Opening Convocation, held on Sept. 4 in Roberts Theater, marked the official start of Kingswood Oxford’s 110th school year. Every student and faculty and staff member congregated for the first time this year to hear from a variety of speakers, congratulate their peers, and welcome newcomers.
History teacher Rob Kyff greeted everyone in a light hearted tone, playing The Turtles’ song “Happy Together” to illustrate how the all-boys Kingwood School convinced the all-girls Oxford School to merge in 1969. “This is an historic year for our school,” he said. “Not only is it the 110th year of our school’s overall history, but we are also beginning the fiftieth year in the history of the merged school Kingswood Oxford.”
In addition, Mr. Kyff welcomed the new Head of School Tom Dillow, as the sixth Head of School in the school’s history, as well as the 133 new students this year. “They bring a wide range of accomplishments and attributes to our community,” he said. “They and you together will be writing another vibrant chapter in our school’s distinguished history. And I know we’ll all be happy together.”
Next, head prefect senior Michael Aronson took the stage to describe the prefects’ role to the student body as the individuals who establish a strong connection with the freshman class, as well as help provide a smooth transition. He encouraged everyone to embrace the vast diversity of our community. “Kingswood Oxford provides a sense of unity through our difference and quirks which is special,” he said. “This results in an environment in which every individual can express themselves.”
Senior speaker Andrew Holland rose to the podium to stress the importance of finding balance in your life at school. “While you should always prioritize school work, don’t ever let it prevent you from making connections with people and enjoying every moment you have here,” he said.
After these short speeches, Director of the Middle School Ann Sciglimpaglia and Interim Director of the Upper School Carolyn McKee awarded the Dux Prizes to those students who achieved the highest GPA in their class for the previous year. The winners were seventh-grader Ava Cashman, eighth-grader Hana Roggendorf, freshman Emma Levinbook, sophomore Emma Henry, junior Esha Kataria and senior Mia Seymour. Ms. McKee congratulated these students with loving praise. “We acknowledge and honor the qualities of hard work, perseverance, passion and determination that lead to success,” she said.
Following this, senior Benjamin Small introduced Head of School Tom Dillow by providing his educational and career background. “He hopes to use his passion for working with students and for developing impactful initiatives to continue to build opportunities of KO students and the community as a whole to grow,” he said. Mr. Dillow started off by thanking everyone for all the support. “It is an incredible honor to serve as your next head of school,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know you, the students.” He illustrated KO’s core values through three iconic individuals who passed away this summer. He started with Kofi Annan who was the former head of the United Nations. Annan exemplified “Care Beyond Self” by establishing the global act R2P, which states that each government is responsible to protect its citizens.
Second, Mr. Dillow brought up Aretha Franklin’s song “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” which was a powerful call for women’s rights. Ending with a mention of Senator John McCain’s integrity and strong legacy, Mr. Dillow gracefully explained the spirit of our core values as a school and his hopes associated with them. “My hope is that as we start a new year together, we remember them and be inspired by their contributions to care deeply for the wellbeing of others, be respectful in our interactions with one another, and live each day being our authentic selves,” he said.
The assembly ended with Mr. Dillow presenting the class flags, an annual tradition. Sixth-graders Ava Pear and Ryan Sadowsky were presented the Class of 2025 flag. The two seniors with the most community service hours, seniors Claudia Petrie, and Janvi Sikand were presented the flag of the Class of 2019. Lastly, Class President Ellis Winfree and Vice President Josh Leshem and received the Class Shield for the Class of 2019.