From The Ridge - The McCallie Blog

A Battlefield and Farm, A Home and a Ridge

Posted by Jim Tanner on August 18, 2016


McCallie School opened the 2016-17 school year with the annual Convocation ceremony, this year held on the Spencer J. McCallie III Quadrangle. 
Headmaster Lee Burns '87 welcomed the students and faculty back to the Ridge with the following remarks. For the 112th time, boys, faculty and staff assemble to begin a school year at the McCallie School. I extend a warm welcome to each of you, and especially to the many of you who are new this year to our family.


We gather on the site of a Civil War battlefield which, about 20 years later in 1882, became a farm and home for a pastor and his family before they gave it to the noble idea of two of their sons for a school for boys in 1905. We are situated on the side of a steep ridge steeped in history.

Our history and our geography are both symbolic and instructive in defining who we are and how we should think about this year in front of us.

Battlefields are places of sacrifice and valor. Boys and young men, many of them not much older than you, fought for ideals and values in striving to shape the course of their country in the 1860’s. They displayed courage in the midst of challenge and fear. They were resilient amidst struggles and setbacks.

Farms are places of growth and sustenance. Ellen and the Reverend Thomas Hooke McCallie, with their 16 children, lived off their land. They planted and worked the fields of this place. They tended carefully to their livestock. The fruits of the family farm nourished them...and others.

When the McCallie family moved from the city to their new farm, they built a two story home. As the family grew, they later built a three story Victorian home near Founders Dorm behind you. In these homes, they laughed and loved, read and wrote, prayed and played.

Ridges are places of both sweat and sweeping vistas. Steep terrains are not easy to navigate. Legs and lungs can grow weary and tight with the ups and downs. Going from one spot to another on a ridge requires a commitment. Yet when one reaches the top of a ridge, he or she is treated to a spectacular view: in our case, a panorama of mountains and a city, stars and sunsets.

A battlefield. A farm. A home. A ridge.

McCallie is a school that asks you to devote yourselves, sacrificially, to noble ideals and values which can guide you. These values begin with glorifying and enjoying God. They include the ideals of Honor, Truth and Duty. They call us to treat each other, including and especially those with different backgrounds and beliefs, with respect, dignity and compassion. These ideals guide and animate us. They rally and unite us, like battle cries. They inspire us. Our values, though, are countercultural in today’s world and not easy to live out. They are under attack. You will encounter struggles and setbacks. You will need to display courage, commit to the uncommon, and stand up and stand strong.

McCallie, though, is a place of nourishment and sustenance. Your teachers, coaches and advisors are here to encourage and support you. They are wise and trusted guides and mentors. They, like farmers, tend carefully to your growth and to creating and cultivating an environment designed to help you flourish, even through moments and seasons of struggle, through droughts and storms as well as the warm and sunny days.

McCallie is a home, and we are a family. Homes and families are built on relationships...on knowing and caring for one another...on seeing and meeting the needs of others...on extending helping hands of friendship and warm welcome. Homes and families are safe places for taking chances and for being vulnerable. They are built on trust. They are fortified by bonds of brotherhood. We are a band of brothers.

McCallie is a journey. The path is upward and sometimes steep. Nothing meaningful in life comes easily or without effort. You will be asked to work hard and to sweat, not just physically, but mentally as well. Stay on the path, though, for it leads, atop the ridge, to a beautiful vista: a vision of purpose, where you get a sense of who you are and what God may have in store for you, where you love and serve others, where you make a positive difference in this world.

A battlefield. A farm. A home. A ridge.

Ideals. Sustenance. Brotherhood. A Journey.

I hope and pray that your journey this year is an exciting one. May the Lord bless each of you and our school. In the Old Testament, God declares to Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you...plans to give you hope and a future.” May we take comfort in that commitment.

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Topics: Posts from the Ridge

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