The annual Holiday Dinner was conducted on a sweet note, with students and faculty raising $1,379 for the Save the Children Foundation through the sale of “Candy Cane Grams” and the school’s annual “ugly sweater” fundraiser.
At the dinner, Head of School Peter Becker noted that the Prefects and members of the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) chapter on campus had worked for hours to prepare and deliver 1,300 “Candy Candy Grams,” which are personalized holiday notes with candy canes attached that are delivered to students and faculty. The proceeds are donated to Save the Children. In what has quickly become a Gunnery tradition, many students and faculty also opted to make a $5 donation to Save the Children in exchange for the privilege of wearing a festive ugly sweater to the dinner an annual Holiday Concert. “I see a lot of ugly sweaters out there,” Becker observed.
Addressing the community, he went on to note that there is a tree that grows outside the window of the church he attends off Baldwin Hill Road. If you sit in that church and look out the window, you can see a big white pine that was planted 30 years ago by a longtime Gunnery staff member, Charlie Finnemore, and his father. Finnemore has been a member of the Maintenance Department for many years and has fulfilled many roles at the school. He is good at a lot of things, including taking care of the trees on our campus. “He knows them inside and out,” Becker said, explaining that he recently consulted Finnemore on where to plant a new Copper Beech tree on the grounds of Conroy House. The school has had to remove quite a few trees in recent years, and it will take a Copper Beech about 100 years to grow to full maturity. While none of the students or faculty will be here when that happens, Becker said, “The least we can do is to begin the replacement process.”
The Gunnery itself is 168 years old. It started from the small seed of an idea of Fred and Abigail Gunn and has grown into the school it is today. At a time when we are challenged to take in information more immediately than ever before, and our attention spans are growing shorter and shorter, Becker challenged his audience to take a moment to pause and reflect on being with friends and family during the holiday. “Resist the focus on making everything immediately or instantly gratifying. See yourself as part of a larger story, the ultimate fruit of which you may not be around to experience, but a story within which you can find purpose and meaning. That is my hope for you, and for our school,” he said.
In keeping with another school tradition, students and faculty were invited to take a tag from The Giving Tree set up on the lower level of Solley Dining Hall and purchase a gift to fulfill the wish of a child at Christmas. All of the gifts were delivered by Jennifer Wojcik, Ph.D., Performing Arts Chair and Director of Diversity, to Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH) of Northwestern Connecticut, which operates the region’s largest emergency homeless shelter. Students and faculty can participate by purchasing gifts individually, or as a team or group.
Wojcik said the Giving Tree provides an opportunity for the entire community to work together to help those in need. In total, the school sponsored 20 children through FISH this year. “The holidays are for giving, and we want to make sure that as many people as possible have as happy of a holiday season as we all do,” Wojcik said.
Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.