The US community is excited to welcome students back to school! For the first time in three years, the Welcome Assemblies and Handshake Ceremonies took place in their traditional forms at both campuses. It is great to see everyone together again. Welcome to new and returning students, we wish you a successful school year!
At the Hunting Valley Campus
On Tuesday, August 22nd, all of our Upper School students gathered in Gund Auditorium to start the new school year together. Head of School Patrick Gallagher addressed the school community with a welcome message centered around our mission—back to basics—now that thankfully, most things are back to normal. Mr. Gallagher spoke of the opportunity that the “boys of promise” that attend US have, and how it is his charge, and the charge of all faculty and staff, to help students take advantage of these opportunities.
Mr. Gallagher told the story of one student who attended a boys’ school in London, the Harrow School, in 1890, coincidentally, the year University School was founded. The fifteen-year-old was sent a letter from his mother in reaction to his poor report card. It read, in part, “If you would only trace out a plan of action for yourself and carry it out and be determined to do so—I am sure you could accomplish anything you wished. It is that thoughtlessness of yours which is your greatest enemy.” Later, it continued, “You know dearest boy that I will always help you all I can.” She signed it, “Your loving but distressed, Mother”.
The letter must have spurred something in that boy. Years later, Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.”
The potential for the year certainly seemed expansive on this beautiful morning. After the assembly, the traditional Handshake Ceremony unfolded outside. All new faculty and freshmen—the Class of 2026—moved down a line of friendly faces and greetings from faculty members, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Nearly 20,000 handshakes later, and after the handwashing and sanitizing that immediately followed, the 2022-2023 school year officially began!
At the Shaker Heights Campus
On Wednesday, August 23rd, the students and faculty of the Lower and Middle Schools gathered together in Conway Hall to celebrate the new school year. With one day already under their belts—and their blue blazers—the boys quickly settled in for the Welcome Assembly.
Mrs. Lisa Cummings, who herself was just welcomed as the new Director of the Lower School, opened the assembly. Though she is new to the role, she is not new to the US community. She was already a proud US parent of two sons, one at the Middle School and one at the Upper School. Mrs. Cummings spoke about the possible origins of the ritual of the handshake. Many boys seemed excited by one possible explanation, that it was a way to shake loose any daggers or other weapons that might be concealed in a sleeve. Inspired by hidden daggers or not, today, the brief clasping of hands is a friendly greeting and gesture of welcome. And we are glad it is an option again.
Mrs. Cummings welcomed Mr. Gallagher to the podium where he read the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud with the book’s pages displayed on the big screen behind him for all to see.
The boys, in a staggering variety of heights, made their way to the sunny Front Circle for their Handshake Ceremony. Smiles, handshakes, fist bumps, double fist bumps, and elbow taps were everywhere. One new student, seizing the opportunity, seemed intent on providing each person with a unique and intricate handshake on the fly.
When their handshakes were done, the older boys strolled back inside the building while many of the younger boys raced across the circle back to Lindseth Hall, and the school year was off to a running start!