With song, gifts, poetry, appreciation in prose and rhyme, plenty of applause, and an enthusiastic standing ovation, Norfolk Academy students celebrated retiring Headmaster Dennis Manning on May 9, 2023, in Burroughs Gymnasium.
As the event's emcee, Senior Class President Lucas Knapp '23, put it, for the past 22 years Mr. Manning has been the “best headmaster a school could ever have."
Each of the three divisions - in fact every grade level - was instrumental in the celebration. After the Norfolk Academy Pep Band, which includes Middle and Upper School students and is directed by Music Teacher Jordon Crichlow, warmed the large crowd up, Knapp gave opening remarks and an invocation before the Upper School Chorus sang the National Anthem.
Lower School students then began reflections on and appreciation for Mr. Manning's tenure. Mixing in humorous advice for his retirement, they thanked him for his commitment to the Lower School.
Middle School students Lyric Carter '27 and Gaetan Poulin '28 then spoke about Mr. Manning's commitment to athletics and the fine arts at school.
“Under your leadership, our school's arts programs have flourished," Lyric said. “For these and many other things we are grateful."
“We notice you on the sidelines and the way you care," Gaetan said. “I know you love all our teams Mr. Manning. Thank you for creating such a special culture here at Norfolk Academy."
After a musical interlude from the Barbershop Quartet from The Music Man - the Academy's Winter Musical in February - Upper School students approached the podium.
Honor Council Chair Anna Russell '23 highlighted Mr. Manning's connection with students.
“He makes an effort to know us all personally," Anna said. "To show us all the importance of what we do on this campus. When we know that what we do and how we act matters, we feel as though we are truly a member of this community."
Kadyn Johnson-Smith '23, who has been a standout on several Winter Musicals, also accentuated Mr. Manning's connection with students. He noted that he long ago dubbed the musical Norfolk Academy's Super Bowl.
“I don't even think my own parents want to watch the Winter Musical as much or as many times as Mr. Manning does," Kadyn said. "And without fail he seeks us out to congratulate us and tell us how proud of us he is. His remarks feel like the highest praise because he means every word he says."
Given his opportunity to speak, Mr. Manning heaped praise on the school's teachers and the community as a whole.
“I love being on teams, I always have," he said. “And this has been just a great team effort."