Jim Malone Gives Address at Opening Convocation

Sunday, September 5, 2021
Jim Malone speaking at Opening Convocation

Longtime faculty member Jim Malone P ’01, ’03 was the featured speaker at Mercersburg Academy’s 2021–2022 Opening Convocation September 5. The event marked the official start of the Academy’s 129th academic year, and was held in the Hale Field House. Fall term classes begin Monday, September 6.

Watch a replay of the event; as a COVID-19 precaution, in-person attendance this year was limited to students, faculty, and staff.

Read the transcript of Malone's speech.

Mercersburg’s 2021–2022 student body is composed of 446 students, including residents of 29 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 36 countries. The Class of 2022 (the senior class) numbers 140, with 123 upper middlers (11th graders), 100 lower middlers (10th graders), and 83 juniors (9th graders).

“What do I wish for all of you as students?” Malone asked the assembled student body. “My main wish is that all of you find some intellectual topic that fascinates you so much that you want to study it and learn about it the rest of your lives. For me, those areas have been evolutionary biology and modern physics.

“Some of you will develop those interests while you are here, but that’s not necessary for you to have a rich and intellectual life. You may find your passion in college or afterward, but it is my sincere hope that all of you get to experience the intellectual pleasure, the intellectual buzz, that comes from deeply engaging with a truly interesting and sophisticated idea.”

Malone is entering his 42nd year as a member of the science and mathematics faculty. He arrived at Mercersburg in 1979; aside from one year spent at a school in Colorado in the mid-1980s, Malone has been a fixture on campus ever since. He was initially hired to teach mathematics and has also taught courses in astronomy, biology, and physics—including extremely popular independent-study courses in automotive physics and hawk and owl biology.
Malone has coached football and basketball, worked with the TREK program (the predecessor to Mercersburg Outdoor Education, or MOE), serves as the faculty adviser to the Black Student Union, and has helped organize community-service efforts for students and faculty, including a longstanding relationship where the school provides food to a homeless shelter in nearby Chambersburg on a weekly basis during the year. He has held the school’s John L. and Cora I. Grove Chair since 1997. Malone grew up in the Philadelphia area and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Jim and his wife, faculty emeritus Sue Malone, met on a blind date arranged by a then-Mercersburg student in 1981 and got married the next year. (Sue retired from the faculty at the close of the 2019–2020 academic year.) The Malones are the parents of Molly ’01 and Jessica ’03.

Read a story about Jim Malone from the winter 2020 issue of Mercersburg Academy magazine

Flagbearers Monique Garcia ’22, Peter Rice ’23,
Kevin Hang ’24, and Louisa Gunkelman ’25

This year’s Opening Convocation was the first to be held in person since fall 2019. To better accommodate the school community during the pandemic, the event moved temporarily from its traditional location in the Irvine Memorial Chapel to the Hale Field House (part of the Goldthorpe Athletic Complex).

Others participating in the ceremony included Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25; Student Council President Avo Reid ’22 and fellow member of the senior class Khoa Nguyen ’22; School Minister Rev. Will Whitmore; School Organist and Carillonneur James Brinson; and the Mercersburg Chorale and Brass Ensemble, under the direction of Bryan Morgan ’07. Class Presidents Monique Garcia ’22, Peter Rice ’23, and Kevin Hang ’24 (along with Louisa Gunkelman ’25, representing the school’s incoming Class of 2025) carried banners into the field house representing each class.

The ceremony also featured the announcement of this year's recipients of the Robert H. Michelet ’30 Prize (Eric Liu ’22 of Hagerstown, MD) and the John H. Culbertson ’24 Prize (Erika Tso Sowah ’24 of Princeton, NJ).

The Michelet Prize is given to the student who, during the upper-middler (11th-grade) year, most distinguishes himself or herself in scholarship, character, and school spirit. The award is supported by an endowment established by Simon Michelet in memory of his son, Robert ’30, whose career at the Academy and at Dartmouth College was almost ideal in its quality and influence. The yield on the endowment is presented each year to the recipient on the assumption that it will be for use during the senior year.

Liu is a dormitory prefect and has competed for the boys’ varsity tennis and cross country teams, as well as the junior-varsity squash team. He has played in the Concert Band and Jazz Band and received a number of year-end academic awards, including the Rollin P. Gilbert Chemistry Prize. Liu has served as a Language and Media Center fellow and a student Math and Science Center assistant.

The Culbertson Prize is supported by the F.M. Kirby Foundation of Morristown, NJ, which established an endowed program of scholarships to honor the late John H. Culbertson ’24. It recognizes a student entering the 10th grade who gives evidence of exceptional promise and who has already demonstrated outstanding accomplishment.

Sowah serves as a tour guide for the Admission Office and as a Lenfest Proctor in the school's library. She is a member of the girls’ cross country and outdoor track & field teams. 

For more information on this story, please contact Lee Owen (owenl@mercersburg.edu) in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications.