On Equity and Excellence

By Bryan Garman

Sidwell Friends strives for constant enhancement and progress.

The stories in the spring issue of the magazine demonstrate that despite the arrival of Omicron, the School remains a remarkably vibrant place, where, after the manner of Friends and in the spirit of continuing revelation, we work toward institutional improvement and excellence.

For our first example, we need only listen to the Quaker Nation cheering on our top-ranked girls’ basketball team. Led by coach Tamika Dudley, the Sidwell Friends squad let its light shine brightly in the Hopkins, Minnesota, invitational, where the Quakers outplayed the third-ranked tournament hosts and the No. 2 team (Desoto, Texas) for the second time this year. We could not be more proud of these student athletes, who excel on the court and in the classroom alike, who illuminate every room they enter, and who are recognized for being wonderful ambassadors for the School. Despite their impressive accomplishments, Coach Dudley never misses an opportunity to teach humility. When the media began to refer to her team’s “Big Three” players, she posted a photo of all 18 girls on the squad, explaining that each contributed to our unprecedented success. “Call us the Big 18, or don’t call us anything at all,” she wrote. Here we see Quaker athletics at its best.

Meanwhile, the School’s robotics program continues to flourish. A generous gift recently enabled the School to outfit the basement of Senser to accommodate an ample workshop space, but as the team roster swelled to over 100 students, we relocated the equipment to the Upton Street property, where, thanks to additional philanthropic investment, the team continues to thrive. Darby Thompson, Upper School director of Computer Science and Technology, has built a truly remarkable program, one that will occupy a dynamic new lab when we complete the Upper School renovation.

Few alumni have visited the School during the pandemic, so it was a special treat to find Jon Bernthal ’95 recently roaming the halls of Zartman House. Jon has co-starred alongside the likes of Robert DeNiro and Brad Pitt, burnishing a tough-guy image that simultaneously embraces and interrogates our understanding of masculinity. During his visit, Jon shared experiences, insights, and memories with his friend and the School’s director of Equity, Justice, and Community (EJC), Natalie Randolph ’98. Elsewhere Jon has discussed what he describes as a complicated relationship with the School, especially with regard to matters of equity. It was rewarding to welcome Jon back to campus so he could witness ongoing EJC work. We celebrate his success and his commitment to speaking and acting his truth with authenticity.

Flip through a few more pages and you will read about Marcus Shaw ’95, one of Jon and Natalie’s contemporaries, whose mission is to place graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) into a financial industry that lacks adequate racial and gender representation. A profound strategic thinker, Marcus has generously offered advice on how we might deepen our partnership with Howard University, helping us engage Sid- well Friends alumni in this effort. I am grateful for Marcus’s inspiring and important commitment, which is especially important at this moment. As I write this letter, many HBCUs, including our partners at Howard, have received threats of violence that underscore the persistent and pernicious racism in our country. Please join me in renouncing these cowardly acts and standing in solidarity with these remarkable institutions.

As we stand, I thank our trustee and Howard University President Wayne Frederick (P ’24) and his wife, Simone, who joined DeDe and Dallas Lea in co-clerking our efforts to endow the Sidwell Friends Faculty Chair in African and African American Studies. Thanks to their leadership, our community raised more than $1.2 million to fund this position, which is designed to help eradicate the ignorance, moral failure, and political shortcomings that recent threats, ongoing violence, and efforts to curb voting rights represent. We celebrated Black History Month by launching a search to fill this historic endowed chair, guaranteeing that in perpetuity the School and future generations of students will benefit from the wisdom of an expert who will teach in these disciplines and assist with curriculum development and programming across the divi- sions. The chair is not an end but a beginning, one that will help us continue to focus on strengthening our commitment both to equity and academic excellence, inseparable qualities at a Friends school.

So, as these pages indicate, the mission of Sidwell Friends remains alive and well. Thank you for your interest in it and your support for deepening it.

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Sidwell Friends Alumni Magazine is published three times a year for the community. It features School news, stories, profiles, and alumni Class Notes.

Email magazine@sidwell.edu with story ideas or letters to the editor.