Photo: The 2019 inductees surrounded by attending past recipients of Tabor’s Lifetime Achievement Award or Distinguished Service Award, all members of the Circle of Excellence.
On October 5, 2019, Tabor Academy proudly celebrated inductees of the school’s inaugural Circle of Excellence, an honor established in the tradition of our past Distinguished Service and Lifetime Achievement Awards.
The event, which will recur on a biennial basis opposite Tabor’s Athletic Hall of Fame, recognizes nominated members of our community who reflect Tabor’s mission through professional, academic, artistic, and personal achievements, as well as leadership, service, and philanthropic impact. The inaugural class included Tabor’s founder, Elizabeth Taber, our fifth Headmaster, Walter Lillard, and four outstanding alumni who each have made a profound impact on the world: Bill Phelps ’74, Jacqueline Shire ’84, Jon Callaghan ’87, and Amy Richards ’88.
The induction ceremony took place at Tabor with over 90 guests in attendance including twelve past recipients of Tabor’s Distinguished Service and Lifetime Achievement Awards, students, faculty, and invited guests. Bridging important elements of Tabor’s past and present, Head of School, John Quirk, shared some context for the importance of the ceremony saying, “what would a school be, if not a place that imagines excellences; that promotes the idea of excellence; that stretches and strives for excellence, and does not yield to the voice of mediocrity that too often whispers to us? We are this and more at Tabor, as we have always been, and never more than on occasions like this, when what is ethereal and hard to see—excellence—is made real for us.”
Following Quirk’s keynote speech, Faculty Emeritus Richard Roller presented the first award to Bill Phelps ’74, a successful entrepreneur and former trustee of Tabor who has counted Roller as an important mentor. The emotion was palpable as Roller congratulated each awardee, sharing his pride for the honor they were receiving. Both Roller’s presentation and Phelps’ acceptance remarks were heartfelt as they each described the gratitude they shared for their lasting relationship.
Another special feature of the evening was having three seniors introduce and present the remaining alumni awards. Drew Kirk, someone who has enjoyed entrepreneurial projects at Tabor, introduced venture capitalist Jon Callaghan ’87; Riley Suh, having completed a video project on feminism last spring, introduced acclaimed feminist and activist Amy Richards ’88; and Tommy Hu, captain and founder of our Debate Team, introduced counter-terrorism finance expert for the UN Security Council Jacqueline Shire ’84. The chance to speak with their inductee in order to craft a public introduction, and to then sit by their sides during dinner, was viewed by the students as an amazing honor and experience. We were incredibly proud of how each student presented themselves as they bestowed their school’s highest honor.
As each honoree approached the stage to accept their award they shared important moments at Tabor that shaped who they are today. Callaghan spoke about being given the gift of belongingness and the confidence to try, even in the face of failure. Phelps admired how Tabor has transformed students over the years, sharing that he learned his work ethic from following his mentor’s lead. “Richard Roller worked harder than anyone I’d ever seen.” Amy Richards commented on the ability to fight for equality at Tabor as one of the newly enrolled girls during our reintroduction of co-education. “It wasn’t easy, but I was encouraged by teachers like David Pierce and Tinker Saltonstall who helped me feel I belonged.” Jackie Shire shared her thanks and focused on the opportunity the students are being given today, empowered to make their voices and perspectives heard and to powerfully connect in meaningful ways within the diverse community around them. She called these skills of communication and connection our nation’s true superpowers, skills that can be used to bridge divides worldwide.
The final two awards were presented posthumously to Tabor’s fifth Headmaster, Walter Lillard, by Tabor’s historian and former physics teacher, David Pierce, and to Elizabeth Taber by former faculty and trustee, Tinker Saltonstall. Mr. Quirk accepted and remarked, “Mrs. Taber’s foresight for the school and for this town is remarkable to consider, and more remarkable still when we see what it has grown into.” Quirk credited Lillard’s revolutionary vision and service, noting that Lillard built the school from a small town Academy into a nationally recognized preparatory school, and had the vision to move Tabor to the shores of Sippican Harbor. Quirk said, “If Mrs. Taber allowed us to be, it is Captain Lillard who allowed us to be the way we are.”
All in all, Tabor’s inaugural Circle of Excellence was a wonderful celebration of our talented alumni, our students, and our traditions. Mr. Quirk summed it up nicely speaking about the full complement of past and current inductees, “These are political and social leaders, philanthropists, patriots and public servants, entrepreneurs, educators, visionaries, workers and doers, accomplishers and makers of more than was there before they showed up. They are of this school and exemplars to it and to all of us. These are people who have demonstrated in one way or another the habit, the gift, of improving and making more relevant the quality of the things they have to offer. What a collection of talent; what a remarkable portrayal of our school – the history, the sense of excellence, the remarks about the meaning of this school, and the fun and camaraderie of friends reunited.”
It was inspiring indeed to hear the imprint our school has had on so many who have gone on to do such impactful work for our country and our world, as well as to hear our current students recount how Tabor is guiding them in similar ways today toward transformational growth and leadership.
Please enjoy this video recording of the presentations to and acceptance speeches from our 2019 Circle of Excellence honorees and a slide show of photos from the evening.