Closing of Ripley School

June 17, 1981

Principal Philip Benincasa

Eyewitness to History

Principal Philip BenincasaOn behalf of the Ripley School and the Concord Public Schools I want to thank you for gathering with us this evening, one last time, to honor this building behind me that so many of us have come to love and that is soon to close.

Many of you remember the very months of its construction in 1958 while others of you have been associated with it for only a few weeks. In any case, I suspect, we recognize that it is, for child and adult alike, a very special place.

Like the decade that spawned it, this school and the people who labored here were dedicated to new frontiers to play some role in the creation of some great society. While the grand ideas of the '60s seem to have alluded our nation, most certainly we here need not feel that our efforts have been in vain. A full generation of Concord's youth stand as testament to the fact that we have done our work, parent and teacher alike, and done it well. Far more than brick and mortar, this building has been a repository for our fondest hopes. As a community - teachers, parents, children - we have gathered under this roof and shared the common label of Ripley. And shared, as all communities must, much muchmore - joy, tears, laughter, anger, births, deaths, separations, and unions. Bound together by love for our children, we increased our stature by uncomprising commitment to what was good and proper for them. Our sense of community has lightened our burden, eased our pain, enhanced our joy and all-in-all made life that much fuller.

Our common identity carries with it as well some common sense of the Ripley character. Never was that character more in evidence than at the time debate stormed over which school was to be closed. While others thrashed and raged, raised their fists tothe heavens and predicted disaster should their school be closed, representatives of our community in what may have been our finest moment said in effect that no matter what the decision, we trusted our children to thrive in a caring place, wherever that might be. That we trusted in the basic goodness of our young people and in the skill of their teachers. The vote to close once taken, we were criticized and made light of for not behaving as though the universe were centered here. We were told we had lost as though school closings were decided on some playing field. My friends, we did not lose because we never lost sight of who we are. We refused to act out of character. And that lesson will never be lost on our young people, they will learn from such acts that commitment to principle, a sense of perspective and proportion is the very stuff from which healthy minds and healthy hearts are grounded.

If we find ourselves uprooted and bound for new environs, then like the ancient Greeks, we shall I believe captivate our captors. A popular poster today tells us to grow where we are planted. I believe we can flourish where transplanted. This we promise. We shall fill the halls of that new place with the same energy, style, commitment and sense of purpose that made the Ripley School nationally known. More than this, however, we acknowledge and promise to nuture and protect the great things already there. I have said that Ripley is a special place, bells and balloons, character and compassion, all these things and more come together to make us the uncommon school Henry Thoreau talked of.

The building itself will always be for us a place where memories come alive, where ghosts from years gone by still laugh and play and sing. Captured within and without these walls the spirit of our children as six-year olds and seven-year olds and eight-year olds remain happily forever. The young lady going off to college for the first time becomes in our mind's eye a little girl again when we visit here. The young man struggling with his newly acquired independence holds tight our hand and looks to us with trusting eyes. Once again, in memory crystal clear, we walk him to this place for his first day at school.

Voices call to us from another time and we are swept up in a desire to hold the moment, to savor it's refreshing sound. But it must pass as all things do and we again set our mind and heart on tomorrow and the challenges we find there. We mark our lives by such events and since they happen here, this school will be forever a special place, not easily closed, not easily boarded up. For it can truly be said, that rather than us having lived in this place, this places lives in us. We shall take it with us wherever we go. And if you believe as I do that what has been created here is extraordinary, that what we have become is unique, then those that are to graciously receive us will be enriched by our presence.

And so the time has come to say our last farewells, to hoist our steins in one last toast, and it falls to me to speak for the building itself. If it could speak to you, I'm sure it would say with all due respect I remain truly, truly yours.

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Text mounted 25 March 2015.-- rcwh.