Kirk Wheale, chair of the Tilton School’s Board of Trustees, presents Peter Saliba (right) with the traditional gavel and logo press during his installment as the 26th Head of School last Friday. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 17, 2012TILTON — A lone bagpiper outside Tilton School's Fred Andrew Smart Chapel heralded the installation of Peter C. Saliba as the 26th Head of School last Friday, as trustees, faculty and students made their way across campus to gather with alumni and members of the community for the time-honored tradition.
"This is a pretty darn exciting time," said Kirk Wheale, chairman of the Board of Trustees, as he greeted the crowd.
Wheale said an earlier welcome for Saliba, his wife Rachel, and their children was held on campus when the new academic year began, but the installation ceremony was different, a chance for a real celebration in the history of the 167-year-old school.
Saliba was hired last spring to replace retiring Head of School, Jim Clements, and Wheale said the search for Clements' successor was both "collaborative and intensive."
"Our prime objective was to find the right person. That was critically important to us, and I can honestly tell you that we got it right," Wheale said.
R. Phillip Peck, the head of Holderness School, also spoke about the three reasons he felt there a special alignment between Peter, Rachel and the Tilton School. First, he said, was their realization that working in such a position is not a job. Peck said passion also matters, along with the understanding that the education does make a difference in people's lives.
Saliba, he said, is one of the most passionate people he has met and everywhere he has gone he has made a difference in education.
"Surely, you have seen already that he can be joyfully omnipresent on campus," he joked.
Present to honor and congratulate a man who has "quickly become a good friend" was Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier. Cormier represented the surrounding community as he spoke about the great relationship between Town of Tilton and the school.
The difference between a good relationship and a great relationship, he said, is the fact that Tilton School embraces and works with the community, and doesn't just sit in its midst. Students and faculty have become involved in many town events, supported seniors, the fire and police departments, and participated in any other way they could.
"Through Jim Clements' vision to be one with the community it's now hard to see where Tilton School ends and the town begins," Cormier said. "Peter and I want to continue that tradition."
Cormier was followed by a word from Isaac Bol of the Class of 2013. Bol, who serves as president of the student assembly, said he and his fellow classmates were pleased to have Saliba as their new leader and addressed the Board of Trustees about their selection.
"It's safe to say Mr. Saliba has been doing a fantastic job so far, so thank you, Board. Good job," said Bol.
He said he felt Saliba was a "man with a plan" and, already, welcome changes on the campus were being realized. Bol told the audience he has come to find Saliba as an approachable figure, despite the fact that when the two first met, he was nervous in his presence. Saliba, he said, confessed he was nervous, too, and from there the two struck up a friendly relationship.
"Mr. Saliba told me 'If I'm being awful, you'll tell me, right?' Hopefully, I'll never have to call him on that, but at least that option's open," Bol said with a grin.
Saliba took the podium to say he was humble, fearful and thankful as he sat before the school for the installation ceremony. He likened the past three months to "drinking from a fire hose" as he took on his new duties and met faculty, staff and students. He thanked them all for their patience and commitment to making Tilton School an exceptional place to live, work and grow.
"And I have one more emotion. Excitement," said Saliba. "In this chapel, I see the faces of our future. Being the head of Tilton School is an honor."
Before presenting Saliba with the traditional gavel and logo press that has been passed down through the years, Wheale also welcomed Rachel Saliba with a large pot of perennial flowers. He told her the plant was intended as a symbol of the roots she and her family will now be putting down at Tilton School.
Highlighting the ceremony was a song titled "Raise Your Sails." It was written and performed by faculty member Julie Caldwell and her husband Alex as a special tribute to Saliba, his family and their future in Tilton.
"Raise your sails and set out for the new horizon…you never know for sure until you raise your sails."