Here’s Your Appreciation Gift for Thanksgiving

Director Vince Durnan's gratitude extends in many directions, starting with appreciating the difference between now and a year ago.
Somehow, we find ourselves heading out to begin the formal season of thanks. My gratitude extends in many directions, starting with appreciating the difference between now and a year ago. Remember those days, those pre-vaccine nail-biter days when we all watched the COVID-19 campus case counter more intently than we did the stock market indices? When we lived on the knife’s edge of science research in the form of that groundbreaking saliva testing study? When we worked valiantly to find a viable hybrid form of classroom experience, combining in-person and on-screen?
It all looks better in the rearview mirror. The lessons of those experiences, of those privations, of those pandemic exigencies are yet to be fully explored in our profession and our school community — but we most surely find ourselves in a far different position, and even if we are celebrating grandparents and special friends in a leaner form, the turkeys are trotting. For that, I am grateful.
And last Saturday, our High School Jazz band played for hundreds of Preview Day guests and volunteer guides. Then a collection of HS actors brought the kinetic “Noises Off” back to life on that same Auditorium stage to a full house. And then the terrace outside the library hosted four more parent socials, thanks to USNA, completing the whole K-12 string, precipitation and cold breezes notwithstanding. And for that, I’m truly grateful.
Maybe it’s the seasonal euphoria, but it strikes me that we’ve passed two really important tests since last Thanksgiving. The first is the test of making informed decisions on doing school in a way that supported broader public health considerations, even when other institutions regionally chose a more risk-tolerant defiant route. And the second is the test of sticking together, of seeing the benefit of working with rather than against one other, against a partisan cultural backdrop that all but celebrates an unwillingness to cooperate. Thanks for that.
Now it looks like we’ll have the chance to get fully engaged in the frenetic schedule that we used to know so well. We’ll identify some new areas in need of attention, some new opportunities for us to set the best kind of example for any school that might be watching, some new paths in pursuit of excellence. We’ll figure out ways to weather the supply chain frustrations, a tremendously tight labor market, and a hard-to-predict-with-confidence macroeconomy, all while preparing for a new and decidedly excited Director. I’m grateful for the chance to see all that happen.
Which kind of gets to my baseline thanks for just being here among you, walking this walk. Let me close, a few hundred words short of usual (as a gift to you) by saying how much all the appreciation, socks and all, continues to mean in the wake of this summer’s bumpy road for me. Betting you have something pretty big to reflect on in gratitude. Take time to let that happen.
Here’s to a restorative hiatus,
Vince Durnan                                              
    • Director Vince Durnan is in his 22nd and final school year at USN.

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