Closing the Nobles Chapter

Faculty member Sarah Snyder retires after 37 years of teaching—25 years at Nobles. She addressed the Nobles community in assembly on May 28.


Good morning,

I know it’s a little unusual for someone in this community to say something as she or he leaves, but I felt a need to—perhaps a need to finish well. And I wanted to do it in this space. I love this room and what happens in it. I believe assembly is the heart of the Nobles experience. In a way, this morning, all of you right now represent the many lives I have come to know and love over my entire 37-year career.

I’d like to start with a poem. I know, pretty predictable…

“The Way It Is” by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Stafford’s clear identification of a thread appeals to me a lot. As all good poets do, he finds words for something ineffable. The thread that I hold onto is quite connected to a voice within me that I trust. I hope all of you feel such a thread or hear an inner voice that you can follow when making important decisions or confronting challenges.

My thread and inner voice are often nudged by the element of surprise. I love change and surprises, both keep me present and alive. All of you who have had me in class know how much I adhere to Robert Frost’s words: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Surprise is where the power is in writing and in life.

This year, when Bob and I talked about the year after my sabbatical, he mentioned an early retirement option (because I am turning 60 this year). I was surprised—surprised to be turning 60, surprised by the generosity of this option and surprised by something deep within me that wanted to pursue it.

I was surprised because I have loved being a teacher. In fact, I still am amazed that I get paid for doing something that is so fun for me.

But as much as I have loved this job for 37 years, as much as I love this community at Nobles where I have been lucky enough to be for 25 of those years, I’ve decided to hold onto my thread and follow a voice within me.

I am leaving the classroom to have time to create new, surprising things as I write, paint, cut in stone or quilt. The door to early retirement will also allow me to volunteer more.

Ben, who is a few years younger than I am (I know hard to believe), will be back at Nobles after our sabbatical, but I will return to this campus in a different way—as a writer, maybe a tutor, but I hope still a friend. Please consider stopping by our house for a cup of chai and a freshly baked something from my oven.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude. Thank you, Meghan Glenn and George Blake, for team-teaching with me. I am so lucky to have shared so much time with you. Thank you, middle school core friends. I have loved sharing an office with so many of you. Thank you, Maryanne MacDonald, Patricia Aliquo and Judith Merritt, who are friends and who make all of our lives easier. Thank you friends in the English department and performing arts, who have taught me so much. Thank you, Alex Gallagher, for your enduring friendship and so many others with whom I’ve been lucky enough to know through lunch or sideline conversations. Thank you, Bob Henderson and Dick Baker, for being strong, intelligent leaders of this enterprise, making it better each year. I have been so lucky to travel around the world with several students in here and dear friends like Tim Carey, Mark Sheeran, Julia Russell, Linda Hurley, David Roane and Mike Kalin. Thank you, Flik friends, Vas, Anna, Jacob and Matt—I will miss the Castle lunches! Thank you, Mark, Steve, Joey and others, who make our yard and this campus shine. Thank you, advisees and advisees who have become colleagues, Sarah and Kelsey. Thank you, seniors, who made my last year so fun and perfect in Literature of India and Poetry. Thank you, sixies, who make me smile a lot; you guys are so assiduous and so appreciative. I feel so lucky to have worked with many of you in Class V through Class I in EVL.

Finally, thank you, Ben, for your love and support in all I do. This has been such a warm, inclusive community to my family and me for 25 years. I am leaving Nobles feeling simply grateful and fortunate for all I have received.

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