Convocation Ceremony Marks Start of 183rd Year of Learning at Williston Northampton


Gathered in the pews of the Phillips Stevens Chapel, the Williston Northampton school community gathered on September 8 for the school’s 183rd Convocation ceremony, officially marking the opening of the 2023-24 academic year.

“One of the magical aspects of Williston, and it happens this time every year, is to watch take place before our very eyes how a community is born out of a convergence of individuals,” Head of School Robert W. Hill III said during his opening remarks. “Some of us live here, and others … are pilgrims on your educational journey. But one thing binds you all together: Whether you begin in our middle school or join as a post-graduate, each of you will be changed by Williston.”

The ceremony opened with a moment of reflection by Dead of Students David Koritkoski, followed by a traditional ringing of the Angelus on the Residential Quad. Hill then welcomed the assembled audience, before giving way to class of 2024 President Kevin Mwangi ’24. Mwangi used his moment on stage to remind his schoolmates that they’re all in this together.

“I know how intimidating it can be [starting here] but remember: Your voice will never stand alone here. … So, as we go into the year, I urge you to think about what voice you want this school to carry. Then, be that voice, because it starts with you.”

Guest speaker Miranda Gohh ’13 echoed the sentiment that making the most of the Williston experience, involves asking yourself to be brave and make your inner voice heard.

“You may know exactly how you’d like this next year to play out. Or, you may have no clue,” Gohh said. “Either way, I hope you allow yourself to lean into the moments that ask you to be brave. Whatever that looks like to you. And celebrate each other when we see our friends and peers step into these moments of bravery themselves. Trust your instincts. Listen to what your hearts are telling you. And have the most fun. Because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.”

In addition to speakers, the 183rd Convocation ceremony also honored four faculty members for their outstanding service to the school—one earned the Granniss Faculty Chair, while the other three were honored for 25 years of service with a Williston Chair.

The Granniss Faculty Chair was established in 1999 by Eugenie Granniss, widow of Charles Gardiner Granniss, who was a member of the Williston class of 1929. It is awarded to a faculty member who personifies the pure joy of sharing the process of learning. This year, the Chair was awarded to Karla Schaffer.

A quiet example of purpose for students and colleagues alike, Mrs. Schaffer moves in space with humility and gentleness,” Dean of Faculty Corinne Fogg ’99 commented. “In recognition of the joy she brings to her teaching and to her students, it is my pleasure to announce the Granniss Chair recipient, Mrs. Karla Schaffer.”

The three teachers honored for 25 years of service were: David Koritkoski, Nat Simpson, and Sue Michalski.