This week, The Hill kicked off its 173rd academic year with a full slate of activities and events including new student orientation activities, adviser meetings and seated meals, a historic Convocation, first full class days and afternoon activities, and Chapel orientation in the CFTA.
On Wednesday, September 6, 2023 (the hottest day of the summer this year on record for the area), after enjoying the first seated meal of the year in the Dining Hall with their advisories, students and faculty gathered in the CFTA for Hill’s traditional Convocation ceremony. This year’s historic ceremony celebrated the official introduction of Kathleen Devaney as the School’s 12th Head of School.
This year, The Hill welcomes a total of 539 students from 28 states and 21 countries, including 175 new students. View more photos and a link to view the ceremony below.
The ceremony kicked off with a fun slideshow of photos taken over the course of pre-season and move-in days, followed by an invocation offered by The Rev. Khristi Adams, Hill Dean of Spiritual Life and Equity and Chaplain, asking for prayers of gratitude for families, faculty, staff, and friends, and especially for the lives of the two faculty members the School community lost too soon over the summer, Chris Evans, new learning support coordinator, and longtime beloved faculty member, Dana Perry-Hunter.
SGA Co-Presidents Reet Tharwani ’24 (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) and Mason Moore’24 (Rehoboth Beach, Del.) welcomed students and faculty to the first community gathering of the 2023-24 school year. Their remarks focused on friendship, connections, strength of community, and embracing the opportunities that lay ahead. As the beginning of the school year can be “hectic,” they urged their fellow students to "not cut corners”, literally and metaphorically.
“Today is the day we get to celebrate our hard work and dedication leading up to this moment, and the beginning of a new chapter in our lives,” said Reet.
“Each student has unique and individual experiences at Hill. What molds us together is the great pride we have in being part of this remarkable school,” shared Mason. “Hill is not just a physical place, it is a community built on respect and collaboration. We encourage you to embrace these values, support one another, and celebrate accomplishments with each other along the way.”
“At Hill, what separates us is our strength of community - our common love for each other and our school, and “Cutting corners” directly diminishes our community,” said Mason. “Don’t sell yourself short by taking a shortcut or the easy way out. Speak to one another face to face, and do so with respect. Hill can be hard, and even overwhelming at times. When you find yourself in moments of stress, take a step back, take a deep breath, and don’t cut corners.”
Reet reinforced that The Hill School’s motto, “whatsoever things are true” is more than just four words. “Referring to our core tenets, we are challenged to work hard; think and reason; be fulfilled; serve the common good; and be prepared to lead as citizens of the world guided by our motto. These principles of honesty, genuineness, courtesy, respect, gratitude, and concern for the greater good guide our actions regardless of circumstance,” she noted.
After the Hilltones and Hilltrebles led the audience in the singing of "The Hill School Fight Song," Associate Head of School Dr. Sylvia Rodríguez Vargas recognized and thank all Hill faculty for their service and dedication, including 17 faculty members new to our community this year.
Introduction of Kathleen Devaney as the School’s 12th Head of School
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Board Chair James L. Alexandre ’75 and Chair of the Head of School Search Committee Michael Harris ’84 P’22 then officially introduced Ms. Devaney to the School community. Mr. Alexandre shared that during the search process “the second that Ms. Devaney began to talk about why she wanted to come to and how she would lead The Hill, I knew I was listening to the next head of school.” Mr. Alexandre’s presentation of the ceremonial mace signifying the transfer of power to Ms. Devaney was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
In her first address to the School, Ms. Devaney emphasized the importance of connection and community. She shared how she recently was disheartened to hear U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy describe loneliness and isolation as an epidemic, but hopeful upon learning social connection as the medicine.
“IRL—In Real Life—a reference to our existence outside of social media. A stand-in for living, for shared experiences, for living in person, together. Boarding schools are the OG IRL,” said Ms. Devaney.
“In our lives here at Hill, in the dining hall, at seated meals, in Chapel, the dorm room, on the field and the stage, in the common room and in the classroom, we are living, learning, connecting, and growing in community with one another,” she explained. “Now, more than ever, we see the value of boarding school in providing a level of shared experience and familiarity not experienced in almost any other part of life.”
“Connections require attention and real connection happens in person,” urged Ms. Devaney, noting how being a part of a boarding school like Hill is having the chance to meet people with different perspectives and viewpoints.
Ms. Devaney encouraged members of our community to reach out to one another and share a smile or laugh as, “relationships begin with the courage to give others a glimpse of ourselves and to offer and receive friendship.”
“At Hill, we work hard to prioritize the people around us and by that I mean the people we are with in person,” said Ms. Devaney. “Technology is awesome, AI offers an exciting new chapter, but the essential feeling of ‘mattering’ of each Hill student comes from connections, from relationships built during our time and experiences together. Some of you have flown thousands of miles to be in person in this community, others are from much closer. Regardless of where you are from, it is the people around us, our relationships, and ultimately, our connectedness that acts as the critical thread of this community.”
At the conclusion of Ms. Devaney’s remarks, the Hilltones and Hilltrebles returned to the stage to lead the community in singing Hill's alma mater, "A Thousand Hands." Following Convocation, students and faculty returned to their dorms for desserts with their dormmates and dorm parents and get ready for first their full day of classes the following day.
Thursday and Friday marked the academic year’s first full days of classes, complete with adviser meetings; Chapel orientation, which was held in the CFTA, the location of chapel services this year while the Alumni Chapel undergoes renovation and an expansion; and the first School Meeting of the year which introduced students and faculty to safety and security protocols.
The action-packed weekend on The Hill saw the School’s first-ever “Friday Night Lights” football game and the dedication of the new Madden Stadium; the boys’ and girls’ soccer team participating in the annual Hill Soccer Jamboree; and the first Dorm Cup Challenge of the year.