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The Story of Our Motto

May 12, 2021

TS 37 Seal solid White

Commencement Remarks by Founding Head of School, Dr. Clayton K. Marsh

Earlier this spring, with our first commencement just around the corner, it was high time to adopt an official school motto for the seal that now appears on the diplomas we will present to our graduates. So we formed a motto committee, gathered recommendations from our school community, and went into deep deliberations, consulting closely with the Class of 2021 along the way.

Our committee reviewed many, many recommendations, but one emerged as the clear and unanimous choice:


You can now see the motto where it flies in English over its Latin roots (EVOLAMUS UNUM). TOGETHER they form a circle around our logo – itself a wheel on a string, a further nod to our aviation roots and our commitment to providing an education that is both challenging and balanced.

We selected this motto for many reasons.

It is true to the spirit of our namesake, Louise Thaden. In 1937, shortly after her historic victory in the Bendix, she travelled back to New York City to receive aviation's highest honor, The Harmon Trophy. Her acceptance speech, which was broadcast live from an art deco skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, is grounded with humility and gratitude. She begins by recognizing the collective efforts that put her in the air and on her way to pioneering achievements in aviation.

Here are her words:

The full significance of all that is represented in this Harmon Trophy has brought the realization that I cannot accept it for myself alone. I am only one part of all the individual efforts that made possible the accomplishments that led to this award ... Many people labored on my plane ... and it is for them, as well as for myself, that I accept this beautiful trophy.

Our motto – TOGETHER WE FLY – is also true to the spirit of the pioneering Class of 2021.

TOGETHER you set Thaden School into motion in 2017 with your first footsteps down that long, meandering pathway to our classrooms here on the water at Crystal Bridges, where a river otter rewarded us with an aquatic show on our first day of school.

TOGETHER you incubated our first chickens who rewarded your love with their first eggs on the first day of school in 2018.

TOGETHER you hatched our first school play, our first victories on the courts and playing fields, our first cycling teams, our first literary journal, our first yearbook, our first clubs, our first podcasts (which garnered national recognition), our first rites of spring: senior camp out, junior-senior prom, graduation dinner, and now our first commencement.

TOGETHER you planted our flag on top of Mount Thaden, the tower of topsoil that stood on our West Campus construction site for more than a year before finding a home in the teaching gardens, where you cultivated the rosemary and potatoes that paired so nicely with the lamb entrée in the ninth course of your graduation dinner.

TOGETHER, you have sucked the marrow out of a Thaden education, devouring with gusto and relish a challenging and balanced course of study made to order by your teachers with love and imagination.

You have brought to life – with your curiosity and questions – the beauty and purpose of mathematics, world languages, science and engineering, history and social sciences, the visual and creative arts, and the humanities. And together, you have set into motion the cycles of our signature programs – meals, reels, and wheels.

You walked out onto the wings of an idea and made it real. TOGETHER, you made it fly.

AND TOGETHER, with open arms, you invited and welcomed new classmates and other younger students to the table – as we grew from a school of 50, to 100, to 200, and now to 250 students. For four years, you have been our eldest students and have set the tone and direction for generations of Barnstormers with the legacy of your adventurous spirit, leading the way for the younger eyes watching your every move. 

TOGETHER, you kept open minds and open hearts while engaging in civil dialogue at the center of the United States, navigating some of the most challenging issues of our time. Your civility, your kindness, and your true respect for one another have been an inspiration for all of us.

TOGETHER, at your first retreat, you practiced and perfected our mission statement, reciting over and over again the words "balanced and challenging" while stuffing your mouths with marshmallows, a most challenging task, Thaden's version of the game known as Chubby Bunny.

Most importantly, you have lived the words of our mission statement and have demonstrated that the diversity of our school community is essential to the quality of the education we provide. You have learned to rise above self-interest and take broader views – bird's eye views – of the complexities and interdependencies that make our world such a fascinating place to live. 

TOGETHER, you demonstrated that WE FLY – that we EVOLVE – by virtue of our differences and different points of view that we bring TOGETHER on our campus each day. That is the spirit of our school, beginning with your class:


And now TOGETHER you are about to fly in many different directions in search of many new possibilities, far and near. But you are not leaving Thaden, you are taking it with you. We couldn't have hoped for a better class of ambassadors to take Thaden out into the world, to represent our school and our home region, wherever you may go.

Thaden will always unite you. Thaden is for life. Come back early and often.