Letter from the Head of School
Head of School Lee Burns '87
Head of School Lee Burns speaks to graduates

At the start of this year in my Convocation remarks, I reflected with our students on the different places from which they came to McCallie...and on the different reasons they came. From these divergent beginnings, it is our hope as a school that every McCallie student finds a nurturing and stimulating environment that provides him support on the journey to manhood.

While at McCallie, boys develop lifelong relationships with their teachers, coaches, dorm faculty, and advisors who guide and mentor them through the ups and downs of adolescence.

They find deep connection and friendship with their fellow students who become as close and as important to them as brothers. Boys can do the work of discovering themselves, their passions, interests, and identities in a loving community. At McCallie, our supportive community and the brotherhood that boys form are paramount to their experience. There is no better time to witness and deeply feel the ethos of our community than graduation. 

Graduation is a time to celebrate boys as they finish their McCallie careers and move into the next stage of their lives. Through their work and experiences at McCallie, we hope each young man graduating has come to understand what it means to be a man of honor, truth, and duty, committed to the compassion and well-being of others. We hope that he has developed the disposition of serving others, understanding service as part of discovering God, and understanding the possibilities and fulfillment in glorifying and enjoying Him forever. 

I challenged our graduates, in charting their course in a fractured, flawed, and fearful world, to pursue Truth and express grace...to contemplate questions of what is true about God, our world, and themselves...about what is morally absolute and factual. I implored them to be truthful and trustworthy and help rebuild trust throughout our society. I encouraged them to wrestle with deep questions of purpose and meaning, the blessings of being a beloved child of God, and the command of loving your neighbor as yourself. Our graduates will continue to make a positive difference in the world. 

Through their work and experiences at McCallie, we hope each young man graduating has come to understand what it means to be a man of honor, truth, and duty, committed to the compassion and well-being of others.

I am thrilled that the Class of 2021 was able to enjoy the traditional events of their senior spring and Graduation weekend without disruption from the pandemic. We are proud of each boy in the Class of 2021  and commend their parents for the sacrifices they have made and the support they have given their sons throughout their time at McCallie. We feel sad upon their leaving McCallie and wish them well. We know they will leave with McCallie forever in their hearts – loyal sons, hail, all hail!

McCallie was fortunate to have quite a normal school year despite most unusual times. We were able to have in-person learning on campus all year except for a handful of days when we opted for virtual school. Some events and a few sporting seasons were canceled or cut short, but mostly everyone adapted their classes and activities to our strong and practical COVID-19 risk mitigation protocols. Assistant Head of School Kenny Sholl and Director of Student Health Services Kristen Smith did an outstanding job coordinating the school’s pandemic response and community health procedures throughout the year. Our faculty and staff also exhibited heroic efforts not only in managing the boys’ compliance with the health safety protocols but also in quickly morphing their classes and teaching styles to the new environment of masks, social distancing, and students in class and online at the same time. I am awed by the resilience of our faculty and staff and commend their dedication to our students.

The school focused on two strategic initiatives this year that are paramount to our sense of community and brotherhood. The Moving Forward Together As Brothers initiative focuses on issues and experiences of race and diversity. The Belonging at McCallie initiative focuses on sexual identity, orientation, and inclusion. The basis for our work in these areas is a shared understanding that every human being is created in the image of God and thus worthy of dignity, respect, and love. It is vital that every single member of our community, regardless of the color of his skin, his country of origin, his religion, his identity, attraction or orientation, experiences the very best of McCallie. By better listening to and understanding the stories and experiences of one another and the ways in which some of our students do not feel fully appreciated, validated, and included because of their racial or sexual identity, we can more fully realize a supportive and fulfilling community and brotherhood for every single student. Ours has always been a school community that feels a sense of honor and duty to one another. Taking a hard look at ourselves individually and institutionally, exploring our assumptions, biases, and procedures, is a great opportunity to live up to our mission, values, and standards in the best of ways. We want to always get better...and give every boy the best of McCallie.

Students get a break but the McCallie campus will be as busy as ever over summer. Summer camps include baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, golf, tennis, lacrosse, football, day camp sessions, eSports, film production, iRobot and Minecraft coding, Bridge Scholars, space and rocket engineering, and hiking adventures. The Father-Son Weekend is happy to be back this summer and will welcome about 80 fathers and sons. McCallie’s Character Leadership Community (CLC) program is also happening in-person this summer. Duke Richey ‘86, Howard Baker Chair of American History, describes this camp as “Outward Bound meets nightly TED Talks.” Boys who participate find this camp to be life-changing. A new camp we are offering in July is the McCallie Summer Academy. This camp provides an opportunity for rising 8th and 9th graders to spend time learning in the classroom along with exciting outdoor adventures and team activities. This is a great opportunity for any boy to further develop his sense of agency and maturity.

Before you know it, we will be opening another school year – our 117th. With a vaccinated community, we will be able to stop wearing masks and see teeth-filled smiles once again. Enjoy the summer!

On McCallie...and Onward McCallie.

A. Lee Burns III ’87
Head of School