Mufson Gives Convocation Address at Start of 128th Year
Mercersburg Academy’s Opening Convocation was held virtually Sunday, September 13, one day before the start of the school’s 128th academic year Monday, September 14. The video premiered on the school’s YouTube and Facebook channels. Click here to watch a replay.
Boarding students are in the middle of a scheduled quarantine in their rooms during their first week on campus, which prompted the move to a virtual Convocation as well as to virtual classes for the first week of the fall term.
Laurie Mufson, director of theatre and of the Burgin Center for the Arts, who is entering her 23rd year of service to Mercersburg and is retiring at the close of the 2020-2021 school year, was the featured speaker.
“How odd it is to be speaking to you from an empty Chapel, yet still eager to see what this unique year holds in store for us: to see how we craft it, to witness how each of us applies our unique creative spirits, to navigate this challenge,” Mufson said. “I believe that when faced with struggle, if we use our innate gifts, the artists within us will guide us to persevere.”
Since she arrived on campus in 1998, Mufson has served as arts department chair and director of the Burgin Center for the Arts. She was appointed director of the arts in 2019. Prior to Mercersburg, Mufson created the academic theatre programs at the Bullis School and Garrison Forest School, and was an adjunct professor at American University.
Her professional acting career has included stage, television, and film work. She received the Best Director's Award for the Source Theatre’s Washington Theatre Festival in 1996 and received a special citation from the Maryland House of Delegates for her work as artistic director for the Potomac Theatre Company. Mufson is a certified Lessac kinesensic voice and body trainer and a past president of the Lessac Training and Research Institute. She is an active member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and Association for Theatre in Higher Education, where she presents regularly at yearly conferences. Mufson is also the inaugural holder of Mercersburg’s Palmer Chair in the Fine Arts.
She and her husband, faculty emeritus Jim Applebaum, previously served as dormitory deans in Fowle Hall on campus. Mufson holds a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College and a master of fine arts in theatre from George Washington University.
“I think we are all born with different levels of ability to persevere in times of challenge,” Mufson said in her address. “But I also believe that our life experience can change that strength... Certainly there are things that are beyond our control—like being in the middle of a pandemic. But how we choose to respond—that we do have a choice in.”
Along with Mufson, other participants in the service included Head of School Katherine M. Titus P ’20, ’23; School Minister Rev. Will Whitmore; John David Bennett P ’12, ’19, ’24, dean of curricular innovation and director of Springboard; Student Council President Rose Potter ’21, of Middleburg, VA; a number of students representing the 37 nations of the student body; and School Carillonneur James Brinson.
During the service, Titus announced this year's recipient of the Robert H. Michelet ’30 Prize: Dylan Gantt ’21 of Atlanta, GA. 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.
Gantt is a three-year member of the school’s varsity swimming and tennis teams, and serves as a dormitory prefect in Main Hall and as a Writing Center Fellow. He has been a Peer Group Leader and participated in Model United Nations.
Titus also announced the recipient of this year’s John H. Culbertson ’24 Prize: Greta Lawler ’23 of Arlington, VA. 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.
During her first year at Mercersburg, Lawler was a three-sport varsity athlete (cross country, squash, and outdoor track & field). She is a Writing Center Fellow and a weekend library assistant on campus.
Mercersburg’s 2020-2021 student body is composed of 446 students, including residents of 27 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and citizens of 37 nations. The Class of 2021 (the Academy’s senior class) numbers 133 (including 14 postgraduates), with 122 upper middlers (11th graders), 114 lower middlers (10th graders), and 77 juniors (ninth graders).