“There are some things that could only happen in a Lower School,” writes a man who should know — Leith Herrmann. Here, the Gilman’s beloved Head of Lower School reflects on a carefully planned and perfectly executed birthday surprise, all for him.
“The event began with a first grader knocking on the door to the conference room where I was in an admission meeting. He said that Mr. Holt needed me, so I left the room to find Andrew Holt with a guitar and his first grade reading class gathered around him in the Lower School lobby. I noticed a large paper heart on the floor, where they asked me to stand. They began singing a Tom Chapin birthday song, and my first two thoughts were, “What a nice thing to do!” and “Cool song — I have never heard it before!”
I fully expected that they would sing a verse or two, and that would be that, so I was totally surprised to see out of a corner of my eye another teacher’s class arrive and join the song. Before I knew it, kids and teachers were coming from everywhere, all singing together and smiling, with a video camera recording it all. I was too amazed for words! I felt like the luckiest guy alive. I must admit, I got particularly choked up when I saw my wife as well as a group of Middle Schoolers who had been students in my math class in recent years.
I had never even witnessed a flash mob before, much less been the focal point of one. Being the center of attention has always made me feel awkward, but I learned many years ago that when you lead a school, spotlights come with the territory, so you better learn to enjoy them. With the flash mob all around me, I truly did!
My favorite moment of all came right after the song ended. A first grader gave me a big hug, then said, “My class is making birthday cards to surprise you with later!”
I will be forever grateful to all of these people for a heart-warming memory that I will never forget.”
R. Leith Herrmann ’64
Head of the Lower School