Nov. 16, 2012, marked the official opening celebration of the renovated and expanded Castle. Head of School Bob Henderson welcomed a crowd of nearly a thousand community members to share in the festivities. Following are Henderson’s remarks from the evening.
Welcome to the Castle!
Thank you to everyone for coming to Nobles Night in this spectacular reconstructed venue, as well as for your support of the school, and for this inspiring project. We have definitely tested the full capacity of the facility with this event and can now consider it officially broken in!
The other day I met with several members of the Class of 1970 to thank them for their gift to underwrite the creation of the school archives as part of this project. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them and hearing their stories and memories, one of which was about trying to ride a mule down on the Castle field – trust me, it’s complicated! In 1970 Nobles was, in many ways, a different place than today. The student body was roughly half the current size, all male, and much more homogenous. The physical plant was dramatically more limited. And the program and opportunities here were significantly more circumscribed. As I spoke with these men, however, it was quite apparent that, despite the dramatic evolution of Nobles over the last four decades, certain elements of the Nobles culture and experience remain stunningly consistent and fundamental.
The first of those factors was the emphasis we continue to place in our mission and daily life at Nobles on the power and critical importance of salutary and inspirational mentoring relationships between faculty and students. Teachers with deep, multi-dimensional commitments to this place remain our single most essential resource. When asked what they think is most important about their Nobles experience, students today respond the same way that graduates do, and that is to say they value their connections with their teachers above all else.
The second factor, however, is the Castle. As the school has transformed itself, the Castle has remained the unifying element of our geography, both of the physical plant and the psychic experience of Nobles. All students of every Nobles generation “own” this building equally and together. While the mode of serving meals has shifted over generations to become more informal, the Castle has nevertheless been sustained as the one place where every student goes, every day, for repast and friendship. Everyone knows the creaks in the floor, the quirks of design, the echoes of youthful joy and enthusiasm, and tones created by shadow and sunlight in its various corners and crannies. Above all, every Nobles student very quickly learns the power of the Castle as a metaphor: we all become enamored of its permanence, creative inspiration, colossal aspiration, link between history and future, and towering, unmoving integrity.
Even as the Castle interior in recent years eroded and badly showed its age, its impact on students remained as profound as when Nobles first occupied the building in the 1920’s. Yet the obstacles to an overhaul seemed almost insurmountable, necessitating adherence to modern building, fire and disability codes, and requiring adaptations to a mid-19th century structure that appeared almost impossible in the context of the needs of contemporary secondary education. Moreover, it was hard to imagine how an overhaul could be accomplished without undermining the special and unifying character of the building.
When I met with the Class of 1970 the other day, however, they affirmed for me what I have felt in a personal sense as I have walked around the new and renovated space – we, working with our talented architects at Architerra and the remarkable folks at Shawmut Construction, have managed to revive and restore the historical Castle while at the same time rejuvenating the structure for the next century. We have blended old and new, traditional and modern, aesthetic originality and pragmatic functionalism, in a magnificent manner.
Upstairs in the Castle there are now 17 faculty apartments of various configurations, all with kitchen and bathroom spaces. We have a modern, open kitchen and servery, where everyone can share meals conveniently, and, as one of my advisees observed the other day, “when you walk in the Castle now, there is amazing food everywhere and all around me.” We have dining and meeting spaces that will foster our sense of purpose, mission and community. We have archival space that will preserve and make available the vibrant history of this institution. Perhaps most importantly, this project has been an immense boon to the daily life, morale and culture of the school, reducing stress and buoying everyone’s sense of belonging. We accomplished every objective established for the school schedule and program that we outlined over two years ago as we conceived this. And we have done this in a sustainable manner, adding 13,000 square feet of space with nearly zero net increase in energy usage. As you walk around this evening, I hope you will take in the innumerable details that were addressed in this process.
We are thrilled that we have raised the funds needed to make this project a reality. In fact, we are in the fortunate position of having exceeded the fundraising expectations we established at the time we began our planning. The response of the extended Nobles community to the needs of this initiative has been more than impressive. This project was indeed expensive, but I hope it is clear to everyone that it has been well worth the investment. Special thanks to all of you who supported this incredible transformation of the Castle!
Please accept best wishes from everyone here at Nobles for a great Thanksgiving wishes from all of us here at Nobles in the week ahead! Thanks and enjoy the evening!