NBSS Blog

Graduation 2021
Graduation 2021
NBSS


Finishing the requirements for graduation at North Bennet Street School takes hard work, commitment, and dedication at the best of times. The students in our 2021 graduating class completed their intensive programs during an extremely tumultuous year, staying the course through a building closure, remote learning, and extended in-person instruction—with a host of new safety protocols in place.

Not to be outdone, all of this occurred while navigating their own personal lives, preparing themselves for a future in their professional fields, and encouraging their classmates and colleagues. Simply stated, we couldn't be more proud of all that these graduates have accomplished.

Due to a staggered academic schedule this year, we held two graduation ceremonies honoring the hard work and dedication of students, both at this historic Old North Church. On June 4, we celebrated our Bookbinding, Cabinet & Furniture Making, Jewelry Making & Repair, Locksmithing & Security Technology, and Violin Making & Repair programs, and on July 30, we honored the Carpentry, Preservation Carpentry, and Basic and Advanced Piano Technology programs. To include family and friends who could not be there in person, we live streamed both events.

During the July 30 ceremony, we were honored to have Allison Iantosca, Owner/President of F.H. Perry Builder, as our graduation speaker. Watch video from the live streams of the ceremonies below, and read a full transcript of Allison's speech as well as remarks by President Sarah Turner, Board Chair Marc Margulies, and Provost Claire Fruitman.

Please join us in wishing them all the best as they advance into their careers; we look forward great things!





Graduation Speaker, Allison Iantosca, Owner/President of F.H. Perry Builder

Good morning!

Boy it means a lot to me to be here. Scratch that. It means a lot to YOU to be here. But I am enjoying this shared space—this shared moment—with you immensely.

And I have been thinking about you a lot lately! Ever since speaking with Sarah six or so weeks ago about the "morning of July 30th" you have been with me.

I found you suddenly next to me, in the middle of a field in Vermont, wondering what I could add to the work that Sarah told me about.

The 1920s garage rebuild in Quincy, the pool house/screen porch in Haverhill, the timber framing at Brookwood Farm.

I found you there with me on a quiet back road in Concord on a late afternoon return from a job site when I wondered how to help you to hold onto what you gained in the work at the Tilden House in Canton, Memorial Hall in Charlestown, Lime Week in Nantucket The Notre Dame Truss Project in Washington, D.C.

Allison Iantosca

And there you were, at the end of my driveway, it had just poured down rain and I finally got the dog out for a walk. I found myself wanting to somehow, with my words? Gift you the precious memories of learning to tune, regulate, and repair the actions of upright pianos. To work in teams to dismantle, rebuild, and repair grand pianos.

And yet time has passed as it does and we have all arrived here together this morning to honor what you just accomplished by conquering curriculum these past months, cherishing this very moment of celebration in the present and knowing this is the commencement to the next part of your future. How do we cover this time continuum all at once?! The very trial of our lifetimes; living in a world that is changing with innovative rapidity while we seek, through our studied work, to slow that down.

I stumbled across a JFK quote the other day: "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Hmmm. For me, as a small construction company business owner, change is a pretty regular part of life and, in many instances, I do love it.

I mean don't ask me to change my hairstyle—my 7th grade perm did me in—or a wall color as we just repainted the dining room in our house... the same color—or to move to a new town because I live across the street from the 250-year-old home I grew up in—some things are best left alone—but I suppose I will take free reign on change that enriches people's lives through quality, craft, and care every minute of every day.

This got me to thinking; I suppose change is something that can happen to you or is something that you can make happen which seemed quite relevant to what we are doing here together today.

Ok. Change that is happening to me: Jeff Bezos just flew to space for ten minutes. Bitcoin renders an actual coin a perfunctory nuisance. Lawyers are gobbling up opportunities to take a grab at the promised jackpot in regulating Artificial Intelligence. Though these things are wildly, almost, miraculous to a girl from rural New England, they each stretch beyond my level of comfort. I actually, literally don't get any of them. Maybe its stubborn defiance around what worked before felt less complicated: an airplane barreling out of Logan Airport to the West Coast is still enough excitement for me.

But perhaps this is why I live in the construction world. What we do, as craftspeople, is operate with such a beautiful sense of tradition. We are stewards of legacy and integrity. It's not that we don't evolve or set aside an inventive mindset, but rather, that change for us is finding agency and application in our ability to literally re-create and refine what once was—to restore, recycle, reinforce. In fact, we are relied upon for this, we are unique, we do slow down the meaning of change in a society that regularly accepts temporary or throw-away or fantastic to ask if it is, in fact, better.

We are stewards of legacy and integrity. It's not that we don't evolve or set aside an inventive mindset, but rather, that change for us is finding agency and application in our ability to literally re-create and refine what once was—to restore, recycle, reinforce.

In some ways, this is a promise we make to each other isn't it? Doing the right thing along the way and building trust—not a pre-packaged trust but the kind that is the result of honoring, respecting, and believing in pace, building well and the skill and talent of another human's hands. We measure it by studying an extraordinary detail, deferring to the richness of a skilled opinion, the number of times laughter echoes off the walls, the sound of a skill saw slicing a 2x4, a piano key perfectly thrumming its string.

We mustn't, then, ever succumb. We are critical to the balance of human capability. We set a course for the totality of human talent when, in a single person, we make use of brain and body, hands and heart. This is the change that we can affect.

And yet here we are. At a life moment that is betwixt and between our choice for change. A decision to be made about how to pull into the future from here.

Graduation. A manic sense of gearing up... this odd sense of finishing and starting all at the same time? One's body can get confused resisting the sudden burst of activity and renewed focus on career, networking, next steps, new paths, recreating identity otherwise put on hold for the previous months of slowing down for a deep dive into learning, honing, and building of skill. The move towards closure and celebration lulls us into a languishing, like the desire for a few more safe minutes under the soft bed covers on a crisp fall morning. These are the times of change I always forget, even in the midst of more interactions and more things to do, more change, about connection and meaning. And I wonder if this is true for you too?

July 30, 2021, The North End of Boston, Massachusetts. The late morning transition of the neighborhood having seen off its Financial District workforce hours ago and now slowly waking the restaurant staff that will carry the festivity late into the evening. Lunch preparations tempt the senses as today's spices and secret sauces co-mingle with those left over from last night and the night before and the night before that. In either case, there is a constancy to the thrum of traffic between here and Quincy Market, the sound of a security gate being thrown open as a shopkeeper opens for business, the alley-like streets that protect this part of the City from overdevelopment.

A string of friends and relatives, faculty and staff, Board members, fellow graduates began down the sidewalk an hour ago, moving into the growing gathering of people and this party had suddenly begun.

It is enthralling; this moment, this in-between the past and the future. A space in the abstract of time that JFK might not have thought about. Dress up clothes to honor yourself and ceremony, shoe tips tripping on cobblestone cracks, wafts of perfumes mixed with the musty scent of history. It is the safest place to be and time stops for a moment because everywhere you turn is someone you have loved and or who has loved you. Someone who gave you a craft or a trade making it possible to be fearless. A person who got you here to see that traditional trades and meaningful work will forever matter to the world. Likeminded people who study the totality of the process of creating; the before and the after, the meaning making.

You create places and spaces of meaning to share and that offer some personal solace and truth. You hold modernization and technology, speed and urgency, safely at bay and allow some magic to creep in. You are a part of something to which you so fully belong and we so fully need.

This is a time of connection. A time of simply being together as wholly as possible, with all of our might as if it may never... ever... happen again.

In fact, this pervasive unspoken thought may be a unifying factor that allows each of us to love fully and decidedly just for this moment. Before we will be asked to leave this church, to go outside there and "make something of our future."

But as that is happening, may the spirit of this event stay with you. May you take in a big gulp of joy to remind you of what you were actually a part of in becoming a graduate of this extraordinarily magical school: You create places and spaces of meaning to share and that offer some personal solace and truth. You create structures and tune instruments that will somehow allow more connection to the world, not less. You capture time, literally in your hands, as you shape and mold, tune, regulate and repair. You hold modernization and technology, speed and urgency, safely at bay and allow some magic to creep in. You are a part of something to which you so fully belong and we so fully need.

I love what is evidenced in the power of this human gathering where fear, judgement, time pressures, and world worries are asked to wait in the car. We know they are there for us, panting in the front seat wondering when we're going to get back to them. And we know change is the law of life but you are now more grounded than ever to face that gnarly, fast paced future because of your talent and precision, trade and skill...

And as you continue into that future, as you look toward building spaces, skillfully holding music in your hands, and creating for your clients long lasting gulps of joy, I encourage all of you to pause and look back at the glow of this moment knowing that your past and this present are actually the only things that will matter to holding onto the humanness and integrity of our future.



Remarks by Sarah Turner, NBSS President

Hello and welcome—I am so so glad to be here, with you, in person today. We are here to celebrate the graduates in our Bookbinding, Cabinet & Furniture Making, Jewelry Making & Repair, Locksmithing & Security Technology, and Violin Making & Repair programs.

And thanks to the technologies that we've all come to know better than we ever imagined, we're able to reach out—through the ether—to your families, friends, and loved ones so that they can share in our recognition of you and your good work. Welcome, family and friends! Thank you for all the support you gave our students this year.

After a year with so much distance, so much that was virtual or somewhat removed, it is inspiring to know that all of you will take your hands-on, in-person, up-close training into the world with you, and offer your abilities to communities that have changed, but still need your talents, your tenacity, and your optimism.

And I use the word optimism, but I could also use courage or care. Because you brought these things with you as you came to School each and every day, through a global pandemic, keeping your focus, keeping your goals trained on your future. That wasn't an easy thing to do. Most of you started with us in simpler times: before the shut-down, before we re-oriented our daily lives, before we struggled to find certainty and clarity. Thank you for your commitment, for your trust in us—especially last spring, for your every-day effort to keep working and keep making progress. As we navigated through uncertain and scary times, you gave us the focus we needed to keep problem-solving, keep adapting, keep moving ahead—just as you were doing each day.

And for those of you in our shorter programs, those of you who showed up ready to start last fall and give yourself a new chapter and a new set of skills—hats off to you! I can't tell you how inspiring it was to all of us to see that in the middle of a strange time, there were those—like you—who saw opportunity, a chance for growth and change and came to School. Wonderful!

After a year with so much distance, so much that was virtual or somewhat removed, it is inspiring to know that all of you will take your hands-on, in-person, up-close training into the world with you, and offer your abilities to communities that have changed, but still need your talents, your tenacity, and your optimism.

To recognize all that it took to be here together—and you do have a full community around you—I thank the Boards of Directors and Advisors for helping us guide North Bennet through the last 15 months. Thank you for your faith in our decisions and for having the wisdom to protect what is most precious to this place: the people who work here, be that our students, our faculty, or our staff. Thank you for our healthy building, our well-ventilated shops, and our spacious program areas. It has been a safe harbor in a strange time.

Thank you to the staff—who work every day to provide some constant in that change, supporting the students and the faculty in all that they do. And to the faculty: thank you—for all the ways you bring your vision, your expertise, and your work-ethic to your students. Through you, we are able to give this new group of graduates the skills, abilities, and confidence to take their programs, their fields, their piece of this School forward and into all of our communities.

This is the team working to support you, but you, graduates, are the ones who took the leap, the ones who made the daily effort to slowly, but surely, learn new skills, to give yourselves new understandings and new opportunities. As I've said, that takes courage and perseverance and pushing forward even when it's not easy or clear.

And as shared with your colleagues when they graduated last October, you have been such an inspiration to us, you have been what propelled so much of our work forward.

I'm remembering a year ago—when we were wondering how long this would last, what lay ahead. Not only were none of us prepared for the shift that came—how to Zoom, how to navigate all of the technology that we've learned since then. But suddenly, people who are dedicated to the analog, the by-hand, the in-person had these modes reduced and we had to adapt. We did. You did. Your faculty did. And we did this because of our commitment to your studies, your programs.

I remember being so thankful then—even if we didn't recognize it—to have your progress as our focus. How we would help you make progress and find our ways forward to... today! To Graduation, to program completion, and accomplishment.

You did this. At first, you showed up on Zoom, you watched videos and read materials and stood by each other. Then, you made your way back to the shops and with all of us, navigated changes in the rest of your life: changes to family, to working life, to your locale in order to take up these studies.

And here we are. A time that seemed in the distance when you started has arrived. Congratulations on your hard work, your commitment to your projects, your programs—to yourselves and your futures. We can't wait to know you as alumni and to experience, through you, all that North Bennet can be in the world. Thank you.



Remarks by Marc Margulies, Chair, Board of Directors

I have a confession to make: I have no bookbinding expertise; I am not a good cabinet or furniture maker; I am utterly incompetent at locksmithing; I cannot make a violin.

But here's the thing: very few people have these skills, but YOU DO!

All of us who don't know how to do these things are in awe of those of you who have worked so hard to develop your expertise. You not only create and fix wonderful objects, but you do so with a patience, precision, and sense of purpose that is rare and truly admirable.

One of the things that I love most about North Bennet Street School is that it encourages its students, all of you graduates here today, to go into the world holding high the torch for a tradition of beautiful, useful, and meaningful handmade creations. What serves the human condition with more purpose than knowledge, beauty, safety, and music?

What serves the human condition with more purpose than knowledge, beauty, safety, and music?

While each of you graduates now has the skill and experience to successfully move forward with your chosen craft, I have no doubt that you also understand the additional "purpose" that has been conferred upon you as you receive your diploma. You now share the responsibility to help preserve a broad, but endangered, appreciation for the magical wonder of objects created by those who work with their hands. Clearly our society loves television, cell phones, cool new apps, fast computers, and mass-produced packaged foods. That's life in the twenty-first century, no doubt. But those things should also serve to remind us of how important (and hard) it is for people not to lose perspective of the intrinsic value of individual objects painstakingly fashioned with affection for the materials, the tools, the art, the process. If we, as a society, lose these skills, we will simply be the poorer for it, and we will not be able to regain those skills once lost.

So, does it matter if they're gone? Yes, it does. Losing the intimate relationship between humans and nature in favor of software or immediate mechanical gratification separates us from an appreciation for the planet that we live on. Losing those skills means that children will learn in fewer ways to discover their own talents, skills, and passions. Losing those skills means that our homes, our art, our music will be less diverse, more homogenous, less personal. We must, all of us, do all we can to be advocates, wherever we can, for the marvelous craftsmanship that all of you graduates have witnessed blossoming in yourselves and your colleagues at NBSS.

On behalf of all the members of the Board of Directors, we congratulate you on your accomplishments, and wish you great success in your chosen career as craftspeople—and as spokespeople for the "purpose" of craftsmanship.



Closing Remarks by Claire Fruitman CF '96, Provost

From longstanding remarks given by former NBSS Associate Director, Walter McDonald.

We may be almost finished here, but it's far from over.

There's a lot more to do. There will be mistakes from which you will learn. There will be customers you hope never to see again. New methods, equipment, and materials will change the way you work. You will get better and faster.

If you don't get it right, you have a chance to do it better the next time.

There will be wonderful customers for whom you will do work over your entire career, and they will recommend you to their friends, and they will become your friends because of your work.

There will be a time when you finish a job, look at it and realize that a short time ago you could not have done it, and you would not have even known where to start. And you will realize how far you've come.

So in closing: May your tools stay sharp. May your work be scheduled a year in advance. May your customers always be satisfied, pay in a timely manner, and without argument.

You have skills and knowledge that few people share. You can use these skills to make life better for others. You can be justifiably proud of jobs well-done.

Now we're finished here. It's time for you to go out there and do great work.


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