What Advice Do I Have for Our Graduates?

My final words to the Dwight Class of 2015 during graduation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were woven together with a single over-arching message in mind: Find a mentor or mentors on your path through college, graduate school, and in life.

My own early experiences were shaped dramatically by inspiring mentors. In turn, having served as a mentor to countless Dwight students over the last half-century, I have been reminded time and again that this particular role is among the most gratifying for me as both an educator and as Chancellor.

With pride in their numerous accomplishments at Dwight and unbridled enthusiasm for what lies ahead for our newest alumni, I bid them farewell with the following remarks:

As graduating seniors, you have shared a common Dwight experience built on our school’s three pillars of personalized learning, community, and global vision. At the same time, each of you has taken your own, unique journey based on your personal talents and spark of genius. Guiding you along both paths have been administrators and faculty members who have cared deeply about your growth and success, and who have served as inspiring mentors along the way.

With this support, you have embraced your passions, found your purpose, and persevered. Now, you must challenge yourself to think and to dream even bigger ― and to make the impossible possible.  

This next step requires that you find a mentor for the new path that you will walk at college or university…for the path that you will walk in life. Sometimes, a mentor arrives unannounced, but more often appears when a student is ready. Dwight graduates who found such mentors have achieved many noteworthy accomplishments. Among them are young alumni, who only a few years after high school with mentors by their side, are already leaving their mark on the world. One launched a company to increase the efficiency of commercial solar energy systems. Another is leading an avant-garde movement in architecture by merging the monumental works of great artists into design projects. There is a young entrepreneur who built a pharmaceutical testing company that is dramatically reducing the time needed for FDA drug approvals. And another became the youngest American director to win the student category at the Cannes Film Festival.

What do they all have in common? All were willing to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and had mentors to light their way. 

Class of 2015, your collective caring spirit, singular achievements, and strong work ethic will leave their mark on Dwight for many years to come. During the past year alone, with your insights, we launched the Spark of Innovation Program. The Dwight School Foundation will now be providing innovation grants to students and teachers who are envisioning exciting new pathways for the future, bringing the stars closer in reach. You will always be a part of that.

I encourage you to make the impossible possible. Keep your spark of genius alive. Be true to yourself…and remember that you’ll always have a home at Dwight.



Welcome to My Blog!

What’s Behind Dwight’s “Spark of Genius” Philosophy?

I can think of no better topic to explore in my first blog post than “spark of genius.” Comprised of just three words, this phrase can conjure up an inestimable number of possibilities. A person’s “spark of genius” is an interest, activity, talent, or passion ― whatever captures the mind, spirit, body, or imagination. The one aspect that’s true for everyone about a “spark of genius” is that it is personal.

Dwight’s motto, “igniting the spark of genius in every child,” drives our personalized approach to learning, permeates the culture of our school, and differentiates our educational philosophy from others. Personalized learning is the first of Dwight’s three pillars, and stands alongside community and global vision.

The premise is straightforward: When a child demonstrates a particular interest in, or talent for, something ― whether in the arts, technology, science, sports, etc. ― that endeavor should be fostered. Children benefit in innumerable ways when they are encouraged to carve their own path, to not give up ― and to get up and try again should they stumble along the way. In so doing, children gain greater self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment that carries over into other areas both inside and outside the classroom.

A nurturing teacher who taps into what excites a student opens the door to greater learning. Working one-on-one with students, Dwight faculty members empower students to pursue their own passions, believe in their own talents, and seek their own unique path of learning. This personalized attention translates into greater mastery and success.

Like some other Dwight traditions, this educational approach emerged from a Spahn family philosophy, which has been passed down for three generations: from my father and former Headmaster, Dr. M.C. Spahn, to me; from me to my sons, Blake ’89, Vice Chancellor, and Kirk ’95, Chairman of The Dwight Schools; and from Blake to his two children, who are both students in our Lower School.

A school is like a family, and at Dwight, we live this philosophy.

As students grow, graduate, and move on to higher education and careers, their passions may change, evolve, or translate into life-long meaningful purpose. Regardless, when a “spark” is ignited, the potential is limitless. As educators, we inspire children to believe that anything is possible.