Miller School of Albemarle

Archive for May 2012

“Mind and Hands in the Service of Heart” Baccalaureate Address 2012 by Steve Knepper

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Thank you, Class of 2012, for giving me the honor of speaking to you, the first group of students that I taught, advised, and befriended at Miller.

I think I have some memories about each of you that will stick with me.  I think about Coop pulling out a plastic baggy of deer steaks and warming them up on my radiator all period long, only to offer one of them at the end of class to a less-than-impressed Rachel.  Or Joaquin seemingly falling asleep in the front row—eyes closed even—but then suddenly snapping back awake to ask the kind of question that made me feel like I was the one who had been caught napping.  I remember how Grant and Leela communicated primarily in dinosaur squawks and growls for two straight weeks.   I think about Chris’s spirit week costumes.  Or I think about how Nelly and Magic rocked the chapel.  I think about the exciting exploits of Ashleigh, Nicole, Janiel, Chase, Devon, and Andrew on the court; of Jeremy, Eric, Joaquin, Justin, Sam, Dan, and Jarrad on the diamond.

It is hard to imagine that I will walk into the library and not see Spencer, Peter, Max, or Harry— arguing, playing games, or watching bizarre YouTube videos.  Those guys really should have started a debate team.

It is hard for me to imagine, period, that next year I will be here and you will be gone. And this is the first thing I want to point out.  It’s the elephant in the room.  We will, in all likelihood, never be together again.  You will not see many of your classmates ever again after you graduate.  This is a real reason for sadness, and it is why graduations are always and unavoidably bittersweet.  They are 80% celebration but 20% mourning.

Still, I hope to have shown you already how all of you have shaped me.  And you have all definitely shaped each other.  And in this way, even though we will never be together again, we will also never be fully apart.  We have made lasting impressions on each other’s personalities, intellects, and memories.

I remember a paper that Savannah wrote once for my class.  She said that important memories are like photos in a scrapbook.  You come back to them again and again to help make sense of your life.   You are all taking many important memories with you that will help you make sense of your life even into your old age.  When you try to figure out who you are, when you try to tell the story of your life, you will draw upon those memories.   And those memories would not have been possible without the people in this room.

But I also want to talk about another way in which Miller has shaped students over the years.  I want to talk about our school mission and its emphasis on mind, hands, and heart.   It’s something you hear about so much that it becomes something of a cliché, I know, but I hope to show you that it is really something profound and worthy of deep reflection.

Here at Miller we often tend to think of mind, hands, and heart in terms of curriculum.  You go to calculus to develop your mind; wood shop to develop your hands; and service to develop your heart.

That is not wrong.  Different classes do have different emphases. But it can’t be the whole story.   It suggests, first of all, a false division of labor.  Obviously, you have to use not only your hands but also your head in wood shop.  Obviously, being around an inspiring person like Dr. Tian in Calculus will influence your heart.  Anyone who has watched Mr. Macdonald’s videos from his AHIP service group knows that whenever MSA students go out into the Charlottesville community to repair the houses of those in need, they use mind, hands, and heart.  Ray Yen, in his chapel talk, taught us that you might even end up using your heart in Robotics when you fall in love with one of your fellow engineers.  In all seriousness, everything you do at Miller—just like everything you do in life—in some sense, requires all three.

Here it is useful to think through the metaphor.  In the body, mind, hands, and heart are connected, of course.  But more importantly, Ms. Vega will teach you in Human Anatomy that your brain and your limbs only work if the heart pumps blood to them.  Heart is fundamental.  It is what activates the other two.

There’s a crucial lesson here.  If we are looking at the MSA mission narrowly, only in terms of curriculum, then it would seem that heart is the least important thing at Miller.  After all, we only do community service for a couple of hours every other week.

But I think all of you know that this is the wrong way to look at things.  For just as the heart is the core of the body; heart is also the core of Miller School.  It is what makes it a community.  It is what makes it a special, welcoming place.

And what do we mean by heart?  We got the answer to that in the scripture reading from Corinthians that we heard earlier.   And we got it in Bonnie Kim’s chapel talk, with her photos of friends and couples at MSA.  We mean love, of course, and everything that love entails: friendship, passion, giving, kindness, patience, and care.  We have to be careful here.  I don’t mean to be sappy or trite.  Hallmark cards and cheesy movies have narrowed our notion of love.  Love is sometimes tough love.  It often involves confrontation and discipline. The parents, the teachers, and good friends in the room know this.  Those of you who served on the Honor Board and the Discipline Review Board know this.  In the Christian theological tradition, love is sometimes called the form of the virtues.  Just as the heart is the foundation of a healthy body, love is the foundation of right living.

Hopefully, your education at Miller has been an education in love—love of each other, rightly ordered love of self, love of this place and what it stands for.  At graduation time, this all should be apparent.  At graduation, we realize that there are strong feelings bound up in this place and these people.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that love is just about feelings.  Remember that mind and hands are dependent on heart.  Love is also about thinking and acting.  Hopefully, Miller has challenged you to think and act in the service of love.

What does it mean to think in the service of love?  It means to try to learn about the beautiful and the true.  It means to take a hard look at the problems of the world and to try to discover their roots.  It means to think hard about others—to try your best to understand them while realizing and respecting that you will never fully comprehend what makes them tick.  Have you ever noticed that the best classes are usually the closest classes, in which the students like each other and the teacher?  Love enables learning.

Another way of saying it is that your mind should not be cut off from your heart.  This is one of the great dangers of today, in our age of compartmentalization and specialization.  Think of a group of scientists in a laboratory using their intelligence to develop a world-destroying nuclear weapon without thinking about how it will be used.  Then you will realize why it is important that we think in the service of love.  This is why many science, engineering, and medicine programs are adding ethics courses.  It is an important thing to consider when you pursue a career.  Find a job that does not require you to check your heart at the door.

It’s clearer how hands and heart relate.  Indeed, we’ve already spilled over into that territory. We want you to put your love into action.  Here is a hard truth.  You are not a good person if you do not do good things.  All good people do bad things at times, for sure, but good people also do good things, and they do them consistently. Aristotle was right about this.  If we consistently do virtuous things, we become a virtuous person.  If we consistently indulge in vices, we become a vicious person. In the first Letter of John, we read “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

We have tried to teach you something like this at Miller.  Be kind to others.  Help those less fortunate.  Be honest, just, and trustworthy.  Live your life in a spirit of love, and challenge all those around you to do the same.

I know that on many occasions I have been challenged by students in this room to be a better person.   I think of Aaron and Taylor’s leadership on the honor board.  I think of the wisdom of Yiming; the kindness of Nicole and Lili; the friendliness of Olivia and Leela; the integrity of Eric; the insight of Jiwon and Rachel; the keen ethical sense of Grant and Theodore; the honesty of Ashleigh; the passion of Juhong; the discipline of Andrew and the basketball team; the camaraderie of Casey, Ben, and the baseball boys; the quiet goodness of Sean.  I think of my advisees Dan and Jonny, two of the most all-around decent guys I know, period.  I could go on.

Far more than your SAT scores and college acceptances—which are impressive—Miller should measure the success of this class by the astounding fact that there is not a single cruel person among you.  The world needs good people more than it needs smart people.  In this graduating class, the world is getting 39 young individuals who are both good and smart.

My hope, then, is that Miller has shaped you holistically, but most especially my hope is that Miller has taught you the importance of love.  We are very fortunate that our valedictorian and salutatorian this year embody this in an inspiring way.  Yiwen and Chase are not only brilliant; they also live out Miller’s highest values.

I want to end on a lighter note that hopefully brings this all together.  One day this spring, I asked my students to list the five most important qualities they would look for in a significant other.  One of my wilder students listed a couple of qualities that pushed my class’s  PG-13 rating.  But after steamy and dreamy he listed, as his third bullet point—mind, hands, heart, all together, as one quality.  And I thought that was right.  That is a good thing to look for in a significant other.  He was looking for the kind of person that Miller produces:  A special person, a person of tremendous character, one who goes into the world—like all of you are about to do—searching for the truth and acting in a spirit of love.  Mind.  Hands.  Heart.

Written by Miller School of Albemarle

May 30, 2012 at 10:25 AM

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MSA Endurance Team Crowned State Champions by Andy Guptill

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This Saturday, May 19, the Miller School of Albemarle hosted the final round of the Virginia High School Mountain Bike Series, which also served as the State Championship Race. While points were up for grabs toward the overall series, riders had the added motivation of knowing the day’s winners would be crowned 2012 State Champs.

Cyclists from across the state made their way to the scenic Miller School of Albemarle campus for the racing which kicked off at noon with the four-lap Varsity category. Anticipation built as the series’ top riders were recognized and lined up on the front row, and then on the starter’s cue, were off like a shot! Racers sprinted across the field in front of the Lotus Pond and jockeyed for position before dropping into the first section of singletrack. As the front group of racers reemerged into the open, MSA riders Chris Keeling, Jake King, and Taylor Clarke were all battling in the top five, while Rawls Fortenberry, Summer Team rider Parker Brookfield, Sam James, Brian Purdy, Sam Purcell, and Ben Scheiner were close behind.

As the laps progressed, Chris maintained a tremendous pace but wasn’t quite able to catch the leader, Connor Bell of Harrisonburg, and finished a still impressive 2nd. Another Harrisonburg rider finished 3rd, and was closely followed by Jake King and Taylor Clarke, who rounded out the podium for 4th and 5th, respectively. Summer Team rider Parker Brookfield held on for an excellent 6th, Rawls Fortenberry finished a very strong 8th, and Sam James and Sam Purcell crossed in 11th and 12th!

In the two-lap Junior Varsity race, MSA’s Sanders Evans held the Series Leader jersey, but needed a win to guarantee the overall title. A great start by the Endurance Team saw Sanders, Aryeh Enoch, Niall Lovelace, Nate Smith and Andrew Li all enter the singletrack near the front, with Jason Lui just behind. As they neared the end of the first lap, Aryeh and Sanders had opened a sizable gap, but an unfortunate flat tire ended Aryeh’s race prematurely.

Sanders continued to push on to take the win by a good margin, locking up the series win and State Champion title, and was followed by his teammates Niall and Nate for 2nd and 3rd! Andrew Li also had a great day to round out the podium in 5th, and Jason Liu rode a steady race to finish just outside the top ten in 11th!

With every rider finishing inside the top 12, MSA achieved its main goal of winning the day’s Team competition and were crowned 2012 State Champions!

To see more photos of the event go HERE.

Written by Miller School of Albemarle

May 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM

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Give Me Shelter

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In conjunction with reading The Hunger Games, Mr. Ross’ classes have been in competition with one another in completing the following tasks;

1. building an outdoor shelter
2. catching a fish
3. designing and completing an orienteering course
4. building an all purpose tool
5. collecting and identifying tree samples
6. tying of a bowline knot

Says Ross; “Besides learning some new skills, this “Hunger Games” competition has allowed the seniors to spend some time outside, working together with their hands. In a sense, what these tasks ask them to do is take one last appreciative look around at the place they’ve called home before they graduate in a couple weeks. MVP’s for each team have varied, but Chris Wigand, Joaquin Litzenberger, Dan Baer, and Harry Shaffren have highlighted their shelter building skills.  Whereas Sam Ridenhour, Jarrad Mosicki, Jeremy Walker, and Justin Cooper have excelled at catching fish. Tree identifiers extraordinaire have been Grant Dinwiddie, Theodore Kim, and Lili Li. Like to take a stab at orienteering?  If you were to follow the following azimuths, starting at the North Steps, where would you end up and how long would it take you?

  1. 2 degrees NE 235 paces= ______________________
  2. 80 degrees NE 47 paces= _________________________
  3. 0 degress due N 120 paces= __________________________
  4. 310 degrees NW 135 paces= ______________________________
  5. 220 degrees SW 136 paces= ______________________________Time:___________________

Adds Ross, “The A.P. class will vote on best shelters, and, if all goes well, the night of Baccalaureate we will pull the shelters apart and burn them in a bonfire down by the Lotus Pond.  There, also, will be handed out awards for the competition.”














To see all the photos go HERE.

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May 18, 2012 at 4:10 PM

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Headmaster’s Corner – “Summertime”

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“Sometimes the path you are on is not as important as the direction in which you are heading.” ~ Author Unknown

As we close out another school year, it’s a good time to think about where we have gone this year. While we have all been essentially on the same path, it is pretty clear that many of us have gone in a variety of directions.  How did you grow as a student, as a friend, as an athlete, as a person?  How has your outlook changed on the world, on what you can achieve at MSA or of yourself?  In fact, we are all a little bit different – older and wiser, we hope.  This summer will offer you new paths to consider with lots of directions you might pursue.  Have fun, enjoy the new people you meet, and have some adventures.

Rick France, Headmaster

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May 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM

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Ninth Graders Visit Yogaville

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The ninth grade traveled to Yogaville after completing Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in Ms. Simpkins’ English class.  Students learned hands on how to meditate and do yoga with Kumari in Yogaville’s excellent facilities.  It was a wonderful day to be in the Blue Ridge Mountains and to learn more about Eastern traditions.  To see photos of the trip, go HERE.

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May 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM

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