Head's Blog - April, 2017
A longtime Oakwood neighbor greets many of us with a smile and a wave each morning during his daily dog walks through campus. Having spent decades in the Hudson Valley, he has amassed many historical photographs which he generously shares. This photo from 1914 transports us back to Coleman Farm, Oakwood’s (soon to be) new Poughkeepsie campus. A present-day faculty home, the Dining Hall and the Main Building are all clearly visible. These images, combined with many more in our archives room, reveal a school that remains true to its founding Quaker principles and provides an engaging and ever-evolving home to our diverse community of learners.
This summer I had the opportunity to review and reflect upon many of these past and present photographs. In 1920 construction began on Lane Theater, the first new addition to Oakwood’s campus. Over the decades, small sections of green space gradually transformed into a gym, labs, dorms, classrooms and a two acre solar array. Even as the physical and architectural landscape shifted over time, constant was the sense of community and shared learning. Hundreds of photographs told thousands of stories. Our students gathering for Silent Meeting sit on the same benches as their classmates from 1924. Athletes separated by multiple generations play baseball on the same fields below the Barn apartments. The same three girls who analyzed a sun dial in their 1940’s science class, measure and record the strength of a beetle in their 2016 lesson.
Images of these girls, taken almost 70 years apart, bring into focus an Oakwood that nurtures a respect of every voice and embraces collaborative exploration. Diving into hundreds of other photos in Oakwood’s archive, I see students willing to listen to each other and willing to be active participants in their education. I see faculty giving of themselves in the classroom, in the dorms, in the lounges and in the dining hall. I see a community informed and sustained by our history, unafraid to challenge issues of social justice in the classroom and in society.
Central is the belief that there is a Light in every member of our community. A belief that our differences and our diversity are strengths to be shared discussed and explored. The challenges facing us today require the input of multiple creative minds from multiple nations, faiths and cultures, all capable of this type of collaborative work. Viewed through the lens of curriculum, community and faith, these photographs provide unique snapshots of campus life. And although solar fields may have replaced hay fields, our commitment to nurturing a community rooted in Quaker principles remains unchanged. So as we begin our ninety-seventh year on this Oakwood campus, I look forward to the many new photographs and many new accomplishments to come.
Chad Cianfrani, Head of School.