The Fenn School Speech

A heartfelt, personal speech that incorporates specific references about the honoree.
Industry: Education

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Following Headmaster Jones is like following a great jazz band with just a triangle and a stick. But I’ll do my best keep the beat.

I’m honored to represent the Board of Trustees tonight in this very special tribute to an extraordinary teacher and person. On behalf of the Board, I’d like to congratulate you, Jim, on your distinguished career and thank you for your unending dedication to fulfilling the mission of the Fenn School.

We’ve heard a lot of great stories tonight about Jim Carter. And given the opportunity, I’m sure we could probably share stories for days. Stories about Jim’s keen ability to merge gravitas and authority with clear care and dedication to each boy’s growth. We’d probably chat about how Jim demands respect in the classroom but does so without using intimidation or fear. Or how the boys learn about treating others with respect and courtesy because they observe how Mr. Carter treats students and faculty. We’d talk about how Jim attends numerous events of current and former students – “his boys,” as he refers to them – including sporting events, graduations, and even weddings…and how he might even shed a tear or two depending on the occasion. We’d probably all agree that a Fenn student’s education begins the day he meets Mr. Carter, because Jim not only teaches through exceptional instruction, he teaches by exceptional example. There’s no doubt that Jim embodies the mission of the Fenn School to teach boys to live a full and responsible life, by living a full and responsible life through his work as a teacher and mentor.

Yes, given several days, we’d continue to commiserate about Jim and the 40 years he’s dedicated to the Fenn Mission and the 1,600 boys that have passed through his classroom. But there’s just one story I’d like to share right now that I believe encompasses who Jim is as a teacher, a mentor and a person. It’s a simple story, really, but one that I believe leaves an indelible mark on Fenn boys and reveals the most about Jim’s character.

In talking with my sons and their friends, who are all Fenn graduates, it’s become clear that Jim offers them a very simple, almost subtle right of passage into adulthood. It happens in a quick moment, but the magnitude of the gesture is never lost on the graduate. Here’s what my sons and their friends all point to when they speak of Mr. Carter: Upon becoming an alumnus of Fenn, Mr. Carter shakes a boy’s hand and says, “Now you can call me ‘Jim’.” In that instant, Jim manages to not only “elevate” – my son’s word – a boy’s status in the world but he also communicates that in his new adulthood, that boy is not alone. Because Jim will always be there.

The Fenn mission states, among other things, to meet every young boy’s need to be “inspired by heroes”. If there ever was a real live hero at Fenn to inspire young boys, it is, undoubtedly, Jim Carter.

And equally, undoubtedly, Jim will continue to inspire no matter where he goes. But since he doesn’t have a cape to carry him from place to place to spread inspiration among the world’s youth, the Board and I would like to help him out a little bit. To honor his exceptional career, we’d like to present Jim and Jean with a trip to New Zealand and Fiji.

[invite Jim to come to the stage]

Jim, as you move on from Fenn, we will miss you but we also know you’ll never really leave. You have touched all of us – students, faculty, staff and board members – in the special way that only Jim Carter can. Please take this gift as a token of our gratitude. For you and Jean, we wish you all that you wish for yourselves