A Tribute to Winsor Traditions

September 16, 2022—All-school Assembly brought the community together to celebrate and learn about Winsor traditions, both new and old. Winsor traditions are an integral part of school life and culture—important touchstones that students can count on throughout their years here and beyond. Traditions connect the entire community not only to each other but also to the school throughout its history. 

Assembly came alive with sounds of cheers and stomping often heard on the Wildcat’s athletics fields and during pep rallies: chants of R-E-D H-O-T echoed through the David E. and Stacey L. Goel Theater led by the heads of SASS (Students Advocating School Spirit).  
Throughout the Assembly, students came to the podium to share personal stories about their favorite Winsor traditions. Bonnie Shao '27, Leila Andermann '27, and Eileen Lee '28 spoke meaningfully about Under the Lights and Spirit Week, second semester Field Day, and the Class I play. The resounding theme is that traditions add fun and a “sense of community, connection, and belonging” to the student experience. 

Much to the delight of the audience, History Faculty Elisabeth "Libby" Parsley paraded across the stage in a red wig and full costume to rally the audience around her favorite tradition: Spirit Week. Students also referenced excitement around the healthy (and fun) competition of the newly imagined Jaguars and Panthers. Announced at 2022 Alumnae Weekend, Fifes are Panthers, and Drums are Jaguars. A house competition, SASS worked with Head of School Sarah Pelmas and others last year to reimagine this tradition, which became “Panthers and Jaguars,” inspired by the fact that we are all Wildcats.  

Ava Kee ’23, Anissa Patel ’23, Christina Monroe ’23, and Meredith Tangney ’23, officers of Illumina, introduced the Winsor song “Jerusalem.” Anissa had memories of the inflection put on certain consonants to make the song entirely Winsor, which may cause confusion to newcomers. From the nods and audience laughter, it was clear that traditions are rooted deeper than the lyrics of the song—the memories made while singing are what truly binds the community. 

The text of “Jerusalem” was originally based on a poem by William Blake before composer Charles Hubert Pardy set the poem to music. In 1928, "Jerusalem" was adopted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in England, and its popularity spread to America as several predominantly girls schools on the east coast selected "Jerusalem" as their school song. 

The student speakers put some context to the references in the song. “Jerusalem” refers to a heaven or an idealized place, and the “dark satanic mills” refer to working conditions during the industrial revolution. The song “can inspire us to ask what do we love, what do we hate, and what are we willing to fight for?” Senior Small then led the community in singing the song under the direction of Choral Director Andrew Marshall. 

The Illumina officers then introduced “Lamp of Learning,” along with the story of its place in Winsor history. A Winsor student named Gretchen Howes Waldo wrote the lyrics in 1902 and set them to the hymn tune “Come O Thou Traveler Unknown” by Josiah Booth. The song was selected to be Winsor’s school song in 1910, the year Winsor moved from its original home on Beacon Hill to its new and current home on Pilgrim Road. Senior Small then led the community as they sang together. 

Director of Community and Inclusion Julian K. Braxton provided historical context on the meaning of the aspirational lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which has been sung each year at Winsor’s graduation since 1998. The song, historically, was sung at civic events and schools, “where substituting the song for the "Star Spangled Banner" was a quiet act of rebellion against the racist status quo.” Inspired by Winsor’s work on the issue of institutional racism, alumnae Kit Maloney ’99 felt "Jerusalem" did not include everyone in the community, particularly African American students. She suggested to former Head of School Carolyn McClintock Peter that adding “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to the Commencement program would be “an important step toward inclusion.” 

Mr. Braxton recalled his favorite verse, the last, that “would always set our church on fire.”

God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee

Mr. Braxton shared a video celebrating the General Order No. 3, which freed slaves in America. The video played the song “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” and highlighted the importance of using tradition to elevate voices of those who have not previously been heard. This video was released on Google on the 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth and can be viewed here.
Then, the Winsor community joined together in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” On this day, 
the theater swelled with Winsor pride for the traditions that bond our community.