By Alicia Juang
This year’s Senior Dinner garnered mixed reviews. Seniors and their parents gathered in the gym for a series of speeches on September 13, and many students walked away disappointed in the evening’s program, feeling that they had only been asked to give money.
“It’s well-intentioned, but the people who are going to give large sums of money are going to give regardless of whether or not there’s a dinner,” said Cam O’Reilly ’13, who added that he believes a number of his peers found the dinner “more of an inconvenience than a celebration.”
Though, according to Head of School Rebecca Upham, it was a night intended to kick off senior year for the Class of 2013, she also says that she is aware of the reaction to this year’s event.
“I know that one of the concerns coming out of this year was that it was too heavy on fundraising,” she said. “Certainly [that is] a feature, but it’s not supposed to be the focus. Getting the senior year launched is what it’s about.”
At the dinner, Annual Giving Associate Joelinda Coichy ’07 delivered the keynote address. In it, she encouraged seniors to participate in the BB&N community during their last year at the school and beyond.
“Be unsatisfied with the purely transactional and financial understanding of the word ‘give,’” she said. “Instead, strive for engagement… Allow yourself to see beyond the box you[’ve] built.”
Senior Parent Gift Committee Co-Chair Jeff Moore P’13, ’14 also addressed the audience and unveiled the committee’s plan for this year’s parent gift. The committee, he said, hopes to raise at least $500,000 to endow The Class of 2013 Future Leadership Instructorship.
“People picked BB&N because it’s a great school that challenges their children, and now they’re seniors,” he said. “We wanted to do something with financial stability, but this is all about the teachers. We wanted to send a signal that when teachers do a good job, it’s noticed.”
Similarly, Senior Class Ambassador Committee (SCAC) Co-Chairs George Camerlo ’13 and Katelyn Pan ’13 introduced the Senior Class Gift and the SCAC to the audience. Both the SCAC and Mr. Moore said they hope to reach 100% participation.
“The Senior Class Gift is a special contribution specifically from the Class of 2013. It is our hope that each of you will donate to the fund. Any amount, even as little as a quarter, will make a difference and is a great way to show your support for BB&N,” Katelyn said in her speech.
Other speakers included Ms. Upham, Grade 12 Parent Representatives Julie Kaneb P’13 and Liz Peoples P’13, and Grade 12 Dean Louise Makrauer.
Carly Hayden ’13 said she was “disappointed” with the evening’s program.
“I thought it’d be more about celebrating the fact that we’ve come so far instead of just jumping into our role as alumni. We haven’t graduated yet. I feel like getting us [to give money] was the point of the dinner,” she said. “If they want to inspire us as alumni to give, it should be done at a less stressful time and in a [different] manner.”
Lina Rebeiz ’13 added that the program felt long.
“I think the dinner would have been better if the speeches had been a little shorter and if the whole night hadn’t just been about donations,” she said.
Giving, Cam said, did not feel appropriate as what he perceived to be the subject of the dinner.
“It’s nice to start the school with a big dinner and giving is a good thing, but that’s what you expect to hear when you give to charity, not to an already well-off school,” he said.
Ms. Upham said she believes some seniors misinterpreted the evening’s intent.
“We know how important that message [of fundraising] is, but we don’t want it to dominate the evening”, she said. “[In addition,] I know that Joelinda’s message and intent was to convey how important it is to give of yourself to a community and that when you give your interests, talents, perspectives, BB&N becomes a more enriched and diverse place to be.”
Not everyone, however, reacted negatively to the event.
“I thought it was nice personally that I got to sit with my daughter. [Seniors] are growing up and leaving soon, and that was a nice way to connect together,” Mr. Moore said. “Joelinda’s speech really resonated with me. It’s nice to have an alum come back and give advice.”
“I think it was nice to get us all together with parents,” Katelyn said. “[Joelinda] got across the point that we’re going to be asked to donate but I think her personal anecdote helped the most in saying to make the most of your senior year and that you’re going to miss it.”
She added, however, that she understands her classmates’ complaints about being asked for money.
“I do feel like they’re asking for money, but it’s for a great cause,” she said. “It’s what we’re leaving the school with.”
Ms. Coichy added, “To a certain extent, I can understand that for a senior, it’s hard to be suddenly thrust into this adult world of talking about money.”
Assistant Head of School for External Affairs Woodie Haskins, who works with his department to plan the dinner each year, says that this senior class’s reaction is not unheard of.
“Every year, presentations are received more or less enthusiastically. It’s hard to predict what will resonate,” he said. “Last year, it was the same program, and the evening was successful. If there was less receptiveness this year, that’s something we need to address and look at for future years.”