Southridge reached an important milestone this year as we celebrate our 20th year as a school. Two decades ago, founding Headmaster Emeritus Alan Brown described Southridge as a light hearted place of serious purpose. I often wonder whether Mr. Brown knew the lasting influence he would have on our school.
Before Mr. Brown died a few years ago, he phoned me occasionally to talk about how the school was doing. Our conversations typically began with commentary on the achievements of our students, both academically and in our co-curricular program. He was always very proud of Southridge. But despite the unique pathway each of our conversations took, Mr. Brown always asked me whether or not we still had no locks on our lockers.
When Mr. Brown worked with our founding parents to start a school from nothing, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew, for example, that our school needed to represent a healthy mix of students from broad socio-economic backgrounds, and our Spirit Bursary was born. He also knew that our school’s culture needed to have just the right mix of weightiness and fun, and the phrase “a lighthearted place of serious purpose” was coined. And, perhaps most insightfully, Mr. Brown knew that our community needed to be based on trust, and ever since Southridge first opened its doors, there have never been locks on our students’ lockers.
Stewardship is all about making a difference. As our third guiding principle reminds us, contribution is what we inherit and pass on. Mr. Brown’s contributions to our school have been fundamental to who we have become. During our telephone conversations, Mr. Brown’s response to Southridge still having no locks on lockers was always met with joy and pride – and often mixed with just a slight hint of surprise. I never asked him about the very faint presence of amazement in his voice, yet it has made me wonder whether or not he knew how important his influence and stewardship would be on Southridge twenty years later.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “organizations are the lengthened shadows of their founders.” I find this phrase to be so well suited to the history of Southridge – especially during this milestone year. As we enter our third decade as a community the lengthening of Mr. Brown’s shadow will continue to define who we are as a school.
The origin of Mr. Brown’s influence at Southridge – the stance that produces his shadow – is character. For at the heart of who we are is our character. Character allows our school to have no locks on its lockers, and it is what keeps our attitude lighthearted when our purpose becomes heavy and difficult to carry. I am convinced that character was the source of Mr. Brown’s pride in Southridge, and character is most certainly what all of us inherit from Mr. Brown’s founding contributions.