The Cui Servire Award is given annually to outstanding younger alumni who, through their exceptional contribution to the School or the world, have truly lived up to the School's motto. The motto, Cui Servire Est Regnare, is alternately translated as "To Serve Is to Rule" or "For Whom Service Is Perfect Freedom.” In the motto's original context, service refers to a person's service to God. But the motto has been accepted more broadly to connote service to the community and the world, and it inspires many Grotonians to make community service integral to their lives.2016 Cui Servire Award Winner: Caitlin Gutperle Reed ’91
Caitlin Gutperle Reed ’91 accepted the award with these remarks:
Past Cui Servire Award Recipients
I am deeply honored to receive this award today. Thank you.
My eleven-year-old daughter recently competed in a banjo contest. Filled with parental pride as I sat with her at bedtime that night, I told her how proud I was that she was brave enough to enter the competition and perform in front of a big audience. She was quiet for a little while. Then she looked at me and said, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid.”
I was struck by the truth of her comment. It reminded me of my experience working in Liberia two years ago. I went to West Africa as a volunteer doctor to work with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders at the largest Ebola Treatment Unit ever built. On my first night shift in the unit, I was sweating in my plastic and Tyvek suit, lumbering from tent to tent to see the patients, acutely anxious about contaminating myself with Ebola virus. There was a brief intense thunderstorm and we lost power. It was three o’clock in the morning. One of the tents was flooding, patients were moaning, my lungs were burning from the chlorine used to decontaminate the area, my goggles were fogging up, and the incinerator for burning medical waste was sending billowing clouds of smoke into the dark night. I started to panic and think, “How did you deliberately choose to be here, of all the millions of places on this Earth?” I managed to calm myself down, thinking, “You sought this out for a reason.” I realized that the fear I felt was useful, something I could use to help keep me safe. I had training, I had mentors—the two other doctors on the night shift with me whom I deeply admired—and I had it so much better than the Liberian doctors at the government hospitals, who were working with inadequate protective gear. There was not much time to panic: we had things to do. I mastered my fear enough to keep going that night, and the next.
Being brave isn’t something that just happens during a crisis. You need to practice in smaller ways, over and over, as you grow up. Groton gave me opportunities to practice. In Second Form shop class I was scared of the bandsaw. Mr. Brown showed me how to use it, and although I avoided it for a few months, eventually I figured out how to use the jigsaw, then the bandsaw, and I kept taking shop. I managed to graduate with all my fingers intact—as well as a handmade rocking chair and table. Modern dance was not my forte. It’s no surprise that for the final performance I ended up being assigned to the role of a tree. Just getting out on a stage and moving was terrifying for me—and, when it was over, exhilarating. I didn’t really know how to study when I came to Groton, and Mr. Alexander’s Latin 1 was where I crossed that Rubicon, sweating over flash cards during study hall and later learning, as Mr. Myers would often say, to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Latin text. Who knew that I would end up studying Latin for five years, doing a tutorial during my senior year and starting out as a classics major in college? I coxed for girls crew starting in Third Form. This meant that a short, shy kid like me had to give commands to my rowers. This did not come easily. One time during practice I hit a bridge, and got yelled at. Just getting in the boat the next day took some courage. But I did it.
For my formmates and fellow alumni, if you think back about your Groton experience, I am sure you can think of times when our teachers, our coaches, and our friends offered us the opportunity to be brave, to act despite our fears, and to discover that we were more capable than we knew. Maybe it was when you decided to sign up for AP Calculus, even though math was not your strongest subject, but you knew Mr. Choate would help you learn. Maybe it’s when you tried out for a new sport, took that Shakespeare elective, sang the solo in choir, wrote a cover story for the Circle Voice, or gave a chapel talk in front of the whole school. We all owe Groton our gratitude for these opportunities, for the wonderful teachers who knew when to encourage and nurture—and when to push us to take a risk—and for all those chances to practice being brave.