Yesterday afternoon I attended a visitation in Overland in celebration of the life of Stan Tillotson, who died on Tuesday at age 70 following a brief illness. Stan retired from MICDS this past January after serving as a member of our Grounds Department for almost 21 years. Because his work frequently found him at the campus residence—the lawn and gardens around which he tended expertly and lovingly—my family (and our dog, Nelson, whom Stan called “Buddy”) came to know him well. How fortunate our community was for Stan’s devotion to us over more than two decades’ time.
Devotion is constantly in evidence at MICDS, and I, in turn, am constantly awed and humbled by the efforts of men and women like Mr. Tillotson who have served and continue to serve our students and community every day. In response to the statement in last spring’s Parent Survey that “students at the School are well-known, and they are confident the adults around them want them to be successful,” 12 parents agreed for every 1 who disagreed. In response to the statement that “the School is a caring community,” 15 parents agreed for every 1 who disagreed. “The faculty communicates effectively with students?” 18 parents agreed for every 1 who didn’t. “Teachers demonstrate enthusiasm for their work?” 23 parents agreed for every 1 who didn’t.
While demands on our faculty this year are not as sizable as they were last year—at least to the extent that the maxim “every teacher is a first-year teacher on Zoom” no longer applies—we have not yet fully resumed our pre-pandemic teaching rhythms at MICDS. Our prevailing imperative this year to sustain in-person learning requires that students be supervised by teachers in defined cohorts more often than they were in the past in order to limit our vulnerability to quarantine. I am very grateful to our faculty in all three MICDS divisions for their continuing adaptability and resilience on behalf of the students they serve.
I spent an evening with a group of our alumni in Atlanta earlier this week, and when I asked some of them to recall specific teachers who had impacted their lives, a member of the Class of 2009 cited Lynn Mittler and Dana Self in the Upper School and requested that I thank them for her when I returned to St. Louis. Another alumna, from the Mary Institute Class of 1987, reminded me of our conversation the last time I was in Atlanta about Harry Lykens, who helped her with math every day of her senior year. Now an accomplished financial services professional (“It’s ironic,” she noted, “that I work in a math-dominated industry”), she reached out to Mr. Lykens last year, more than three decades later, with a letter of gratitude for his devotion. “It’s people like Mr. Lykens who make a difference in our lives,” she told me, “and I wanted him to know that I remember.”
The word “devotion” combines the Latin prefix “de,” which means “of” or “from,” with the root “voveo,” which means “to vow” or “to promise.” Vows are words; devotion is action. The devotion of our MICDS faculty and staff is the promise of service to our students and community made real. In addition to those already mentioned, there was another overwhelming consensus in last year’s Parent Survey. With the statement “the MICDS campus is attractive and well-maintained,” 57 parents agreed for every 1 who didn’t. Thank you, Stan Tillotson, for your constant devotion. It’s people like you who make a difference in our lives.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a joyful weekend with your families and loved ones.
Head of School
This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Better by Michigander. “Just know that I will be there / And you’re gonna make it through.” (Apple Music / Spotify) Except for (Just Like) Starting Over, all songs on this year’s playlist to date were released in 2021.