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Founder’s Day Celebration

Feb. 3, 2022 — Every year in early February, NMH students, faculty, and staff gather in Memorial Chapel to honor D.L. Moody, the school’s founder who was born on Feb. 5, 1837. On Founder’s Day, NMH celebrates Moody with a program of student and faculty speakers reflecting on his legacy and celebrating the school’s core values.

“You’re in a school that was started by someone who cared deeply for the souls of all people,” said keynote speaker Mona Seno, chair of the visual arts department. “D.L. Moody let his soul lead him through his life to become an example of what can happen when you surrender your ego and love fully.” She described Moody’s journey from poverty to wealth and a life of service, and called on students to examine their own journey to “know their soul.”

Moody was an ordinary man whose father died when he was 4, leaving his mother with nine children on their farm in Northfield, Massachusetts. Moody eventually left for Boston to sell shoes in his uncle’s store, and later went to Chicago, where he became a wealthy businessman. Then, one day everything changed. Moody pinpointed one moment, when his soft-spoken Sunday School teacher came to visit him, put his hand on his shoulder, and told him that Christ loved him. “His surrender to his soul made him feel full of love for all creation,” Seno said. “Moody often said he was ‘born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856.’ ” Eventually, Moody gave up money-making to focus on serving underprivileged people, especially children.

“Do you know your soul?” Seno asked NMH students gathered today, adding, “How would you know?” In his book The Way to God, Moody himself offers a clue. He wrote, “You’re able to see beyond yourself and work for something bigger. You find yourself mostly grateful, with moments of joy and the contentment of being in the flow.” And, “if you’re not there and you’re curious about what you can do to feel more in touch with this part of you,” Seno offered a few suggestions.

She said, “See things in your life as messages, like the feeling of something missing. Pay attention to what expands or contracts your energy. Try practices to tune in and ground yourself, like meditation, journaling, walks in nature, pottery, dance, singing, drawing, or doing a puzzle. Notice and track synchronicities, coincidences, and signs from the Universe. Be curious and ask a lot of questions.” 

Head of School Brian Hargrove noted how remarkable it was that Moody, in his time, was able to draw crowds of thousands of people to hear him speak, simply through word of mouth. “He lived his faith. He called people to be their better selves, and he moved people to action for the collective good. It’s a powerful example of a life of impact, and that is worthy of recognition.”

During the Founder’s Day program, music and songs were performed by the NMH Concert Band and Sheila Heffernon, director of music and choral programs, and several students spoke, including Athena Zhao ’23, who in her “Moment of Silence” message, recalled parallels between the influenza pandemic of 1918 — when the Mount Hermon School and Northfield Seminary operated with success during trying times — and today. “We too can overcome the difficulties COVID-19 has brought us, in addition to the social changes we’ve been through, and keep reflecting on ways to act with humanity and purpose. It could be getting yourself out of your comfort zone by speaking up in class, running an extra mile in warm-up or doing 10 more pushups, or it could be saying one positive thing to your peers every day.” 

Augustine Boadi, representing his Class of 2022 reflected on how we can live out Moody’s values today. “He gave his head, heart, and hand to help thousands of people no matter what race, or gender, or what sports they like to play, and he challenged all of us to do the same. When I graduate, I hope that people will say: Augie gave more than he received. That’d make me really happy.”

And tonight, after dinner in Alumni Hall, the Founder’s Day celebration continues. For dessert, birthday cake! 

See photos of Founder's Day.