Dear Members of the Georgetown Prep Community,
Today marks the conclusion of the 2018-2019 academic year, Georgetown Preparatory School's 230th year and 100th at Garrett Park. It has been a remarkable year on many fronts, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
On 25 May we celebrated the Class of 2019 at Georgetown Prep's 220th Commencement Exercises. The Class of 2019 was a noteworthy class and will forever have a special place in my heart as it is my first graduating class as president of Georgetown Prep. As you can see from their matriculation list, our newest alumni will attend some of the best colleges and universities in the world this fall. From the first day of the school year, the Class of 2019 displayed a welcoming enthusiasm that was contagious to the rest of the student body and faculty and staff alike. They exhibited that same enthusiasm on the field and court, in the classroom, on the stage, and even in the Chapel, throughout the year. As a mark of their leadership, the number of championships in athletics and performances in the arts (both in drama and in music, along the mounting of our first spring arts exhibition) is simply remarkable. Academically the Class of 2019 boasts six National Merit Scholarship Commended Students: Fanzhi Chen, Gregory Cormier, Liam Crowley, Ryan Frant, Everest Litchford, and Tong Na; one National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist: Ryan Martin; and Patrick Dolan, a National Merit Scholarship Winner. Another mark of this class' priorities is that six of them have committed to the service academies.
Reflecting on the year, I have been moved by the way our students, faculty and staff, and families remain ever committed to the School's mission. In addition to the usual rounds of retreats for all years and service opportunities which engage faculty, staff, and administrators as well as students, the school community engaged in two significant efforts this year: a focus on the theme of Discernment, one of the pillars of our Ignatian and Jesuit tradition; and a discerning look at our school culture, evaluating student culture, resident culture, faculty and staff culture, activities and athletics culture, and family culture. The efforts of these task forces engaged many members of our community, including current parents from our community and students and staff from sister and brother schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Task force reports have been submitted and will be fodder for further discussion and implementation in the coming school year. I am grateful to all who participated in these efforts.
Even beyond the extraordinary efforts, however, I do not want to neglect the wonderful work that our faculty and staff do here each day, educating and forming 494 young men in classrooms and out, creating a home for our residential community, and fostering and maintaining a campus that welcomes current students, their families, and our many guests throughout the year. I have been impressed every day by the commitment of countless people to the welfare of the School. In the words of one of our recent graduates brimming with gratitude: They do this every day for me...for all of us.
Looking forward, I have been thinking about our focus as a Jesuit institution. Over the past few years the Society of Jesus has been considering what the criteria for understanding what Jesuit institutions' apostolic work should be striving for at this point in the 21st Century. In mid-February, after long deliberations, Fr. General Sosa, S.J., released a letter defining the Society's apostolic preferences for the next ten years. They are, in brief:
- To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
- To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
- To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
- To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.
It is important to note that while one or other of the Jesuit apostolic works may be more immediately concerned with any one of these priorities, each is asked to consider its work in the light of all four, seeing how it can include and honor each of these priorities in its work. Happily, in many ways Prep is already engaged in these priorities, but over the next several years we will be seeking in a thematic way how we can deepen our engagement with each of them. Therefore, after consulting with John Krambuhl and John Glennon, I am announcing that as a start to this effort our theme for next year will be Apostles on Mission. We will consider how Prep itself, and how each member of our Community is called to be apostolic. Then in the subsequent years, we will focus on each particular priority, considering how these themes can be woven into and animate our Community's intellectual, spiritual, social, and extracurricular life. We can look forward to many years of fruitful discussion and discernment.
So, today as we conclude the 2018-2019 academic year, I want to conclude by expressing my gratitude to the many, many people who have made such a great year possible, and to express my optimism for the future. The business of education of young people is a uniquely hopeful enterprise, and we have been blessed with many, many reasons to look to the future with great confidence. I ask you to join me in praying for Georgetown Prep, and especially for the Class of 2019.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J.