From the Head of School

Connections Carry US Forward

by Patrick T. Gallagher, Head of School

This year, at the school assembly kicking off the 2023-24 academic year at the Shaker Heights Campus, Lower School Director Mrs. Lisa Cummings explained a University School tradition to our youngest learners by first sharing traditions from around the world. For example, a kiss on the cheek is a common form of greeting in France. The indigenous Māori rub noses together to greet one another in New Zealand. Greeters shake hands and then clap in Zimbabwe.  

Mrs. Cummings offered these examples as context for a signature experience of US. One of the most celebrated traditions at US, our handshake ceremonies are reflections of our school values. Our community gathers at the start and end of each academic year to welcome members new to our community and to bid farewell to those graduating, retiring, or departing. (The latter usually take longer and often include embraces, hugs, and tears.)

The tradition is a fitting and historic way to bookend each year. Across centuries and cultures, handshaking has signaled mutual trust, peaceful intent, and the establishment of relationship. At US, as community members join hands and lock eyes, it strengthens our bonds with one another, our school, and our ideals.  

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the handshake, however, is also its simplest: reciprocity. The individuals participating are equal in the exchange. Many representations of the practice in art are not of full-scale individuals, but rather two interwoven and indistinguishable hands, equal partners equally committed in a symbol of generosity.  

Thankfully, that same spirit of generosity is powerfully evident at US, and not just on the first and last days of the year. The US community thrives because all our stakeholders are invested in the mission of the School, and one’s relationship with and connection to US do not end with one’s last walk through the ceremonial handshake line.

The generosity and reciprocity that are hallmarks of the US community are also evident in every story in this Report. I know support for US comes from those who are thankful for its profound and lasting impact – on them, their sons, and their grandsons. In that very same spirit, I thank you for ensuring this impact on future generations of US boys by providing for today’s faculty and staff. Today you are helping secure US’s tomorrow, and I could not be more grateful for it.
We have so much to be proud of and excited about at US, including

  • Increased support for the School from all community stakeholders;
  • Inspiring faculty and staff, like Dr. Carl Kapadia, who continue to support US
    in retirement;
  • The example of the US Class of 2023, striving already to give back to US before heading off to college;
  • Extraordinary alumni, like Mike Foust ’74 who provide for others the gift of a US education they continue to treasure to this day.

As with greetings, cultures have many ways of expressing gratitude. In Egypt, one might say “a thousand thanks” to stress the depth of gratitude. In China, one might “thank the sky” so as to not leave anyone or anything out; the gratitude is all-encompassing. 

Researcher Robert Emmons writes, “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that measurably change people’s lives.” Your generosity does just that at US. We thank all of you who support us by giving your all to realize our mission. We thank you by working to provide our students an enduring experience for which they will be thankful, too. We are well on our way to changing even more lives thanks to you.

Shaker Heights Campus JUNIOR K – GRADE 8

20701 Brantley Road, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122
Phone: (216) 321-8260

Hunting Valley Campus GRADES 9 – 12

2785 SOM Center Road, Hunting Valley, Ohio 44022
Phone: (216) 831-2200