Jo h n No r t o n Upper School Art: 1983-2016
A great thing about school is the constant replenishment. Of kids, certainly, as a wave of seniors move out and a fresh wave of innocence and eagerness washes in. But faculty as well. New people come in, replacing those moving on and as the new faculty learn how things are done, they also challenge, they question, they proffer new approaches and new ideas. [As a sidebar, I think new faculty (by which I mean everyone at the School younger than 55) don’t challenge the institution as much as they should, but that’s a topic for another time….] The renewal is vital. It keeps schools healthy and evolving. But when a teacher of 30-years’ standing retires, it is incumbent on each of us who remain to take note of what particulars that person has brought to the lives of our kids. In John’s case, an open, giving heart, a passion for art and for education, optimism, enthusiasm, and generosity of spirit. He loved kids in the way you are supposed to love kids. If each of us took those qualities and ramped them up just 5 percent in each of our classes, John’s retirement would be felt not as loss, but as one more gift to kids. John gave me a gift I’ve not yet thanked him for. Years ago we were engaged in a conversation. I can’t remember the topic or how many people were involved. But the topic was an important one, and the gist was a little grousing about whether the School would actually change for the better. Feelings, with an edge of cynicism, were high. Suddenly, John stood up and silenced us all with “Listen, this School can do it. If it decides it wants to do something it can do it. When I started here it wanted the arts to be an equal partner. And then it wanted there to be more than one faculty member of color. We might not be totally satisﬁed with how far we’ve come with either of those things but we’re a lot closer to getting there than we were.” And John walked out. For me, personally, that was John’s ﬁnest hour. He was absolutely right. He was inspiring; passion, commitment, optimism, and recognizing change for the better when it happens. In a list of so many things, thank you, especially, John, for that.