The Honor System's centrality to life at Norfolk Academy is a hallmark of the school, and the second day of the Year of Kindness began with an all-school gathering that seemed extraordinary, after years of pandemic-related adjustments to school life.
For the first time since the spring of 2020, all 1,217 students and faculty gathered together in Burroughs gymnasium, sitting on the polished wood floor and on the bleachers, for the ceremony to swear in the students who serve in the school's most highly respected roles, as members of the Tunstall and Royster Honor Councils.
The event is known as S. Barron Segar Day, named for a Norfolk Academy trustee who served more than 30 years and was instrumental in the school's reemergence in the 1950s. Segar founded a real estate firm in 1943, which through a series of mergers became Goodman Segar Hogan, and he was renowned through the region for his ethical conduct.
All members of the Honor Council were sworn into office by Headmaster Dennis Manning, raising their right hands and facing the entire student body. The ceremony is conducted “as publicly and vigorously as we can," Mr. Manning noted, “as an expression of our confidence and belief in the Honor System."
The swearing in was followed by powerful speeches from Honor Council Chair Annamarie Russell '22 and Board of Trustees President Alfred M. Randolph Jr. '80, providing parallel perspectives on honor.
In her address to students, Russell emphasized the community of trust that allows students to ask questions to their teachers, whether for clarification or for help in difficult situations.
If students are confused about parameters of an assignment, such as whether group work is permitted or how to cite sources, they should not hesitate to ask questions. “Always ask," she said. “A grade on a quiz or test is always less important than your integrity."
She pointed out areas of student responsibility. Students need to plan ahead to keep up with work, especially if they have to miss classes due to games or appointments. Faculty must support students in that planning by posting assignments well ahead of due dates.
And she said that the Council wants to help students focus on the Pledge, a sentence about honorable conduct that students write on graded assignments and assessments. While it is a “seemingly simple sentence," she said, each word matters and underscores a promise about behavior. She said the Council plans to meet more frequently this year, and that the members want to make a stronger effort to teach Honor in the Lower School.
In his speech, Board President Randolph, who spent 12 years at Norfolk Academy and has three sons who graduated from the school, spoke about the courage it takes to act with honor. Randolph attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UVA Law School, and he serves as Vice President for Associate Recruitment and Chief Growth Officer at Kaufman & Canoles.
Randolph noted that NA students are fortunate to live “in a little bit of a bubble," where the community of trust becomes something that everyone can take for granted. However, after “we leave this place, honor is in short supply," he said.
While such a statement can seem daunting, he said that students can be heartened by the preparation they receive at the school. “Our internal code of honor, of what is right and wrong, is etched into our being, our spirit, our essence, from first grade to the time we graduate. So it becomes second nature for us to readily recognize situations when something is not right," he said. “The true test for you will be, how will you react when faced with the temptation to be dishonorable? Will you have the courage of your convictions? Are you willing to pay the price of honor?"
Randolph recalled a time when a client at the law firm asked him to renege on a deal that, at the client's direction, Randolph had already sealed with a handshake. Randolph said that he would not do it, despite the risk of being fired and the loss of a large fee; the client would need to find another lawyer. A few hours later, the client called back and told Randolph, “You are right," and since that time, he has only worked with Randolph as his lawyer.
However, Randolph noted, not all situations involving the price of honor turn out so well. Still, he said, “be willing to pay that price, because while it can be uncomfortable, paying the price of honor is an investment in a clear conscience, in your reputation, and in a life of worth and meaning."
He closed with a moving tribute to Headmaster Manning, whom he has known and worked with for 20 years. Over that time, Mr. Manning has been confronted with every test of honor imaginable, Randolph said, and “with inspirational courage, he has chosen honor in every instance, calling on his own core values in managing each challenge in a way that allowed him to remain true to himself and to the values of Norfolk Academy. Today, was we celebrate honor at Norfolk Academy, I urge you to look no further than Mr. Manning as a shining example of what a true Bulldog looks like."
At that, all students and faculty rose to their feet to applaud.
The ceremony included participation from several students. The invocation was given by Tunstall Student Council President Rylan Goss '23 and the benediction by Royster Student Council President Kiran Folck '26. Three singers, Russell, Natalie Tajan '24, and Mackenzie Savage '23, sang the National Anthem with beautiful vocal harmony.
Members of the Tunstall Honor Council:
- Chair: Annamarie Russell '23
- 12th Grade: Liam Sullivan, Fred Ward
- 11th Grade: Van Deans, Lily Stockwell
- 10th Grade: Xander Dukas, Peter Galiotos
Members of the Royster Honor Council:
- Chair: Nethan Liyanage '26
- 9th Grade: Vivi Deans, Alex Lawson
- 8th Grade: Catherine Adams, Evan O'Boyle
- 7th Grade: Veer Desai, Ellie Trant