The single guiding principle for Woodberry Forest School should be wide-ranging and thoughtful answers to a meta question: What do boys need for their future? Of course, boys today need much of what we’ve always needed: discipline, rigor, high standards,
decency, respect, and an overriding commitment to character and integrity above all.
And yet we know that the world has changed rapidly and irreversibly since the turn of the
century with the consolidation of the Information Age and ubiquity of technology in every
area of life. Simply put, boys need the timeless values and the structure of the Woodberry
community to stay grounded in the midst of accelerating change; at the very same time,
however, they need to hone skills like curiosity and adaptability if they’re to make the most
of the opportunities that lie ahead.
Every boy who thrives at Woodberry has learned to adapt to the challenges of living on his
own: he gets himself up in the morning and makes it to class on time; he takes responsibility
for completing his work and fulfilling the expectations of his teachers and coaches; and
he learns to live with a roommate and hallmates who may be very different than he is.
This elemental form of adaptability is basic, yet it shouldn’t be overlooked. Thousands of
Woodberry boys have graduated with confidence that they can achieve on their own when
they make their way to college and beyond.
Athletics and the arts often emphasize the importance of adaptability.
Winning teams make halftime adjustments in response to what they hadn’t
anticipated. The boys on the winter climbing team model curiosity at the
highest level. They’re problem solvers who fall from a climb, stand back,
reassess, and then change their strategy to make it higher on the next
attempt. The boys in this year’s winter musical embraced adaptability. In
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical murder mystery based on Charles
Dickens’s last novel, the ending changed each night, depending on the vote
of the audience.
We’re becoming more adaptive in our academic curriculum as well.
Engineering, an elective for sixth formers, is applied math and science that
demands novel strategies for problem solving as boys create Halloween
costumes for faculty children and build cardboard boats for a spring regatta
in the Ruffin Natatorium. This is the third year that we’ve offered senior
distinction projects for sixth formers. In their final marking period at the
school, boys take on their own big projects like building a go-kart, constructing
a ukulele from scratch, or producing short movies on a common theme.
Finally, I’d like to salute the faculty who model adaptability, curiosity, and
lifelong learning for the boys. When we offer a new course in response to changing times, it
makes a difference. When we coach a boy to see a problem through a different angle, we help
him develop the cognitive musculature to take a risk he might not have taken. And when a
boy is consumed with an audacious dream and we look for a solution, we change a life forever.
I’m thinking of Efose Oriaifo ’ 17, a young man who is legally blind and wanted to join the
mountain biking team before he graduated. His coach, Nolan LaVoie, got special permission
from league authorities and then bought a tandem bike that they rode together, with Coach
LaVoie calling out upcoming twists and turns. Like any thriving
species, the Woodberry culture must evolve or be passed by. We
know, and we celebrate, the myriad ways we stay rooted to tradition
that generates meaning and, at the same time, we live into a future
that demands adaptability both for the school and the boys.
Byron C. Hulsey ’86
FROM THE HEADMASTER
Simply put, boys
need the timeless
values and the
community to stay
grounded in the
midst of accelerating
change; at the very
same time, however,
they need to hone
skills like curiosity