July Head of School Letter: Indeed, An Extraordinary School

Friday, July 28, 2017


I met an alumna in early May from the class of 1986. She remembers the days when Glen Urquhart School was the fledgling North Shore Middle School in a church basement. Her daughter will be ready for kindergarten in another two years, and she stopped by to find out if GUS was still GUS. “This was the best school I ever attended,” she remarked, “and that was true for my sister, too.” Another alumnus from the class of 1990 wrote me from Tennessee. He was considering a move home to the North Shore and wondered if there might be room for his son in the school. Then, when I met a past parent in Danvers earlier in the year whose two sons graduated from GUS decades ago, he told me, “They still love GUS.” After a year at Glen Urquhart, I can say with confidence that I share the affection all these folks expressed for GUS. This is indeed an extraordinary school.

Since arriving at GUS, I have made it a priority to meet alumni, past parents, and former faculty members. Every GUS community member I meet, past and present, expresses a love for GUS and embodies the spirit of this special place. Ours is truly a school with a beating, strong heart. I feel that daily in lower school and around campus, on the nature trail and in the greenhouse, and in the sometimes raucous but always vibrant classrooms of the upper school.

I’m reminded often that GUS is a community that allows kids to become themselves. Sometimes that involves smiles and laughter, and sometimes a bit of angst or tears. Kids are growing up here, a messy, joyful, but always meaningful process. That work is our sacred trust.

Someone who shared that belief was former Board of Trustees Chair Derek Cavanaugh, who passed away unexpectedly in January. Derek was clearly larger than life and a memorable character, and he was also a determined and fervent supporter of GUS, envisioning in particular the Braemar building, where a moving memorial service was held this winter. Our thoughts went out to his children, Jake ’96, Laura ’97, Jessica ’99, and remain with his late daughter, Nan ’01.

Derek would have appreciated that we revived an honored GUS tradition this year, Spring Work Day, when 45 current and past students and parents turned out to rake the campus, stir compost, weed flower beds, and build a Gaga Pit. (Google it if you’ve never seen one—it’s the most popular spot at recess!) The campus is such a central part of the GUS program and your GUS memories.

Students traveled to Mystic Seaport, Chewonki, Heifer International, the mountains of New Hampshire, Washington, DC, and the Dominican Republic on trips this year whose focus was a mix of immersive learning and community service. The hands-on curriculum envisioned in the founding days of the school remains at our core.

So GUS is still very much GUS, and we’re determined to make it even more so in the coming years. That may be the best way to celebrate our 40th anniversary in the 2017–2018 school year. We hope you will join us—alumni, past parents, former faculty, and the current GUS community—on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9, 2018 for “Forty and Forward,” a reunion and celebration of all that Glen Urquhart School has been and all that it promises to become. See you then!

Trust and go forward,

David Liebmann
Head of School

Whitney Buckley