One of my favorite University School photos is an aerial view of the school dated 1928. Many of the now-familiar features are there: the iconic tower; the buildings branching around the campus circle; the stately Walker & Weeks architectural design.
But that’s about it. Save the view of Cleveland off in the distance, US appears very much the “country school” of which it was a pioneering example. Little else we know now was there then. Indeed, the Shaker campus was there before Shaker Boulevard.
Of late, I find myself thinking often of that glimpse of the US of nearly a century ago.
This fall marks an important moment in the history of the Shaker campus. As we near its centennial, the opening of the Chilcote Family Commons at its heart reflects our commitment to the campus housing our
Jr.K-8 students and faculty. Combined with a state-of-the-art nurse’s station, heightened school safety measures, and ADA access, the stunningly renovated and reimagined space positions US for success into the future.
Of course, history has been ever more top of mind for all of us at US. This Report was prepared between spring and fall terms unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools the world over, including US. As we resume in-person, on-campus instruction, we do so with masks, at a distance, and through plexiglass – as well as with dozens of students and staff joining in virtually from their homes.
A US legend, Mr. Pat Aliazzi, the Reid Chairholder in Western Civilization, has in his four decades taught perhaps more distinct courses than any other US teacher. A few years ago, Ben, a sponsee of mine, was enrolled in Mr. Aliazzi’s History of Music. In trying to explain why he came to love the course so much, Ben summed up the magic of Mr. Aliazzi’s – and so many US teachers’ – teaching: making sense of the complex.
Thanks to the survey course, Ben came to understand and appreciate music across a range of periods and forms. He could distinguish Romantic from Classical from Baroque, and he could tell one composer’s concerto or symphony from another’s. In tracing the arc of hundreds of years’ worth of music, Ben came back again and again to Mr. Aliazzi’s words: “the same, but different,” – works of art built on, not of, those that came before.
The same, but different. The Chilcote Family Commons preserves the backbone of the Shaker campus known so well to generations of US students while enhancing and upgrading the space for generations to come. The model with which we begin this academic year strives to capture all that has always been special about US – relationships between students like Ben and teachers like Mr. Aliazzi, first and foremost – on new platforms and via new technologies.
For schools like US, however, this is without doubt an existential juncture. The extraordinary support you have provided makes more possible than the 2020-21
academic year. It makes possible our continued delivery on our ambitious mission. It makes possible our continuous evolution in the best interests of our students. It makes possible a future as impressive as our past. Indeed, because of your dedication to US, one can wonder what someone viewing a “vintage” image of US from the year 2020 might one day think.
Thank you for your support for the over 800 students and over 200 professionals for whom US is a home away from home.