Welcome Home: Jenn Devine's Shipley Journey

From student to alumna to colleague and parent, Jenn Devine '98 has gotten to know Shipley from the inside out. At this year's Thanksgiving All School Assembly, she reflected on her Shipley journey, what the school community gave her, and how she's giving back.

When I was a child, I thought, no, I counted on, every problem having only one solution. I whizzed through elementary school and junior high, each year confirming that I did, in fact, have all the right answers. And then I arrived at Shipley for my freshman year of high school. I quickly learned that my teachers were not going to just feed me the right answers to formulaic problems. It frustrated me at the time, but I realize now how much better it was that Shipley taught me how to think, not what to think.

After Shipley, I attended Cornell University. Imagine my shock my first day on campus when the Cornell chimes began their tune. Who knew that both of my beloved alma maters shared the melody to their school song?! It must have been fate. Cornell was an indescribably glorious, transformational experience for me, and it was Shipley that prepared me for it. I don’t think I ever contacted Shipley during my college years to express my gratitude. I wish I had.

After college, I still didn’t become the alumna Shipley deserved. I was grateful to Shipley, but still too caught up in my grown-up life to understand that Shipley needed my support just as much as I had needed Shipley’s. And yet Shipley was always there, in my mind and in my heart. When I decided that I wanted a career change that involved working in education, it never occurred to me to look anywhere other than Shipley. My first day of work here was a little over five years ago, and when I sat down at my desk there was a letter from Dr. Piltch that ended with the words “Welcome Home.” Dr. Piltch, Steve, if I haven’t told you before just how much that meant to me, please know now that it meant everything.

I have two children. My dreams for them, like the dreams most parents have for their kids, is that they have opportunities that I never did. I did not have the opportunity to attend Shipley in Lower or Middle School, but when it was time for me to consider elementary schools for my own children, Shipley was at the top of my list. Samantha, Sammy, is in 2nd Grade and Daniel is in Kindergarten. I am grateful every single day that they are at Shipley, and it is my fervent wish that my children will be Lifers here.

If you’re wondering why I am sharing these snippets of my rather long Shipley story with you, first I have to ask you a question. Have you read The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein? Shipley is my Giving Tree. And yours. Shipley will be here for all of us throughout our lives, always ready to support us and welcome us, and expecting nothing in return but our own happiness and success. And what does that have to do with what we talking about here today, you wonder? Today is about how Shipley prepares us to live lives with Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing. And what better way is there to teach than by leading by example? Being there, a constant source of support to each and every member of the Community, like The Giving Tree, requires two things: To always give whatever is asked or required without knowing if there will come a day when you have nothing left to give requires courage, and to accept that those whom you take such pride and joy in as you watch develop will one day grow and leave you requires grace.

Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing is not just a motto Shipley tells its students. It is a principle and a way of life that Shipley exemplifies every single day. So as we head into Thanksgiving, I want to say thank you. Thank you to Shipley. Thank you to Dr. Piltch. And thank you to all of you for being members of this wonderful community. Happy Thanksgiving.

About the Author

Jenn Devine

Jenn Devine serves as Shipley's Director of Alumni Programs and Giving. She is also a Shipley parent and a Class of 1998 alumna.