realized she’d also made a bold, intentional choice -- to work with her husband towards a shared goal. She credits Lincoln for the resourcefulness, determination, and confidence she drew upon as she had to repeatedly re-establish life and household in new surroundings, all in service of partnering with her husband to move forward together. Recognizing fulfillment, and realizing her sense of worth wasn’t defined by paid employment, she ultimately found what she calls an “emboldening freedom.”
She thanked Lincoln for reminding her of all she’d accomplished, and wrote: “No matter what one’s personal goals, somewhere along the route to them will be the necessity to collaborate, compromise, and share. But it need not diminish You.”
This is the thing. As far flung as we are, I keep hearing the same thing from alumnae and it’s true for me too: Lincoln made me who I am.
When our particular times, circumstances, or life-demands constrain us, we simply do our personal best. And when we do, like Mary, we receive the greatest and most simple gift: We come to where we ought to be, and we find ourselves in the place just right.
There will never be a crystal ball. The future will always be uncertain. So what’s the strategy for thriving? Same as it ever was. Now more than ever, we need to share our strength. We’re rooted locally, but we must connect globally. Individually, you’re each remarkable. Collectively, we are an exceptional network and, I believe, a force for good. So, on behalf of the Alumnae Board, I urge you to stay connected. For each other, in honor of those who preceded us, for the benefit of and as models for those who follow us, and in gratitude to the teachers and the school that made us who we are.
So, as we’re about to recognize this year’s award recipients, let’s bear in mind why we do: These three women are expressions and embodiments of a 133-year old progressive, radical proposition: the unique and lasting value of a Lincoln education.
As we acknowledge them for using their emboldened freedom for greater good, we also pay tribute to our school and we celebrate ourselves. You and me. Every day, in our own way, we are, to paraphrase my predecessor, Allison Gelfuso Butler, evidence of our founding proposition. We do what we do and we are who we are because of Lincoln, not despite it.
Before I wrap up, and your ears fall off, I’d like to ask any class scribes, agents, trustees, alumnae board members – past and present -- and reunion chairs who are here today to please stand so we can thank you. Our quiet, constant heroes. Through your unsung work and generosity, with your support and upon your bent shoulders, we sustain our sisterhood and stay connected. So, yes. Glory, indeed, – and deep, deep gratitude -- to the builders among us.
Oh, and what about Dickens and the Lincoln girl? Remember that in bad times, we do good. When people behave foolishly, Lincoln girls exercise wisdom. When doubt and cynicism tick upwards, we double-down on truth and compassion. When the world turns dark or a friend despairs, Lincoln girls bend our shoulders, crank up our light, and we raise hope. We build a better world.
So, as you walk through campus today, reminiscing about your time and taking note of how different it all seems now, I hope you’ll remember what remains constant and links us across time and geography: that we’re each testimony to the enduring power of an education rooted in Love, Loyalty, and, yes, Lowliness.
And, I hope you’ll agree with me -- it’s the best of times to be a Lincoln alumna.
Want to see more Alumnae & Reunion Weekend fun? Browse the 2017 event photo album!