Reunion'99 Convocation Speech

Alumni, Faculty, and friends of Cherry lawn School:

Welcome to this gathering in honor of our school. Founded 84 years ago, it closed its doors 27 years ago. But it has never been forgotten, and its memory holds a dear place in the hearts of all those who have made their way here today. We have come together to renew the ties with each other which we formed so long ago; to remember the days of our youth, and to give our memories new life. Seeing those years reflected in the ongoing lives of all those with whom we had parted, we give our memories new value and purpose as well. For not only do we have the pleasure of meeting with old friends, but we can see that this place and these people gained our hearts long ago, and once given, that love and respect will always remain, influencing who we are today. And indeed that love and respect is a legacy which we each helped to pass from class to class, from generation to generation.

Over the past year as I have searched through phone books and internet databases and rumors to track down missing classmates, I was saddened again and again to learn of those friends and teachers who had died. And I was as saddened to learn of those I had never known, who I would not be able to meet today. I learned that even across the many generations, Cherry Lawn had touched something similar in each of us and called forth something worthwhile in each of us. In Romans 14, it is written: "None of us lives to ourselves alone. None of us dies to ourselves alone."

As we take joy in the presence of old friends today, I hope we will also remember and take joy in the remembrance of those who cannot be with us, those who have lived their lives, but not before touching ours. In fond remembrance of our classmates and teachers who have passed away, I offer these words by the poet Rabindrinath Tagore, the poem entitled Little Flute.

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new. At the immortal touch of thy hands, my little heart losses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

Today, let us all remember with gratitude the many missing friends who helped to make Cherry Lawn such a wonderful place in which to grow to adulthood.

One year ago, a much smaller gathering was held here in Darien, on very short notice, to begin the planning for this reunion. One of the things we all agreed on was the need for a permanent memorial to Cherry Lawn School, to stand here as a testament to the value of that institution. With all the buildings gone, very little remains to remind us of the intense community life that filled these grounds for so many years. We decided to bring back to Cherry Lawn something created by Cherry Lawners to act as a touchstone for visiting alumni, and a source of information for those park users who may be unaware of the history of this park. Being an artist, I decided to immediately jump in and design a bronze plaque. But it was hardly a singular effort. The design went through many revisions and benefited greatly from the many comments we received through our Cherry Lawn website.

The plaque which we dedicate today contains a drawing of our Morning Meeting, a time when the entire community of the school sat together for to hear readings and announcements before beginning the days work. The drawing is based on a pencil sketch by Manuel Delgado from the 1967 yearbook. The text on the plaque reads:

"On these grounds, thousands of students over six decades made their home, learned tolerance and respect, and received a full and liberal education. This plaque placed here in 1999 by the members of all classes in memory of our school, our classmates, and our teachers, and the extraordinary experience their created and shared with us.
I would like to offer my thanks to all who supported the effort to produce our memorial plaque which we dedicate today, and to the many people whose efforts made our gathering possible. Our thanks to Karen Rassas Wasserman and David Wasserman for their offer to produce out Cherry Lawn mugs, and to Phyllis Shapiro for her efforts to locate many missing classmates. In particular my thanks to our Reunion Committee members, Lew Meyerson, Hope Americo, George Clarke, Mike Manners, Laura Schoen, Sylvia Gabe, and finally but very importantly Stuart Varden, the creator of our website, without which we could never have so successfully brought together the hundreds of Cherry Lawners gathered here today.

Thank you.