News from the May Dell - December, 2020
December is a month filled with momentous occasions. Its celebrations include Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, and, for denizens of a particular portion of American popular culture, Festivus. It begins with the mourning and activism of World AIDS Day and ends in the celebratory chaos of New Year’s Eve. Here at Salem, it is marked by Moravian stars and by other memories that I have been privileged to hear from alumnae at recent (virtual) events—memories of snow falls, of magically appearing wreaths, and of brass bands outside windows while exams were undertaken.
In many interpretations, December’s celebrations mark the changes of light associated with a particular moment in the Western Hemisphere, the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night: The Winter Solstice. After December 21, we gradually see the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer. The play of light and shadow changes, beginning—once again—at the Solstice. At Salem, the incredible significance of light is marked in our lighting of beeswax candles. So too the play of light and shadow appears in Salem’s alma mater:
Strong are thy walls, oh Salem
Thy virgin trees stand tall.
And far athwart the sunlit hills,
Their stately shadows fall.
In our singing and in our candle lighting—this year together apart—we remind ourselves that beginnings and endings are never entirely distinct, but rather deeply, persistently, and repeatedly entangled. Endings and beginnings repeat, once again, in December.
The repetition itself reminds us of the mundane reality of over and over again and brings with it the paradoxical joy of recognition and acknowledgement. Hope lies in knowing we have been here before. As alumnae, you know that so very well.
In some senses, the echoes of this Solstice are exactly like they were last year and for many, many, many years before. In other ways, these moments in this December are particular. They are our moments, part of this time in our lives. Part of a year we have repeatedly described as unprecedented. And so, we reach nostalgically backwards and optimistically forward. We read the words and light the candles each and every year—they resonate across time while simultaneously defining our time and this moment. We know the layering of words and actions expands their meaning and reminds us that the play of light and shadow changes—and the inexorable movement of time carries us also toward hope.
A teacher of mine, Mircea Eliade, used the phrase “in illo tempore” to refer to a sacred time to which we return—repeatedly—to make and remake our world and ourselves, to make and remake our Salem. Reverberating in some tales as “at that time” and in others as “once upon a time,” December too can stand in for that time for—in its Solstice and its many moments—December reminds us, as Leonard Cohen has over the years—that “there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” December reminds us to live in the both/and not the either/or.
I hope you will find this as moving a harbinger of all that December 2020 can mean as I do.
May your December be filled with light—and where it is not, may the cracks truly allow the light in.
From the Head of School
I am deeply honored to be writing to you as the official Head of School of Salem Academy. I am excited to help lead Salem Academy into a bright future.
While looking back over this past year, I realized how grateful I am to be part of the Salem community. Although I am very thankful for every member; I wanted to take a moment to give a special thanks to our faculty and staff. They have chosen a career field where the fruits of their labor are not always seen. A career field that has undergone dramatic changes in a very short period of time. A field that is nothing like they could have ever imagined.
They teach not so our students remember every historical date, chemical symbol, or Latin declension. They teach so students will understand how their decisions and behaviors affect our world. They teach to shape the next generation. I hope you will join me in thanking them for choosing to teach at Salem.
As we prepare to close out the semester, I would like to wish you a very merry Holiday Season. Which leads me to my favorite holiday symbol, the Moravian star. This beautiful piece of geometry has 26 points and consists of 18 squares and 8 triangular cones joined together. The technical name of the shape is a rhombicuboctahedron. However, the Moravian star contains more meaning than its basic mathematical properties. The 26 points on the star symbolize light shining into all directions of the world, our reminder to let our light shine wherever we are. The Moravian star is my favorite because it represents promise, fulfillment, and the hope of the Christmas season.
Kris Porazzi Sorrells
Head of School
Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Kris Sorrells C’96 Named Head of School at Salem Academy
Kris Porazzi Sorrells, who was recently named Head of School at Salem Academy (after serving as Acting Head of School since June 2020), has deep ties to both Salem College and Salem Academy. She received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Salem College in 1996. After earning a master’s degree in mathematics from Wake Forest University in 1998, Sorrells returned to Salem in 1998 to teach math at Salem Academy.
During her time at Salem Academy, Sorrells has taught Algebra 2, Advanced Functions and Modeling, Pre-calculus, Calculus AB (Calculus 1), and Calculus BC (Calculus 2). She also created the Academy’s award-winning robotics teams. In addition to her role as Head of School, Sorrells will continue to teach math as well as remain an advisor to the robotics teams. She also is the proud mother of a Salem Academy alumna from the Class of 2018.
To read a news story about Sorrells being named Head of School, please click here: Winston-Salem Journal. We also hope you’ll take a moment to watch this video message from Kris Sorrells as she reflects on this news and her optimism for the Academy’s future.
Salem Academy and College Presidential Search Update
Dara Folan, Chair of the Salem Academy Board of Trustees sent a letter to the Salem community on December 16 outlining the status of the Presidential search. After meeting 18 times during the past six months, the Search Committee narrowed the pool of applicants from 135 to two. However, both candidates withdrew from the process due to understandable personal reasons. The Search Committee does not believe there are any viable candidates remaining from the original pool and has decided to contract with a professional search firm to help facilitate the next phase of the search. Five highly regarded executive search firms have been asked to respond to an RFP by January 4, 2021. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees plans to select the search firm around mid-January. Please take a moment to read the full letter.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Update
Salem Academy and College Interim President Susan Henking recently provided an update to the Salem community about the progress of work this fall on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. To read the entire letter, please click: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion update.
Alumnae Spotlight: Virginia (“Ginny”) Weiler A’65
If you have ever admired a beautiful photo of the gardens in Old Salem, there is a good chance the photographer is Virginia (“Ginny”) Weiler A’65, but that’s not the path she imagined. After the Academy, Weiler received her B.A. in French from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, including a year in France, and an M.A. in French from Florida State. She credits Margery Mize, Academy French teacher, who “encouraged my love of French and my enthusiasm for other cultures.”
From 1974 to 1981, Weiler returned to Salem Academy to teach French. She says the small classes, interested students and “absolute freedom” in the classroom were the draws to return.
Weiler’s photography started as a hobby but became her passion and work. She worked in a studio for years but was drawn to the natural world. “I realized I wanted to venture outdoors with my equipment, and my love of photographing wildflowers led me to the world of garden and landscape photography.”
Weiler’s work has taken her across the globe—Québec, Kenya, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe—and her photographs have appeared in numerous books and publications, but she finds special purpose closer to home. “Probably the most important work I have done is for Piedmont Land Conservancy, finding a way to show the importance of our regional natural heritage as we work to keep these spaces undeveloped and accessible for future generations.”
Weiler connected again with the Academy when her goddaughter, Grace Gould A’19, became an Academy student. Of the Academy today, she says: “I am proud of Salem’s welcoming of diversity and encouragement of leadership.”
Salem Voices: A Conversation with Salem Alumnae posts on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 12:30 p.m. The most recent episode, this past Tuesday, featured Oyinda Oyelaran C’97, who is currently a Professor of Chemistry at Northeastern University in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Previous episodes are available on our website. Join us to learn more about these amazing alumnae as they engage in conversations Lucy Rose, C’76, Vice Chair of the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees and owner and president of Lucy Rose and Associates.
Celebrating a Successful Giving Tuesday
We did it! Thanks to more than 330 alumnae, parents, and friends, we raised $127,954 for the Academy and College Funds in addition to $100,000 from our matching donor. Thank you for supporting Salem Academy on Giving Tuesday!
If you have not had a chance to make your gift to the Academy, it’s not too late! Your gift will make a difference—by alleviating pressure on institutional resources so that Salem can continue to provide an exceptional experience for our students.
This year, there are also several unique tax advantages to making your gift before December 31, 2020. Learn more by clicking here.
Make your gift today:
- Online at salemacademy.com/give
- By phone: 336-721-2607
- Send a check: Salem Academy, Office of Institutional Advancement, 601 S. Church St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Thank you for your support!
Join the Salem Academy Alumnae Board
The Academy Alumnae Board needs you! The board works hard to advance the interest and welfare of the Academy through interactive projects involving alumnae, students, faculty, and staff; to foster alumnae engagement as members of the Salem Academy community; and to represent the interests of alumnae to the administration.
We are seeking to fill two “member-at-large” board seats beginning with the 2021–22 school year. Members at large act as our “surge capacity” to help with special projects, serve on
committees, or train with more experienced board members to transition into other roles. If you are interested, or would like to nominate someone else, please take a few minutes to submit the Salem Academy Alumnae Board Interest Form by January 15!
Save the Year: 2021–22 for Salem’s 250th Celebration
Salem is about to have a BIG birthday!
Share your ideas
We want this celebration to be unforgettable and could really use your input. What will make this celebration most meaningful? Tell us here.
Join the fun and put your love for Salem into action! Volunteer to help with the 250th celebration here.
Mark your calendar
- Kick-off Concert with the Winston-Salem Symphony, Dinner Dance, and Dining with Friends across the country – September 25, 2021
- Recreation of the Journey from Bethlehem, PA to NC – September 28-October 27, 2021
- Community Day – April 9, 2022
- Health Leadership Forum – April 21, 2022
- Founders Day – April 22, 2022
- More to come!
Save the Date for Reunion: April 23–24, 2021!
Salem Academy is committed to celebrating the classes ending in ‘1s and ‘6s, and the classes ending in ’0s and ’5s whose Reunion in 2020 was postponed. We hope to see you safely in person, but we know that there is a chance that due to COVID-19 this may not be possible, so we are planning a virtual Reunion as well. Whether we are on campus or your screen, we hope that you will feel like you have never been away. We promise that it will be a Reunion to remember.
Please stay tuned! We hope to make a final call as to whether Reunion will be on campus or virtual by early February.
Virtual Senior Vespers
This year, we were not able to hold our annual Senior Vespers in person, but we held Senior Vespers as a Zoom event on Sunday, December 6 at 5 p.m. We decided Zoom was the best way to be sure seniors felt as though they were fully participating in the event. If you missed this year’s moving celebration of the holiday season, you can view a filmed recording of the Zoom here.