Dear Class of 2014

A couple of weeks ago, Rev Gardner asked me to make introductory comments at the Baccalaureate Service. I was honored to have the opportunity and of course accepted. As it turns out, I cannot be there, so I have chosen instead to address all of you by way of _The Phillipian._

We have all learned a tremendous amount here at Andover. Of course, the academics have been extraordinary. In my own experience, learning from and with teachers such as Mr. Bardo, Mr. Gurry, and so many others has changed the way I think and has shaped the way I will approach college and the world. However, at least for me, Andover has been so much more than the time I’ve spent in the classrooms. Some of the most important lessons that I have learned here have come from my friends and peers, and from challenges outside of Morse or Sam Phil or Bulfinch, and these are what I would like to address.

Perhaps the most important lesson I will take away from Andover is that no matter what the challenge is, it is always best to face it head-on and with the support of others. I can’t think of better example of this than the story of our football team. Though I was far from being the star player, I was part of the family that we built those long afternoons and nights in Siberia, in Phelps Stadium, and in the locker room. Most of you remember the come-from-behind, last minute win over Exeter, a great achievement for sure, but I’m going to focus on the championship game. Brunswick had all but obliterated our championship hopes, putting us in a 28-6 hole deep in the third quarter. In most scenarios, the outcome would have been a foregone conclusion, and a win for us was nearly a statistical impossibility, but the team pulled together. Our lineman started pushing Brunswick’s defense onto its heels, our backs began to gain chunks of yards at a time, our passing game began to work, and those of us on the sideline became ignited with energy and passion. Everything came together at exactly the right time and we began to score, one touchdown with sixteen minutes to go and another a few minutes later. We fought and fought until the clock hit zero, and, almost preposterously, we won the game, 35-28. It would be foolish to think that this sort of ending might be possible every time, but that’s not the point. I’ve been told, as I’m sure each of you has, that “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”

I can’t think of a time when I felt more down and out than after my DC a couple of weeks ago, when I learned that I would not be attending the activities of Commencement Weekend alongside all of you. The weekend for which I had worked so hard had slipped right through my grasp because of a stupid error I made at the wrong time. On that sunny November day in Avon, Connecticut, when our team was down and almost out, we could have cowered, could have mourned the sad ending to an illustrious season, but we did not. We sought help from each other and collectively stood tall in the face of adversity to overcome it and win the game. In much the same fashion, I looked to my friends in our great Class of Fourteen and found that you all had my back. With your help, I have been able to get back on my feet and enjoy the final two weeks of my Andover career.

On the wall above my desk is a small, square card with big blue lettering that reads, “The best way out is always through,” a quote from Robert Frost. My mother sent it to me in the middle of freshman winter, when I was struggling to find my niche. Since then, I’ve embraced it as a motto for the way I approach challenges here at Andover, of which there are many (as we all know so well). I want to say thank you, to all of you in the Class of Fourteen, for helping me make it through each and every one of the challenges I’ve faced here and especially this most recent and painful one. It’s been an honor and a privilege to make my way through the journey of Andover alongside each of you, and though I will not accompany you in person next weekend, I will be there in spirit with you and I know you will be with me. Nothing will ever change the wonderful years we have shared together and when I look at my Andover diploma in the future, I will always do so with pride and gratitude to have shared this experience with each of you. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Henry Robert DeRuff ’14