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Cheeseman notes that Webb, Rotary use similar foundations to help create leaders with purpose
Rita Mitchell

It was similarities in missions and visions that struck Head of School Ken Cheeseman as he prepared to speak at a recent Murfreesboro Rotary Club meeting. Cheeseman and Dr. Tabetha Sullens, associate head of school for enrollment management and marketing, were guests of Rotarian Stacy Webb, Webb parent of Hudson Webb ’27.

The Rotary International mission is:

“We provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.” The vision statement is: “Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.”

Having just completed a new strategic plan, Cheeseman told Rotarians that Webb added a vision statement to its mission and enduring understandings, which are a more modern interpretation of the mission.  This vision statement reads, “The Webb School develops future global leaders who strive for excellence in academics, arts, and athletics, with character above all else.”

Cheeseman used his time with Rotarians to provide the background and a brief overview of The Webb School in its 154th year.

“We have men and women of all vocations as our graduates, 10 of whom were Rhodes Scholars, more than any independent school in the South, a governor of Tennessee, senators, congressmen, doctors, lawyers, professors, business leaders, judges, a current NBA basketball player and virtually every other vocation. Our graduates live all over the globe and impact their communities in profound and positive ways, but what they all have in common is an understanding of hard and effective work, accurate scholarship, high character, and the need for courteousness; these traits were important in 1870 and continue to be our core values,” Cheeseman explained.

He continued, noting that Webb is one of the most diverse schools in Tennessee with 40% of the students as students of color from the U.S. or international students. Students come from 17 U.S. states and 21 different countries across five continents.  

“From this rich, diverse student population and a faculty that is increasingly reflective of our student diversity, we are committed to developing future global leaders,” Cheeseman remarked. “I speak often to our students during chapel about the importance of their future roles of leading the world and their spheres of influence to solve the most pernicious problems that we face in the world today.   I want our graduates to first see themselves as young leaders who will help pull the world out of perpetual conflict and then develop their gifts and skills to lead us to a better place.” He added, “This is our expectation, and we teach our students through our student-run honor system, discipline system, diverse dormitory life, and rigorous academics.”

The head pointed to a slight change in focus during the last few years to include not only academic excellence but excellence in arts and athletics as well.  He noted that Webb students arrive on campus every day as whole persons, with gifts in academics, in the arts, in athletics, and in areas of leadership.  “We want to have programming that supports our students in their diverse gifts; we know that pursuing excellence in more than one area helps development in both.  As we have made this augmentation, we have seen our student body morale and enthusiasm grow.  We work hard together; we achieve excellence together; we laugh and have fun together.  This kind of community makes a profound difference in the lives of our students.”

He closed saying that the most important prepositional phrase and concept in the vision statement is, “with character above all else” and added, “there is no one better to share with you what character at Webb means than Dr. Sullens, a Class of 1994 alumnae, a parent of a Webb alumnae, and parent of a current senior.

“Character is the cornerstone of a Webb education, serving as the roots of integrity that every generation has carried forward. In a world where external pressures often challenge ethical principles, we continue to instill the value of integrity within our students,” Sullens said.

Explaining with specific stories, the associate head said, “Woven into the everyday tapestry of Webb life, positive peer pressure thrives, exemplified by the heartening instances when a pen is returned with a note on my desk, a silent acknowledgment of unintentional “borrowing”. Students will even pop in my office to discuss an injustice on campus if they ever see one. These seemingly small acts of integrity hold significance, forming a culture that celebrates values.”

Sullens held up other aspects of Webb life saying, “Acknowledging and appreciating acts of kindness, whether it's picking up litter, extending a helping hand, tipping generously downtown, or simply holding a door open for a teacher, we actively reinforce the belief that these seemingly small actions produce extraordinary influence in shaping a student's time at Webb.” Closing, she added, “With parents, we foster a community where the daily practice of integrity becomes a powerful force, enriching the educational experience and preparing students for a life of integrity.”