A Trifecta of Virtues

  • Blogs

authored by Head of School Fran Bisselle

As our mission states, “For us, educational excellence includes, but reaches well beyond, superb preparation for college. The true mission of the school, as reflected in our motto, ‘Non scholae sed vitae discimus,’ is preparation for life.” Powerful words, and while HB goes beyond preparation for college, my story in this note — just after the notorious November 1st early application deadline for colleges — begins with rising college freshman.

In 2017, a select group of students received letters of acceptance to be part of Harvard’s class of 2021. Think about these students’ energy and excitement! They worked hard, excelled, and sacrificed; they spent much of their precious time on homework, papers, math and physics problems, and building a resume of unique experiences that would make them attractive to the most competitive colleges. 

Admitted students enthusiastically began to connect on the official Harvard class of 2021 Facebook page. And then, a handful of students formed a private Facebook group chat to say hello, share memes on popular culture, and begin lighthearted conversations to pave the way for a less awkward face-to-face orientation in the future. But just after the messaging group was created, The Harvard Crimson newspaper reported that a few members of the rising class of 2021 engaged in the group inappropriately with derogatory messages. 

I am not sure why these students chose to banter this way. Perhaps they needed to feel accepted. Others were doing it. Perhaps they had a deep feeling of insecurity knowing that every student in the incoming freshman class is equally as smart and talented. Perhaps they regressed to the practice of pushing others down to feel bigger, better. 

When Harvard learned about the unethical and hateful parts of this online conversation, school officials rescinded the admission acceptances of 10 incoming students. As students had been reminded, “Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

This is the same message Hathaway Brown teaches. It is not enough to be the best and brightest — just being a smart, driven student with bold goals, ambition, and talent falls short. Character matters. Kindness matters. And having the courage to confront situations where others are not kind matters. 

Throughout our history, this trifecta of virtues has defined HB students, not just at school but for life. Generations of trailblazing HB women have embodied courage, character, and kindness, and this was confirmed again recently when more than 40 alumnae returned to visit their alma mater as part of Head’s and Alumnae Councils. We look forward to the next era of students who will blaze their trails on our campus and beyond!