students young and old gathered Monday morning to discuss, reflect and celebrate the life of school founder George Roeper and the vision he outlined for the school 60 years ago.
"I encourage the new alumni to share your stories with the younger generation," said head of school Randall Dunn at the school assembly. "Keep us true to the founders' dream"
George died in 1992. George's wife Annemarie, 93, active and living in California, was not present at the Founder's Day ceremony but sent her regards.
"I would like to see this day as a celebration of the survival of our philosophy," her note read. "Therefore, I would like to turn it around and instead of being honored for founding the school, I would like to thank the generations of students and teachers and everybody who worked at Roeper — to thank you all for keeping alive the Roeper philosophy."
The entire Roeper student body, from both the lower and upper school met at the Community Center on the school's Bloomfield Hills campus for an assembly led by the freshman class. Students sang, acted and celebrated the man as well as his philosophy that led to the creation of the school that became Roeper in 1941.
Living the Roeper philosophy
The philosophy is made up of five key points, all discussed by Roeper students and teachers:
- Making equal rights for all people a priority
- A complete commitment to justice rather than power
- A willingness to allow the child to participate in his/her own destiny
- To prepare the generation to deal with the unknown
- To view the needs of each child independently
According to school historian Marcia Ruff, George Roeper wanted to do more than teach children.
"George wanted to shape the future, and he wanted to do it by educating children to become self-aware, ethical, creative, critical thinkers who felt a responsibility to make the world a better place — and to have fun while doing it," reads the opening of An Education of Meaning, an essay written by Ruff on George Roeper's life and work.
George and Annemarie Roeper founded the first Roeper school in 1941. In 1956 it became the school for gifted and talented children it still is today. He born in Hamburg, Germany in 1910. The school will be celebrating his life with a year-long centenary celebration throughout 2011.
A new generation of Roeperians
Roeper has a little less than 600 students, said Roeper public relations associate Carri Hammers. They are split evenly between the upper and lower schools, educating everyone from preschoolers through high school seniors. Admission to the school is based on a IQ test, academic performance, a teacher review and a campus visit.
For ninth-grader Max Berlin, coming to Roeper in sixth grade was unlike anything he had ever experienced.
"When I came here in sixth grade, I was like a little kid in a candy shop," he said. "I wanted to do everything, but I couldn't. I wouldn't have been able to sleep."
During a classroom discussion where upper school students mingled freely with second graders, students discussed the benefits of a Roeper education.
"When teachers tell you what to do, it's for you," said one upper school student. "Instead of saying, 'I'm in charge,' it's 'How can I help you?' "
All generations of Roeperians came together singing school songs, watching a performance of The Lorax by the upper school's forensics team and finally, singing happy birthday to the man who made it all possible.
Head of school honored for seven years of service
Monday was also a special day for Dunn, who will be leaving at the end of this year for a position at the Latin School of Chicago. He received a plaque from his daughters Hunter and Chase, both Roeper students.
"Today, we are honored to share that a plaque for our dad will be permanently installed on the stone that encircles the base of the Hill House grounds," Chase said.
Dunn joined Roeper as head of school in 2004. His plaque — headed by "It's all Dunn" — notes his "uncommon graced and skilled leadership" during his tenure. Phil Deely was appointed interim head of schools by trustees in March, though Hammers said Roeper trustees are in the beginning stages of a search for a permanent head of schools.