Hobart and William Smith President Mark D. Gearan has been invited to deliver the keynote address at Noble and Greenough School’s community service day taking place on Tuesday, April 14, at more than 65 locations across the boarding school’s hometown of Dedham, Mass., and in the surrounding Boston area.
Head of Upper School Michael K. Denning says Gearan’s extensive background and expertise as one of the nation’s leaders at the intersection of higher education, public service and civic engagement makes him the ideal person to set the tone of the opening assembly. Among Gearan’s numerous leadership roles in public service, he is a member and former chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, an international association of more than 200 institutions on six continents committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. He also has served as Director of the Peace Corps, and is past chair of the Board of Directors of both National Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“Mark Gearan has had such an incredible career as a national leader in the arenas of education, service and civic engagement; we’re thrilled that he is going to be joining us and addressing our students,” Denning says.
Bringing together Nobles’ students, faculty and administrators, the day of service participants will gather at various community sites where they’ll work on volunteer projects, helping to kick off the school’s 2016 year-long sesquicentennial while celebrating its enduring tradition of service. Known as Common Fire Day, the community service day will kick off at 8 a.m. with an opening assembly during which Gearan will offer keynote remarks.
“Community engagement and service learning are fundamental to an education capable of preparing well-rounded and engaged global citizens who are committed to giving back,” Gearan says. “Through this day of service, Noble and Greenough School is bringing that dedication to service and community involvement to the forefront. I am honored to join Nobles in this effort.”
The day of service at Nobles aligns in many ways with the service-focused efforts taking place at the Colleges. A Geneva tradition for nearly 20 years, the HWS Day of Service became Days of Service in 2008 when the Colleges community added new Days of Service throughout the year so that more people could get involved and enhance local connections. The spring Day of Service at HWS took place on Saturday, April 11.
Appointed as HWS president in 1999, Gearan has led the Colleges during a period of unprecedented growth and development. With extensive credentials in public policy, Gearan also served as Assistant to the President, Director of Communications and Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House.
In March, Gearan served as the keynote speaker at the International Service Learning Summit, a multiday conference in Durham, N.C., that convened leaders and practitioners worldwide to discuss service, particularly at the global level. In the upstate New York region, Gearan serves on the advisory councils of the Happiness House Foundation, Ontario ARC, Geneva Community Center, and is a founding member of Geneva 2020, an initiative to assist the Geneva City School District.
At Nobles, which enrolls about 600 students in seventh through 12th grades, service not only marks one of three pillars represented in afterschool programming, it’s also a component often involved in Nobles’ classrooms, abroad programs, and clubs and athletics. Collectively students participate in more than 20,000 hours of community service each year, connecting with more than 100 organizations at the local, national and international level. Completion of 80 hours of community service is a mandatory aspect of the Nobles education, with most students electing to do more.
Nobles Community Service Director Sandra MacQuinn, who also serves on the Nobles English faculty, says that Common Fire Day is emblematic of the environment at Nobles which continues to encourage and offer opportunities centered on service that can grow leaders for the public good. She says the name “Common Fire Day” is derived from book written by a Nobles alum that states how many small flames can unite to light up the world.
During the Nobles’ service day, students will work at sites with volunteer efforts addressing a wide range of community and social needs. Examples include serving at animal shelters, the local Audubon Society, food pantries; the local Boys and Girls Club; working with the elderly, young parents and juveniles; and creating a new community garden, and more.
“Whatever our talents, we’re trying to share them; whatever the needs are in the community, we’re trying to match it with those who want to get involved,” MacQuinn says. “Our day of service is a continuation of work that we started a long time ago, and will continue to be a part of what we do thereafter.”
In the photo above, President Mark D. Gearan kicks off the April 11 Day of Service at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.