15 years of service
For Randi Bakken there have been more than name changes over the last 15 years. She has touched almost every part of the school. Teacher extraordinaire, volleyball coach, science department chair, and outings. She is truly in and of Marin Academy. Today I’d like to focus on her contributions towards our Science Innovation Center. From the beginning, five years ago, at a Board retreat, with then brand new Academic Dean Scott Young, Randi presented the compelling case that has brought us to the building of the program driven architecture. I bring this up not as an advertisement for the new Science and Innovation Center, but rather as a way to capture Randi’s contributions. Picasso said that every child was an artist; Randi has made it abundantly clear that every citizen needs to be a scientist. Her understanding of learning by doing informs everything that she does. That is why our students will be designers of original science. Her commitment to her colleagues is unending and unbounded. Her first concern is always to make sure that teachers have what they need to do what they do best. This commitment and vision on Randi’s part has made her a key player in both the imagination and execution of Marin Academy’s next chapter in intellectual and curricular growth.
There is a certain challenge in writing a recognition for the person whose job it is to remain in a confidential space, under the radar, and privately accessible to others. And it would be more of a challenge if Joani were not Joani. Over the last five years, I have often reflected on the fact that Joani’s line of work mirrors one of her other passions in life: film. She does indeed collect stories, reflect on them, provide feedback, and set each and every one of us up for an even better shoot next time. Because Joani is so good at her work, we rarely get to observe her actually doing it. Each of us at Marin Academy, however, benefits from the clear effect of her purposeful and compassionate engagement with students and adults alike. Although our students have their moments of stress, the overall environment of the school reflects a fairly healthy balance. There is an openness at MA reflective of her skill in gently challenging individuals to both own their voice and see the world from different perspectives. As a community, we have faced several challenges in the last five years that have called upon our emotional engagement all while maintaining our clearest professional boundaries. In thought, word and deed, Joani has provided wise counsel, a dynamic sounding board, and perspicacious advice. Of course, this isn’t a surprise. She’s an artist, a therapist, and one of us.
Many of us would like to think of ourselves as the voice and face of Marin Academy. But let’s be honest. Lindsay Neville is the voice and face of MA. For some of us, hers is the first we hear in the morning and the last in the afternoon. There is not enough room in the office to store all of the hats she wears. Think of this: receptionist, keen observer of students, nurse, sympathetic ear for over-wrought parents, counselor to our mailman, organizer of health forms, producer of the planner, mail clerk, stocker of all the things we take for granted (tea, coffee, popcorn) and even someone who good humoredly cleans up after the most negligent of us. Lindsay keeps us on the rails. In her free time she is a number one supporter of Marin Academy athletics, the mother of two, and the corraler of three Boxers. On the very few and very infrequent days when Lindsay has been home sick, many things have fallen apart. Where’s the attendance list? How do I find more tea? I need to get the emergency forms, where are they? Lindsay, without you a Marin Academy day unfolds with glitches, headaches, and general unpleasantness. I’m not going to say that a day without Lindsay is like a day without sunshine. But a day without Lindsay means that we often appreciate the importance of what she does in an entirely different way. Let’s all try to do that more not only in her absence.
20 years of service
It is true that sometimes I drive around Marin Academy on Sunday mornings to make sure everything is ok. Each time, the only person I meet on campus, and who has gotten there before I have, is Alejandro. When the palm tree caught fire this fall, Alejandro was there. When the water main broke because someone was trying to steal the copper, Alejandro took care of it. But it’s not just the response to the inevitable emergencies that surround our school that many of us don’t deal with, it’s also his understanding of how our campus works and works together. It is easy for all of us to take for granted the beautiful place in which we work and teach. Day in and day out we are the beneficiaries of Alejandro’s commitment and understanding. No task is too great. No need is too small. And somehow he makes it that there’s always enough time, even when in truth there isn’t. My only concern about Alejandro is his persistent attachment to his motorcycle. Many of us talk about Marin Academy as a family or as our home, but it is truly Alejandro’s. If we take Micky out of the equation, Alejandro is literally the oldest brother of this group. With Leo as his brother, and David and Robert as his first cousins, he is the leader of the pack in and out of school.
35 years of service
Five years ago, when I did James’ appreciation, I noted that he often reminded me of Walt Whitman with his hat and drive to be outdoors, connected with the natural world in which we live. That hasn’t changed, but this moment has for James. No analogies tonight, no references to literary or historical figures, just a spotlight on someone who has literally made Marin Academy his life’s commitment, James. It would be easy now to launch into a recitation of his accomplishments: Vision Quest, Aikido, his commitment to all things classical- there are not many of us on campus who can read Latin or Classical Greek or wax poetic on the relevance of ancient Greece and Rome today although James can. Some of us know about his famous lunch time cribbage/card games with David LeCount, his skill at poker, or the delicious parchment chicken that he and Beau have been known to make for those of us whose life changes have benefitted from a meal delivered. We could say all of that. But let us step back and reflect on what underlies James’ 35 year commitment Marin Academy, to this place and his practice. It seems to me that James believes in creating transformative experiences for his students that place them at the center of their learning. He wants to know what they think, and he wants them to experience what they are learning as they are doing it. Whether in practicing Aikido, marching as Greek soldiers do, or soloing on Vision Quest, James believes that learning requires his students to be what they are learning. In this way they are connected and only in being connected can they truly grow as individuals.