Diplomas were awarded to 181 McCallie seniors on Sunday as the school observed its 117th commencement. The 181 young men will attend 87 different colleges in 28 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada. Fifty-one students—a full 30 of the present class--will be the only McCallie senior heading to their selected college, a sign of the independence and confidence of the young men.
Eighty-six percent of the class will attend college with merit, athletic, academic, talent, or lottery scholarships. Fifteen percent will attend the top 25 most selective universities in the country.
In remarks to the graduates, Head of School Lee Burns ’87, called for the graduates to continue to be independent thinkers and action takers and to be countercultural by resisting the societal urge to “guard our love rather than give it.”
“It is countercultural to think that primarily pursuing one’s own happiness as the chief end of life is shallow, selfish and shortsighted, he said. “And it is easy to stay busy achieving externally rather than probing and growing internally.”
Instead, Mr. Burns said, the graduates should remember their “duties to a God who created us and that we are to love Him and our neighbors as ourselves.
“Wrestling with your self-identity, your purpose, with God’s call, are necessary steps, time-consuming ones, to becoming an authentic man leading a fulfilling life…and a life that enriches others…a life of love and leadership that makes a positive difference in the world.
Co-valedictorian Levi Lebovitz, a day student from Chattanooga, who will attend Stanford University this fall, echoed Mr. Burns’ comments.
“As individuals and as a society, we function best when we see the humanity in each other and drop the fantasy of self-centeredness to build a better, more loving world, together,” he said.
I took an elective this year called How The World Works, where. . . our class interviewed some of the most successful and impactful people in the world, CEOs, best-selling authors, and entrepreneurs. These leaders had accomplished everything that it seems society encourages us to pursue. But what shocked me was the uncanny revelation, interview after interview, that each person didn’t find purpose or happiness through monetary success or the glamor of fame, but rather, through the parts of their lives where they impacted people and formed real connections. Where they invested back in their communities, fought for a cause near to their hearts, or strove to make the world a better place.”
Co-valedictorian Jackson Scarbrough, a boarding student from Cleveland, Tennessee, who will attend Dartmouth College this fall, also picked up on Mr. Burns’ theme about striving for authenticity and understanding oneself.
“This semester, I had the privilege of taking the senior elective Literature of the Heart, and like many other students in the class, I can confidently say that it has been one of the most beneficial experiences of my time at McCallie, because in this course, we didn’t learn how to do things--how to properly use syntax, how to interpret text, how to write argumentatively. Instead, we learned how to better understand ourselves and the world around us,” he said.
He recounted a meditation exercise in that class. “A final, end of the year reading from a meditation teacher and professor named John Kabat Zinn summed up my thoughts well: ‘.. it is okay to just be… we don’t have to run around all the time doing or striving or competing in order to feel that we have an identity’. . .
McCallie is built for thinkers and doers like us who find enjoyment and pride in pursuing our interests. . . . However, my work here on the Ridge has taught me how beneficial it is to step away from the urgency of doing and take time to just be still. To naturally but intentionally let myself be. Because sometimes, being can be much more important than doing.”
And Grayson Metalist Luke Gilbert, a boarding student from Charlotte, North Carolina, who will attend Yale Univeristy this fall, told the group how as a youngster he wanted to write a book but was obsessed with coming up with a title first. But, he said, “our books should write themselves. Each word should emerge freely and creatively, and each idea should be penned down not because it was prescribed by a title, but because it is truly what we want to be written.”
And he continued, “My hope is that, when the final word is written, no title could ever begin to scratch the surface of the story.”
Carter Newbold '84, Chair of McCallie’s Board of Trustees, welcomed the graduates as the newest McCallie alumni and assured them that McCallie faculty, staff and fellow students will always be with them in their future journeys.