Westminster School welcomed 414 students to campus as it began its 134th academic year. The students hail from 27 states and 19 countries, and include 132 new students.
The year kicked off Aug. 31 with a day student welcome that included a parent reception at Pratt House. The next morning, Sixth Formers, returning day students and international students arrived. Despite some rainy weather, Sixth Formers spent the afternoon participating in a form welcome, a college counseling meeting and an orientation program.
On Sept. 2, members of the Prefect Board assembled at the top of Perkin Memorial Drive to greet new and returning students. Other Sixth Formers helped arriving students move into their dormitories. After completing some registration tasks in Armour Academic Center and attending meetings with their advisory groups, all students participated in afternoon form orientation activities. The day concluded with an all-school cookout and kickball tournament.
Classes met briefly Sept. 3, and all new students attended a performing arts meeting. The school year officially got underway Sept. 4 with an assembly, and the traditional Pin Ceremony and Sign-In Ceremony.
Head of School Elaine White welcomed everyone to the assembly in Armstrong Atrium of Armour Academic Center. “Soon we will listen carefully to the words of Cooper Kistler, head prefect for the 2021-2022 school year,” she explained. “I want to point out that Westminster taps a student to give the first address of the year to the entire school community, not a faculty member, not the head of school. Students are at the core of our community, and your voices are powerful and strong. Use them well.”
She shared the history of the Pin Ceremony which would take place following the assembly: “The Pin Ceremony itself celebrates the Sixth Form. Head of School Graham Cole began the practice early in his tenure as a way of both recognizing the Sixth Form and emphasizing their responsibility as leaders to uphold our core values of character, community, involvement and balance. Sixth Formers wear their pin all year as a physical reminder of that responsibility.”
She also spoke about the Sign-in Ceremony: “Underformers, too, are expected to commit themselves to doing their very best to live up to our community standards, and they embrace that commitment when they sign the school ledger, another tradition begun by Graham Cole, at the new student Sign-In Ceremony, which occurs in the chapel immediately following the Pin Ceremony. It should not be lost on anyone today that as we pin the Sixth Formers and remind them of their commitment to create the most inclusive and supportive community possible, we also welcome all new students into the fold and anticipate the ways in which they will make us even stronger as a community.”
Lastly, she discussed the Sixth Form flag and its role in announcing Hill Holidays throughout the year.
During his assembly remarks, Cooper Kistler ’22 shared some of his early experiences at Westminster and highlighted the welcoming presence of Charles Ruffin at the security booth as Charles enthusiastically greets everyone arriving on campus. Cooper also mentioned the complicating factors of the pandemic last academic year.
“So here we are now,” he said. “It is 2021, and our whole school community is back together. I’ve spoken with many students, faculty members and administrators, and it has come clear to me that we need to reboot our school spirit.” He announced the names of students who would be heading an effort to promote all-school events, such as night games, dances and the fall play.
“Westminster is the strongest community I have ever been a part of, and now we are faced with an opportunity for growth and development,” he continued. “As we try to put the pandemic behind us, let’s embrace discomfort. Together let’s push ourselves to a space where we can all grow and develop new perspectives.” He encouraged everyone to try something new this year and to reach outside of their comfort zone.
“Charles sets the tone on this campus every morning by greeting everyone with a smile and saying ‘hello,’” added Cooper. “To all the new students at Westminster, an unwritten rule is that we smile and say ‘hi’ to everyone when we pass them. In a community built around kindness, you will never experience an environment where people are so supportive and caring. As a result, I encourage you all again to try new things, take new risks and embrace discomfort. There is no doubt that this will lead to some great successes and failures, but with the support of our community and the kindness within it, we will fail forward, we will grow and we will become stronger and better people because of it. Thank you all, and I look forward to an amazing year!”
All students, except for Sixth Formers, then proceeded to the edge of the Sixth Form Lawn, where they positioned themselves for the Pin Ceremony. Sixth Formers followed by walking together onto the lawn to receive their Sixth Form pin or pendants from alumni faculty and honorary alumni faculty. The design of the pins and pendants were created by the form last spring. Members of the Prefect Board also brought onto the lawn new members of the Sixth Form and Head of School White.
Continuing with another school tradition, all new students then entered Andrews Memorial Chapel to participate in the Sign-In Ceremony. They were greeted by Head of School White as they signed the book signifying their formal entrance into school. They were then welcomed by members of the Prefect Board. A pizza feed culminated the morning’s activities.