For the Honor of Truth: Timely Support for a Timeless Mission

Class of ’65 Launches For the Honor of Truth Initiative

In celebration of their 55th reunion, the Class of 1965 established an enduring legacy centered on the principle that truth is an intrinsic good and the continual search for truth is part of an exemplary life. Using the school’s motto for inspiration, the Class of 1965 hopes the For the Honor of Truth Initiative will have a profound effect on students for generations to come (see more below). Looking back on the essential lessons of their Moses Brown education, the class designed an initiative to support the nurturing of skills helpful to students in their lifelong search for truth, including reason, a desire for open-minded exposure to a diversity of thought, the ability to distinguish between information which is reliable and unreliable, and the courage to think independently — all cultivated through a broad-based, challenging liberal arts education.

Recognizing this effort may be seen as a response to current conditions, the class notes that, “history reminds us that the dehumanization of people to objects of propaganda, the substitution of slogan for thought, and the replacement of reason with emotion, are not unique events or trends. The ever-present willingness of some to dishonor truth poses a continuous threat to society and democracy. We are therefore confident that our Fund will remain profoundly important for as long as the School educates young citizens.”

55 years after graduation, rekindled relationships result in an enduring legacy for the Class of ’65

Last year, members of the class of 1965 marked 55 years since they left the Grove. Reflecting on this milestone and considering the ways in which his MB experience had shaped his life, John Bartlett ’65 approached some classmates about creating a legacy for Moses Brown that might commemorate the class and also contribute tangibly to the school’s ongoing mission. After an exploratory but supportive phone call with some 20 classmates in the Fall of 2019, John, Chris Kent, Terry Mahoney, Tom Reed, and Eric Schreuder volunteered to meet again to rough out an approach.

John’s experience in public policy initially steered him towards the idea of addressing important policy issues, such as climate change, but when Tom suggested that the school’s motto, “For the Honor of Truth,” spoke directly to the current global political environment which seems to have put truth itself on trial, the group quickly agreed. Terry recalls, “We knew right away it was a home run. It’s the essence of education: How do you discover the truth?”

As articulated by the five classmates over the next months, For the Honor of Truth, an Initiative Sponsored by the Class of 1965 aims to support projects and programs that nurture the skills students will need in their own lifelong searches for truth: reason, a desire to encounter a diversity of thought with an open mind, the ability to distinguish between what is reliable and what isn’t, and the courage to think independently rather than blindly accepting popular opinion. “We’re putting a real emphasis on seeking the truth yourself,” says Terry. “How do you respond when you encounter conflicting statements?”

From the start, Chris advocated for an overarching focus on students. “I wanted to ensure that the projects were evaluated and determined by students based on their concerns, and on their interests.” Proposals will be welcome from faculty, staff, alumni, or parents as well as from the student body, but they will be selected by a committee comprising a majority of students. Potential uses of the Fund include travel; relevant research or independent study deepening student exploration of the truth; public discussions at the school by noted experts holding different views on matters of social significance, moderated by students who have studied the topic; participation in experiential learning programs designed to develop the skills of negotiation, critical thinking, and leadership; programs/experiences for students beginning in the earliest stages of their intellectual development that provide a strong foundation for a lifelong search for truth; and courses or units of study designed to improve students’ abilities to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information. “We see putting students at the center of everything as being in line with the school’s expanded culture of empowerment,” says Terry.

Having all gone on to liberal arts colleges, the five have increasingly come to realize the significant advantages Moses Brown gave them in their own journeys towards professional and personal fulfillment, and they wanted to support the school in continuing that mission. Tom notes how this year’s conversations with old friends has made him aware of a unifying thread running from 250 Lloyd Avenue all the way through his career. “I went on to an academic career in literature,” he says. “Teaching Chaucer, I looked at the rise of empiricism, the ways in which logic began to roll back what we’d call medieval superstition. With Victorian literature, I looked at how often the credibility of narrators comes into question, how point of view may differ from reality. My whole career turns out to have been about the importance of truth, how to ascertain it, and the imperative of doing just that. I was surprised but delighted to realize that the life of my mind has been so directly sparked by the MB motto.”

Terry adds that learning to discover truth is one thing, but learning to honor it is something else entirely. “It seems that society has stopped honoring the truth. That’s a dangerous situation. If our class initiative can push back on that trend just a little bit, we’ll have made a difference.”

It seems fitting that a concern for honoring truth as one of the glues that hold society together should have brought these old friends back into closer touch as they pursued their class legacy. Says Eric, whose experience with charitable funds guided the group, “After more than 50 years of separation, I was excited to hear my classmates and friends were interested in creating a legacy that would endure. The most appealing aspect for me was that this project was going to be a collaborative effort which would allow us each to contribute from our particular strengths. I was delighted to jump right in.” Chris says, “It was the current relevance of the Fund’s purpose and the chance to revive old friendships that inspired me to participate.” John adds, “When I was involved in planning our 50th reunion back in 2015, I was impressed with the warmth of every contact I had with classmates. As our 55th approached, it seemed only natural for me to think about creating some lasting legacy of the kind of relationships built at MB.” “I’ve been amazed,” says Tom, “by both the banter on our calls (often driven by John) and by the productivity we tapped when we needed to. It’s been focused, purposeful, and fun. That’s why this initiative has been successful.”

Creating the For the Honor legacy fund has brought the Class of ’65 classmates closer together. Says Terry, “Meeting again after decades, it didn’t feel like it had been very long at all. In a funny kind of way, it seems we never really separated.” It probably has something to do with a longstanding and shared commitment to honoring truth, learned long ago as students at MB.

A guiding principle behind this new initiative is that projects and programs must be student-oriented and student-approved. The initiative may support but not be limited to the following:

-travel, research or independent study deepening students’ exploration of the truth

-public discussions by noted experts holding different views on matters of social significance, moderated by students who have studied the topic

-participation in experiential learning programs designed to develop the skills of negotiation,

-critical thinking, and leadership

-programs for students beginning in the earliest stages of their intellectual development that provide a foundation for a lifelong search for truth

-curriculum designed to improve students’ abilities to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information

Members of the Class of ’65 have given more than $270,000 to establish this initiative. Additional contributions are welcome. Contact Asst. Head of School Ron Dalgliesh P’21 for additional information at (401) 831-7350 x111 or rdalgliesh@mosesbrown.org.