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Founder’s Day Features Keynote by Dean Neubert

Founder’s Day Features Keynote by Dean Neubert

Northfield Mount Hermon honored its founder, D.L. Moody, last week at its annual Founder’s Day, which featured a keynote by Dean of Equity and Social Justice Martha Neubert reflecting on Moody’s legacy and the school’s values.

Dean Martha Neubert delivers the keynote at Founder's Day 2024

Students, faculty, and staff gathered in Memorial Chapel on April 10 for the event, which Head of School Brian Hargrove kicked off with an inspirational quote from Moody: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.” 

While every Founder’s Day ceremony features a talk from a faculty member, this year’s event also served as an opportunity for the community to bid farewell to Neubert, who is leaving the school at the end of the academic year. Neubert was introduced by her daughter, Isabelle Eaton-Neubert ’25, who noted the many roles her mother has played in her 19 years at NMH: dean, coach, dorm parent, advisor, teacher. “Her students are lucky because she teaches in a way that forces you to be interested, even if it's a topic that you weren’t expected to be excited about,” Eaton-Neubert said. “It’s a crazy impressive skill, and I love asking her questions because of it. I encourage you to ask her a question or two in the coming weeks and really pay attention to her answer.”

Neubert hugged her daughter before taking her place at the lectern, where her first order of business was to request tissues from the audience. In a speech that was both emotional and funny, she acknowledged the challenge of trying to capture the complexity of Moody and his legacy (a task she also took on in the spring 2022 issue of NMH Magazine). 

“So here we are, to talk about the very ordinary man who created the extraordinary blueprint for [this school],” said Neubert, who used emojis, projected on a screen behind her, to offer a crash history lesson on Moody and the two schools he founded more than 140 years ago. 

Moody’s vision for “egalitarian education remains his greatest achievement and one from which we benefit each day,” Neubert said. She urged the audience to fully embrace the opportunities and the responsibilities that come with being a member of the NMH community, which change with the times but are rooted in Moody’s original vision. “This place was built so that you yourself, your soul and your possibility, could be confirmed, affirmed, and amplified. So defend that, the truth of yourselves,” she said. “Remember that the hard work is the hard work and it's also the work that matters most. Work on mutuality and delight in each other's humanity. Critique and defend and expand on this thesis. Commit yourself to this era’s version of [Moody’s] era’s vision. …

“What happens here is transformative, and there is much to be done,” she said. “I urge you to find ways to love this place as much as it loves you.”

Before Neubert’s keynote, Henry Castillo ’25 offered a Moment of Silence that reflected on grappling with — and even accepting — the insecurities that can plague all of us. “Life is one big, beautiful mess,” he said. “And the best part is that it constantly changes. It keeps us on our toes.”

Delphi Lyra ’24 offered the traditional reflection from a member of the graduating class. “Today, I want to talk to you about courage,” said Lyra, who discussed the wide range of people whose brave decisions helped shape NMH over the years. Lyra’s timeline started with Harriette Tuttle, the recent Wellesley College graduate who took a leap of faith when she accepted Moody’s offer to serve as head of the newly established Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879. That tradition of courage, she said, extends to current teachers and students who take risks and bravely share their full selves, making the community a more diverse and accepting place. 

“Courage still runs deep in our walls, but we need to be reminded of it,” Lyra said. “Have I been courageous? Have we been courageous? Have you been courageous? Have we discussed how we feel about each other? Have we disagreed with someone respectfully? … As students, we must demand a culture of courage from each other. We as students decide what the next iteration of NMH will be.” 

Founder’s Day also included music by the NMH Concert Band, as well as several songs: “Jerusalem,” “The Northfield Benediction,” and “Simple Gifts,” this year’s senior class hymn.

Typically, Founder’s Day is celebrated closer to Moody’s Feb. 5 birthday. While this year’s ceremony was rescheduled to April due to illness, a number of Founder’s Week events still took place in early February, including a rock, paper, scissors tournament, a lip sync battle, and a Winter Lights evening, when teams of students decorated campus buildings with twinkly lights. The community also celebrated Moody’s birthday with a cake in Alumni Hall. 

Photos, from top: Dean Martha Neubert, Martha Neubert and Isabelle Eaton-Neubert, Henry Castillo, Delphi Lyra. Photos by Matthew Cavanaugh.

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