November’s First Friday speaker, David Halvorsen ‘51, addressed the assembled Tilton community on the topic "Moments Matter.” Halvorsen came to Tilton as a postgraduate and while here captained the Boy’s Varsity Hockey team. After Tilton, he matriculated at Brown University where he again captained the Men’s Hockey Team and was a member of Brown’s Naval ROTC. After two years service on a naval destroyer, Halvorsen entered the teaching profession serving 14 years at Cushing Academy then on to Wachusett Community College where he retired as Dean of Students in 1988. He resides on Cape Cod.
As David Halvorsen approached the podium in Smart Chapel this past Friday, the student body was politely silent. While accustomed to recognizing alumni from many years past during assemblies, Mr. Halvorsen sensed a kindred spirit with the young students seated in the pews before him, beginning with, “As I look out upon you all, it looks like you are still in your Halloween costumes. When I was a student here, the men wore only coat and tie.” Was he joking, trying to find common ground with those in front of him? Although he smiled, one could sense a tone of seriousness. Time had passed since he left Tilton, 68 years, and things had changed.
He spoke quietly in modest tones as might be delivered by a pastor, transporting the audience back to an earlier and simpler time. Halvorsen thanked the school for the invitation, recognizing that he was being granted a gift, an opportunity to speak to youth on a subject that perhaps only a senior gentleman can claim as his own: the passage of years and the preciousness of the present moment. It was a brief, yet profound talk, both personal and universal in its theme: the value of time.
After a brief reminiscence of his days as a hockey player, Halvorsen began:
“First and foremost, time is the only non-renewable resource. Therefore, how we spend even small amounts of time is significant. These moments are happening constantly. Hence, we should invest these moments wisely.”
Invest. But in what manner should a person invest time and for what purpose, the acquisition of status or fortune? We all know that time is money. And how and why should this investment be the focus of our lives? The silent audience listened, something important was being passed down to them. No, this was not career advice, not ‘Here’s what you seniors should be thinking about as you head off to college.’ Further exploring his theme, he continued:
“In many ways, these moments determine who we are as a person. Think of people you know. Often, is it not true that they are known as much for who they are as by what they have accomplished in their careers. Perhaps a more significant job description should concern itself with our development as a person. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama when asked how we could be more successful solving the world’s problems they responded ‘build a better person.’ The person they are describing is created in the moments of everyday!”
The spiritual tenor of his remarks hung in the air as the Fall leaves blazed through the Chapel windows. He spoke softly, in measured phrasing, pausing between sentences ever so slightly so that his words resonated gently in the minds and hearts of the assembled. “Invest your time in building a better person.”
Briefly departing from his homily, Halvorsen related two personal anecdotes to illustrate how individual moments can stick in the mind, returning over time as memories that have a transformational effect on the person...a casual recognition of natural beauty or the opportunity to be kind to someone in need.
In closing, he returned to his memory of teaching at Cushing:
"I was a math teacher, algebra and geometry. Math is an exact science. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. I believe regarding today’s discussion, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A person needs to be alert and mindful of these opportunities as they move through each day."
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." The "better person" is more than just flesh and bones, but someone who pays attention to their own moments as they accumulate over time and form the person we become.
There were no questions. But as he stepped mindfully from the podium to polite applause, one had the sense that he had taken advantage of the time that Tilton School had offered him: to teach once again, but not about algebra and geometry. Ten minutes had passed. A brief moment that mattered.