College Celebration Day with Mr. Rainey

From the Desk of Jay Rainey – April 16, 2021

At our wonderful Senior Celebration event on Wednesday, I spoke with one of our students who will be attending Penn State in the fall. “There are 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average companies,” I told him. “They are among the most important corporations in America, and the last time I checked, two of them were led by Penn State graduates. That’s two more than Harvard and two more than Princeton.” It turns out I was wrong—there is now only one CEO from Penn State in the Dow 30—but that’s still more than Harvard or Princeton can claim.

Between them, the CEOs of the Dow 30 attended 28 different colleges and universities, of which 19 are either definite or possible destinations for this year’s MICDS seniors: Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Duke, Hamilton, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mizzou, UNC, Penn, Penn State, Rose-Hulman, Santa Clara, USC, Spelman, Virginia Tech, and West Point.

Our soon-to-be graduates are either committed to or are still considering 176 different colleges and universities, in fact, spread across 39 states and the District of Columbia and into Canada and Europe. These are places of all shapes and sizes—public and private research universities, historically Black colleges and universities, liberal arts colleges, military academies, women’s colleges, and more—and our seniors seem to have just as many reasons for pursuing them as there are opportunities to pursue.

I asked the same question over and over again at Wednesday’s Senior Celebration: “What do you love most about…,” and I would insert the name of the institution whose brand was emblazoned on the student’s sweatshirt or visor or t-shirt or, on at least one occasion, socks. “Boston College is beautiful,” one of them told me. “The campus is so inspirational.” Another senior said how excited he is to go to Grinnell. “I know it’s in the middle of nowhere, but I feel really connected there.” When I asked one student about Auburn, she said, “It’s such a warm community. The people I met were so friendly and welcoming.” One senior who is bound for Bucknell cited its importance to her family (her mother is an alum, her brother a current student), and another feels a similar kinship to Ohio State. (Pointing to his proud scarlet sweatshirt, I told him it really only needed to say the word “The,” so important is that definite article to the denizens of Columbus when they speak the full name of their beloved university.)

Programs of study matter too, of course, and I had conversations with seniors bound for Tulane to study infectious diseases, Illinois to study veterinary medicine, UMKC to complete a combined undergraduate and pre-med program, Virginia Tech to study engineering, SMU to learn about fashion and design, and Kentucky (possibly—he is still undecided between there and Penn State) to study sports management and leadership. We are also graduating several seniors—10 as of National Signing Day, and perhaps a few more since—who are drawn to their colleges of choice by athletic opportunities.

Worrying that I had missed a few conversations, I emailed the Class of 2021 after the Senior Celebration to pose the same question to all of them: “What do you love most about where you are going?” One said that she appreciates being able to jump right into her major at Cal Poly. Another talked about makerspaces and creative workplaces at Georgia Tech, another about exploring the culture of New Orleans, and still another about going to basketball games at Duke. (I knew Mark Williams when he was a little boy, by the way. A story for another time.) Two of our seniors sang the praises of Georgetown in particular, one citing the strength of the School of Foreign Service, the other speaking more generally about “cura personalis”—“care of the whole person”—which is a central and inspirational tenet of education there.

Many of our seniors remain undecided. Elon or College of Charleston? Spelman or Connecticut College? Penn or Vanderbilt? They are weighing their options. “Whatever you choose, it will be the right choice,” I assured each of them. The German artist Karl Lagerfeld once said that “clear thinking at the wrong moment can stifle creativity.” Somehow I am reminded of this bit of wisdom as I think of our on-the-fence MICDS seniors. What feels like a leap now will very soon be a landing. How very bright their futures are.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to extol our dedicated College Counseling staff—Matt Essman, Reda Guebert, Scott Herrmann-Keeling, Earl Macam, and Karen Wildman—for the good guidance and support that they have offered to the Class of 2021 over the last four years. Thanks, too, to Tracy Jasper and our other hard-working parent volunteers as well as Chris Ludbrook, Dean of the Class of 2021, who together ensured the success of this week’s culminating Senior Celebration.

“I am so excited for a new chapter in my life,” wrote one senior, Hollis, in a note to me yesterday. “I am ready to explore women’s and gender studies and also international relations. I want to help change the world with the hope of creating equality for all. I cannot wait to make friends with people from all over the world. I will miss the MICDS community, but I know it’s my time to grow.”

Always reason, always compassion, always courage. May we all take time to grow, at whatever moment life finds us. My best wishes to our bright and promising senior class and to all of you for a very happy weekend ahead.

Jay Rainey
Head of School

This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: The Sound That You Call Home by Dustin Furlow. (Apple Music / Spotify)