Spending time with classmates and other Webb alumni, faculty and staff filled the recent Alumni Reunion Weekend for those who traveled from near and as far away as 2,000 miles. There were classes in session to attend, an All-Alumni Social and class parties. Also part of the celebration were campus tours led by Carrie Auwarter, interim director of admissions; a gathering in the trail room with Joe Griggs ’05, outdoor program director; clay target shooting with Buck Smith, faculty member, and retired faculty member and clay target assistant coach, L.R. Smith; a class with Michael Stem, pottery teacher; and archives open to peruse with Susan Howell, archivist; and Hannah Little, library director.
Saturday featured a brunch and awards ceremony with the welcome by 2022 Reunion Chair Jami Averwater ’13 and Alumni Board President Hudson Byrd presented the Alumni Board Report. Head of School Ken Cheeseman also gave a State of the School Address.
Highlights of the ceremony was the induction of Jeff Lorberbaum ’72 into the Distinguished Alumni Society and the presentation of the John B. Hardin Service Award to Olly Wang ’09. Unable to attend, the honorees provided videos of acceptance filled with memories of their time at Webb. To read more about the awards and the two honorees, click on https://www.thewebbschool.com/alumni/awards-and-notable-alumni.
The members of the Class of 1972, celebrating their 50th Anniversary, were recognized and presented with Golden Guard pins. Other awards included Oldest Alumnus/a in attendance, presented to Dr. Paul Stumb ’52; Alumnus/a who traveled the farthest, presented to Carl Turner ’72 of Camano Island, Wash.; and the Class with the Largest Attendance, presented to the Class of 1972.
In welcoming those attending and congratulating Lorberbaum and Wang for the honors they received, Cheeseman told the alumni, “ … I am hopeful that you can reflect fondly on what your experiences here gave you that have helped you flourish in life beyond Webb. I am grateful that you are here … .”
The head of school highlighted that much has changed since many of those attending graduated “one manifestation which is the physical plant that we can look over and see right now. Another aspect that has changed is the makeup of our student body; we now have a more diverse student body than many of you experienced. We have students from 17 states in the U.S, 23 countries and five continents.” He added, “Part of our responsibility as the current leaders and stewards of Webb if to understand the world we now inhabit, peer into the future to attempt to understand the world that our graduates will inherit and tweak our programming to effectively engage those worlds. Another important part of our responsibility … is to understand the most important core values of Webb and sustain those in our current climate.” He noted that in surveys, listening sessions and focus groups several core values have risen to the top – “the pursuit of academic excellence, formation of strong character, informed by many of our Enduring Understandings of honor, integrity, self-discipline, respect, responsibility and the effective and selfless leadership. These remain our chief aims.
Cheeseman explained that the vision statement that has come out of the strategic planning work says “Webb aspires to develop future global leaders who pursue excellence through academics, the arts and athletics, with character above all else.”
He noted that in recovering from the pandemic Webb is pivoting to a very diverse and dynamic future. “We have enjoyed historic highs in a number of strategic areas … not only do we have one of the most diverse student populations in Tennessee, but our enrollment has grown from 296 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to 426 this year.” Cheeseman cited the advantages Webb has experienced as a result of the growth in increased participation in academic, arts and athletics programming. He also remarked about some of the challenges of added pressure to Webb’s physical plant as the result of some of the aging buildings. “These truths and opportunities have found their way into our emerging strategic plans that the board, leadership team and faculty have co-labored to develop over the last 18 months.
As we look forward together, I offer some highlights of our strategic plan, ratified by the Board of Trustees yesterday:
Pursue excellence in teaching and learning. As a faculty and leadership team, we will re-analyze what skills and content our students need to master to thrive and lead in a very dynamic, challenging future. We will also re-examine how we teach these skills and concepts in ways that ensure our students independently own them after they graduate from Webb.
Promote sustainability across all aspects of the community. In each area of school life from the business office to the residential life program to overall faculty compensation to our physical plant to stewardship of our environment to other areas of school, we will develop and operationalize detailed plans with the goal for The Webb School to be relevant and sustainable long into the future.
Design an overall student experience that strengthens character while exploring unique gifts and capacities. We will focus on our offerings outside of core academics, like afternoon and weekend programming, clubs, summer classes and camps, travel opportunities, service learning, and others, to give students opportunities to know their particular gifts and sharpen them while strengthening character that is reflective of our Enduring Understandings at Webb.
Create a deeper sense of belonging by clarifying Webb’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion purposes. Webb has long been a diverse community, and we want to provide pathways for more intentional listening to and incorporating the racial, ethnic, and cultural voices and perspectives of our diverse population into the fabric of our community while maintaining our core values.