Finding Courage to Pursue the Goode
by Paul Burke, Head of Upper School
A few weeks ago, as part of Nightingale’s Reunion weekend, we honored the life of Audrey Goode, a graduate of the class of 1939. A faculty member at Nightingale as well, Miss Goode’s time at Nightingale spanned more than half a century. Though I never met her, by the end of the memorial service, I felt like I knew her well. Perhaps it was the words of the alumnae who captured her essence so well. Perhaps it was because she personified the distinguished history of a proud school that I have come to know well over the past few years. Neatly aligned with our motto, she pursued truth through deep friendship and abiding loyalty.
For Audrey Goode, community was something that you lived, not an abstract you discussed, and mentoring was at the core of self-discovery. Ms. Heller—a student, colleague, and, ultimately, a good friend of Miss Goode—closed the ceremony by looking at the Class of 2012 and imploring them to stay close to those who matter. Formative relationships, she said, such as those that are forged in your Nightingale years, can continue to teach you how to live a full life.
A few hours after the ceremony, a smaller group of alumnae gathered in a classroom to speak with Upper School students. In introducing the students, I reflected a bit on being an American history teacher, something I have been throughout most of my career. History provides access to people who do not happen to inhabit the same time and space as you. That morning the students were given a chance to know Audrey Goode by being present at her service, and now it was their turn to show how the history of Nightingale exists within them. Living one’s history is not merely about avoiding the mistakes of the past, it is about fulfilling the promise of time-honored ideals.
Audrey Goode graduated 19 years into our school’s existence, and she benefited from a comprehensive education that developed the qualities of heart and mind. This year’s seniors have benefited from an education equally focused on developing hearts and minds, even if the practices and pedagogy are different. That is part of the strength of Nightingale, that alumnae from the Class of 1939 and the Class of 2012 can share the same core.
One of my heroes in education is Francis Oakley, history professor and former president of Williams College. In his Community of Learning: the American College and the Liberal Arts Tradition, he says “I do not believe that the way into the future can lie via a retreat into the past, whether it is a past rightly or wrongly conceived. It will lie rather, via a tenacious (and courageous) following of the course for which we have long set our compass.”
Everyone who has come through Nightingale has given direction to our compass: Audrey Goode, this year’s seniors, Dorothy Hutcheson, and the thousands of faculty, alumnae, and parents who have contributed to this community. As we take our next steps, we will do well to keep close those values that have guided us for 92 years.