Commencement 2014 Student Address: Harry Reichert

Danae DiNicola – May 27, 2014


by Harry Reichert

Good morning, and thank you Dr. Curtis, guests, friends and family of Deerfield, for coming out to the Graduation ceremony for the class of 2014. My name is Harry Reichert, and people often ask me “How do you get ‘Harry’ from ‘Gresham’?” To which I respond, naturally, “You just have to believe.”

Today, it’s especially hard to believe, harder than any other day. Today is the day when we graduate from Deerfield. Even as I read those words in Papyrus size 48 font–my go to–it seems unreal. Now some of you may be asking, unreal in Deerfield lingo, like awesome, sweet, sick–or unreal in actual English, like fiction? And my answer is both. This day is awesome because it wishes us well in our future endeavors–which is just code for college–and it celebrates our transition from high school students to graduates. We also get these sweet ties and this majestic tent, and that’s enough for me. Yet this day also seems surreal, because I still feel and act like the freshman that I was when I first stepped foot on campus. It feels like it was only yesterday when I was wandering through the hallways of the Barton house for boys on the first day of school…and that’s because it was yesterday. I am a proctor there now, living with freshmen and sophomores who take advantage of me for my late-night internet rights and my stories from the Senior Cry.

I think Andy Samberg said it best, when he said “I am as honored to be here as I am unqualified.” I want to thank my fellow classmates from the class of 2014 for electing me to speak in front of you today, and I also want to address a few jokes that those same classmates have made over the past few weeks… Jokes that I would sleep through graduation, and miss my speech. The joke is on you guys, because I made it. I am indeed glad that my 26 alarms pulled through for me on this fine morning, unlike on Parents’ Day Sophomore year. (Sorry Mom and Dad.) On behalf of our class, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the mothers and grandmothers in the audience. You all put up with so much, and you must really have it rough if you needed to send your kid away to boarding school. I always remind my mom of the time when I had made her late for an appointment, and she asked me “why do you even exist?”

At Deerfield, I got in the habit of running places, both for efficiency and for the workout. I would cut freshies through heavy snow in the winter, and hop the baseball fence coming out of Barton in the spring; always running with the music from the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  playing in my head–when he is dashing home after a day of wreaking havoc in Chicago… I ran the same race as Ferris, really, except I didn’t run against my sister or my principal–I ran against time. At Deerfield I would say we all play against the clock, both in the short term and in the long term. In a short-term sense, there is no institution with as many required meetings anywhere. Our 7th period class starts precisely at 2:26pm and ends at 3:11. In a more long-term sense, our time here is finite. As never-ending as our hibernation seems in the winter, and as timeless as the sun’s glaze over the valley seems in the fall and spring, we are reminded to live and let go on days like today.

This spring, I found myself putting my Deerfield education to good use and budgeting my time wisely. Time management is always important, and the class of 2014 was no exception to this rule, except this time it was “how do we make time for the river” instead of “how do we make time for sustained dialogue?” As Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

I’ll be honest, the first thing I did when I learned that I would be giving the commencement address was take to the internet. After all, I’m so much cooler online. I now admit, this was horribly time inefficient. A brief note about social media before I get deep: networks like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. are social platforms designed for us to show the world whatever we want it to see. Although these social instruments are useful, a moment lived is a lot sweeter than a moment documented. This realization didn’t stop me from procrastinating and taking my speech into the early hours of this morning, but it did make yesterday the first time I have worked on a Saturday in my Deerfield career. So don’t be like me; try not to devote too much time to these sites, or you’ll miss the little things that make Deerfield great.

But what little things are we looking for, you may ask? And where do we look? How do we make the most of our time at Deerfield, and where do we go from here? These are the type of existential questions that have been rolling through my mind in the past two months–ever since I started hot yoga–and I think I can attempt to answer them with a couple encounters from my time here, times where there were no cameras or phones to record.

JV Football my Junior fall, at Andover. We had a great season in the works, as JV football usually does, under the professional coaching of Mr. Emerson, Mr. Teutsch, Mr. Kelly, and the forever-missed Coach Chiddy. Slot Right 42 Iso was our bread and butter, a run play where Zeke Emerson would take the handoff and rumble up the middle for an easy five yards every play. Slot Right Boot Right 938 was our change-up, where Billy O’Neil would fake the run to Zeke and roll out to acres of open space with three receivers cutting downfield. I was usually one of those receivers, the 2-back, running an up-and-out to the sideline.        

Now Andover was no slouch of a squad, but Coach Emerson was working his magic and the offensive gameplan was clicking like it always did. It took a few quarters of football for the kids from Andover to catch on to our two-play scheme, when they started shouting out where we were going with the ball based on how we lined up. Emerson knew he could put the 2-back in motion to counter this, and for those of you who don’t speak football, that just means shifting a player before the play to throw the defense off guard.

Early in the second half of a tight ballgame, one of our freshman wide receivers wandered on to the field looking a little uncertain of the play Mr. Emerson had told him to bring to the huddle. “Uh, slot right….. 2 motion…… 42 iso?” He stuttered. Being the responsible upperclassman student leader that I was, I immediately stepped in and tried to sort it out, saying “I think you mean slot left.”

We lined up on the ball, and when Coach Emerson saw our formation, he blew a gasket. “I SAID SLOT RIGHT! I SAID SLOT RIGHT!!” he hollered from the sideline. Billy, the quarterback, asked coach, “Do you want a timeout,” to which he replied, “YES I want a timeout.” The Andover kids were chuckling, and I was worried about the parents attending the game as much as I was worried for my own skin. I just didn’t want them to think our practices were like boot camp.

“WHO CHANGED THE PLAY,” he scoured our team. I apologetically admitted to changing the play in the huddle, which was my second mistake of the episode. Mr. Emerson really tore me apart now, calling me things that I can’t repeat on this podium. I had called an audible in a shady situation that second-guessed Coach Emerson’s strategy in a close game, and I had paid the price. But Coach Emerson would give me another shot. Late in the game, Billy O’Neil connected with me on a “2 hitch pass,” a nifty signal where I nod to Billy and he tosses a quick screen pass to keep the D honest, and it kept our final drive alive. This set up a heroic bootleg run from Billy O’Neil to win the game by a score. Moral of the story: take responsibility for your actions. and even if you goofed up the last one, don’t be afraid to call an audible.

My next narrative is more of a personal quirk than a story. I used to get off the bus in elementary school and walk as far up our dirt road as I could with my eyes closed. It was just a game to me. Walking in nothing but darkness, my mind would think of every worst possibility to find reasons for my feet to slow down. I could not shake the feeling that I was about to stub my toe or fall off a cliff. Maybe Scar from The Lion King was just around the corner, and I had no way of knowing. I would walk until I crashed into something or until I was too spooked to go on, usually the latter.

I continued this game on Albany Road when I got to Deerfield. I would get going on my way to extra help and close my eyes, guided only by the sounds of my surroundings, the feeling of my feet against the Pocumtuck Valley terrain, and the awareness and kindness of those around me. My blind solo walks were a lot like coming to Deerfield in the first place. I had no idea what to expect, and I remember thinking everyone would be perfect and probably have some kind of superpowers. I was scared and in the dark, understandably, but I soon learned to trust my instincts–to keep walking in the dark–and to trust those around me–to pray that someone would yell “car!”

Over the past few months, our grade has pulled together over our own ingenuity. This year, we successfully stripped the security Polaris of its wheels and sent them on a scavenger hunt, we used a rainy day in May and made a slip ‘n’ slide behind the hockey rink, and we perfected the pronunciation of the word ‘anonymity’, as well as the art of the slow clap. We were dealt an unusual year with the reconstruction of the Memorial Building, an odd class day schedule, and a no-AP trial run, and we responded with unusual spontaneity. The excerpt from the picture in the lobby of the Main School Building reads: “We have preserved those fundamental, high traditions of character and scholarship on which our school was founded and none of the vital things which have given a feeling of permanence and security have been lost or changed. We still study and work, play and sing, and pause to look up to the hills.”

To the underclassmen with days of glory ahead: remember to give yourselves time to talk after meals, to pass around after practice, and to think after classes. Don’t waste time in regret, and don’t be afraid to call an audible.

To my fellow classmates of the Class of 2014: Our Deerfield experience is the sum of all the small steps we’ve taken together, from the moment we stepped on campus until now. We made it, and we looked damn good doing it. Don’t be afraid of the dark. Trust your instincts in the coming years, and know that you have a family of brothers and sisters to fall back on if needed. Our confidence will lead us on.

Thank you.