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.2015 Cui Servire Award Winner: Ellen Curtis Boiselle ’85
I was quite surprised when Betsy Lawrence called to inform me of this honor. Until she and I spoke, I had never explicitly thought about my work with children and families as “service” per se. It’s just work that I felt was important and interesting, and work that I enjoyed.
But as rewards such as this give one an opportunity to reflect, I began to think about just why I ended up doing what I am doing, and the role that Groton played in that path.
Now there are many lessons that I learned at Groton. With my classmates, I learned about differential equations, the poetry of Galway Kinnel, and the challenge of dissecting a fetal pig. And like all good Grotonians, I learned the school’s motto, and, thanks to my Latin classes with Mr. Alexander, I learned what it meant.
And then there were lessons related to being a member of a school community:
the importance of being on time; of taking care of one’s physical environment.
There was also that pesky lesson about keeping a somewhat orderly room—not an easy task at the time. Thanks to Groton, I now have what has been recently termed PTBSD—post-traumatic bed-making stress disorder. Symptoms include a deep and abiding worry—which persists throughout adulthood—that Dean Holden or Dean Congleton will magically appear on one’s doorstep and hand out demerits for an unmade bed. To this day, I do not leave the house without making my bed. Lesson learned.
But there are other less explicit but more important lessons that shaped who I am and that are now central to my work. There’s the satisfaction that comes from working together to solve a problem and the importance of being thorough and not settling for easy solutions. There’s the value of telling the hard truth;
and the grace that comes from choosing to be inclusive rather than exclusive, from extending a kindness rather than settling for indifference.
But if I had to select just one lesson—one gem—that stands above all others that I learned at Groton, it would be the power and importance of being a good listener. From my perspective, listening is part of the hidden curriculum at Groton—it’s not something that one gets tested on, but it is the warp and woof of how this community operates.
Now on the face of it, listening is easy. But really listening—taking the time to try to understand what someone is saying and to understand his or her point of view—can be difficult. Listening takes patience and it takes time—both of which are often in short supply. And there are times when listening can be difficult and uncomfortable, all the more so when what is being said challenges one’s values and beliefs. But, at its base, listening connotes respect—respect for the importance of another’s story, another’s perspective, and another’s values, culture, and experience. And those are the very things that allow us to effectively engage with and serve one another.
Listening enables understanding—not agreement—but understanding.
And there are few things more powerful in this world than allowing someone to truly feel that he or she has been listened to and understood.
At Groton, I learned how to listen, and, equally importantly, I felt understood.
So I gratefully accept this award on behalf of all those Groton faculty, staff, and fellow students who taught me to listen, who listened to me, and from whom I learned so much. And if anyone has Jake Congleton’s and Joan Holden’s cell phone numbers, I will gladly text them daily pictures of my beautifully made bed, replete with hospital corners.
Past Cui Servire Award Recipients
Ellen Curtis Boiselle's speech from Reunion Weekend.
||Year of Award
|Dr. Michael R. Curtis ’80
|Ms. Katya Fels Smyth ’89
|The Rev. John H. Finley, IV ’88
|Dr. Sallie B. Smith ’85
|Ms. Frances H. Pratt ’82
|Mr. Josiah H. Brown ’88
|Ms. Danielle K. Nunez ’98
|Mrs. Chekemma J. Fulmore-Townsend ’97
|Dr. Theodore Caplow, Jr. ’88
|Mrs. Ann Gildroy Fox ’94
|Mr. George C. Biddle ’80
|Ms. Betsy Wright Hawkings ’81
|Mrs. Alyce Jones Lee ’77
|Mr. Nathaniel T.G. Fogg ’93
|Ms. Holley Green Gordon ’89