The Story Of Our Old Elm Tree

Thirty five years ago you members of the class of 1959 gave me as president a drawing to take custody of.  The occasion was our 25th reunion.  Now we all approach our 60th reunion this spring.  Let me tell you what being caretaker of this drawing has meant to me over these many years in order to kick off our celebration in a very special way.

Let us pause to meditate on the meaning and symbolism of our old elm tree which stands as a centerpiece on our campus near the Headmaster’s House.  Barry Moser, who taught art at Williston, did the pen and ink drawing of our mystical tree shown on these pages.  Mr. Moser went onto filmmaking doing illustrations for the Alice in Wonderland movie series.  We too as Williston students were also in a wonderland of sorts. We enjoyed an educational paradise in Easthampton, Massachusetts. That idyllic experience prepared us to learn, prosper, and live productive lives as leaders serving others and making the world a better place.

Let’s examine the legacy of virtues and moral ethics the elm tree stands for in order to benefit our entire Williston Northampton School family past, present, and future.  First, there is knowledge.  We studied sciences, mathematics, history, English, and Latin among other subjects that led us forward to becoming thinking, perceptive, analytical, and skilled adults.  We were prepared to perform at high levels of competence in such occupational fields as medicine, psychology, law, accounting, business management, and teaching among other pursuits.  Wisdom is the product of knowledge.  Consider looking outward as Dr. Charles Krauthammer tells us in The Point Of It All.  Another way to look at it is to be the first one to act loving or reach out.  This advice is especially useful as we advance further into our latter years.  One might well resolve to choose being kind over being right.

The elm is also the tree of life.  It is the family tree, if you will.  We find peace, joy, and love as we grow our families.  Generations are born.  The gift is in the giving.  All too suddenly the gift of children begins to give back to us in the form of grandchildren and great grandchildren.  And so the cycle repeats itself like a circular corkscrew moving forward as it revolves towards a meaningful goal: healing, a serene state of mind, perhaps finding God.

Photographs and drawing show us all dramatically what our old elm tree looks like.  The study of our school’s history portrayed by the tree was fun to write.  It was so much fun that the story wrote itself.  Hopefully, the elm tree will always be there on campus for alumni to enjoy.

Let us think about what Samuel Williston started in 1841.  We should remember not to compare ourselves to others but only look at ourselves and where we were before.  Let’s put Williston in the middle of all this. Where was I before Williston?  In public school I was getting As but not learning much about subjects that matter.  At Williston I was active: president working with other outstanding class officers.  In permanent positions of leadership from then to now, John Schumacher, vice-president, Dave Raymond, treasurer, and Andrew Solomon, secretary, make a wonderful team.  I liked to write and was editor-in-chief of The Willistonian.  Having a passion for sports, I pitched, caught passes, and swam distance (on what for seven years would be the greatest private school swimming team in the world).

All these activities were but small potatoes compared to what came after Williston.  My wife, Ormalean, of 31 years is pictured here.  Ormie, as she is nicknamed, has given me the happiest years of my life.  There are five children in our blended family, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.  Now a retired psychologist, I enjoyed 35 career years as a helping professional.

Once more at reunion this June we consider what Samuel Williston has wrought and bequeathed to all of us: a wondrous, magical family tree of life filled with wisdom, love, prosperity, and meaning.  Unfortunately, I will not be in Easthampton due to disability restricting my travel.

I will be there in spirit and hope you all enjoy a splendid celebration, living longer because of the friendship and bonding experienced at this time of being together again.  As you share your stories with each other, laughter will be a key factor.  Why?  Because we know that five good belly laughs a day help you live five years longer.  Socialize your way to longevity.  Dance as if no one is watching.  Sing “Try To Remember” as if no one can hear you.

Better yet, sing a rousing chorus of “Sammy”.

Sammy, my Sammy
My heart yearns for thee.
Yearns for your campus
And your old elm tree
Long may we cherish
In years yet to come
Long may we cherish

Best regards,

Richard Taylor Potsubay, Ph. D.