American outdoorsman, mechanical engineer, and motivational speaker Aron Ralston shared with Upper School students his gripping story of courage, perseverance, and the power of the human spirit when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Ralston, an experienced climber, was canyoneering in a remote location in Utah when he became trapped between two boulders for more than five days. He freed himself by severing his own arm with a pocketknife. 127 Hours, the major-motion-picture adaptation of his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was nominated for six Oscars. He remains an avid outdoorsman and is an advocate for wilderness protection.
Kelso Speaker Series
Thanks to the support of Betty & Bob Kelso, Saint Mary’s Hall is able to invite special guest speakers to campus each year to visit with our students.
The mission of the Betty & Bob Kelso Speaker Series is to provide our students with opportunities to learn from and interact with leaders from outside the SMH community. These speakers take the time to inspire, impact, and educate students in all three divisions of the school.
Three-time Super Bowl champion, former Dallas Cowboys player, and Air Force Veteran Chad Hennings shared his personal story of postponing his entry into the National Football League to fulfill his obligation to the U.S. Air Force. His message to students focused on the importance of identity and the idea that your legacy is defined by the people you've been able to impact.
Actor and equality activist RJ Mitte connected with Upper School students through his youth and honesty. Mitte, who suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy, shared stories about his physical struggles in childhood, how he overcame bullying, and other challenges. Mitte encouraged students to step up and be the first person to help if they see someone in need, saying, "If one person decides to try to help, others will follow.” Mitte inspires young adults as the Youth Spokesperson for the National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Tour, and a celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy.
Bestselling author, Rhodes Scholar, and U.S. Army veteran, Wes Moore, is a vocal advocate for social justice who encourages audiences to take personal responsibility for their life decisions. In his presentation, Wes challenged Upper School students to consider who and what they will fight for now and in the future. His core message centered on how outcomes in life depend heavily on the expectations of those around us and the expectations we have for ourselves. Wes told the students, “It is dangerous not to have a goal or expectation for yourself. Expectations matter. We are a nation of self-fulfilling prophecies.”
Chris Herren is a former NBA player and recovering drug addict. During his presentation, Chris spoke candidly about his battle with addiction. He shared stories from his career as a professional basketball player, husband, and father who was constantly battling an addiction to heroin, prescription drugs, and cocaine. Chris let his presentation hinge on the message to “be you.” He explained that as he looks back on the beginning of his addictions, he started using drugs because “being him wasn’t enough.” Chris encouraged students to think about why they would consider drugs or alcohol, and urged them to ask themselves, “Why isn’t being you enough?”
An internationally recognized expert and best-selling author on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice, and ethical leadership, Rosalind Wiseman works with tens of thousands of students, educators, parents, counselors, coaches, and administrators to create communities based on the belief that each person has a responsibility to treat themselves and others with dignity. During her visit to Saint Mary’s Hall, she talked to parents, students, and faculty and staff about a variety of issues including bullying. One of the outstanding moments came when Rosalind said she wanted to teach everyone, “How to handle your business so the drama gets smaller, not bigger.” She offered specific solutions on how to handle everyday conflict whether it is relationship-related, work-related, or bullying.
A track athlete in the 1936 Olympics and a bombardier and prisoner of war in World War II, Louis Zamperini overcame tremendous adversity to claim his spot as a true American hero. Louis visited Saint Mary’s Hall and spoke to Upper School students about his life, tribulations, and victories. Whether in school, work, or life, he encouraged students to remember something that got him through the Olympics … “One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”
Former NFL coach and New York Times bestselling author Tony Dungy delivered a message tailored specifically to Saint Mary's Hall Upper School students about the difficulties of making the right choices in today's society. He shared stories from his life as a parent, player, and coach to illustrate how seemingly inconsequential decisions could alter a person's life, positively or negatively, forever.
Although she enjoyed the typical childhood of someone who was passionate about sports and being active, there was one thing about Aimee Mullins that wasn’t typical. On her first birthday, Aimee had both of her legs amputated below the knee. Aimee shared her story with Saint Mary’s Hall and encouraged our students to “learn the advantage of being different, and learn to find the opportunity in adversity.”
As a walk-on on Wake Forest University's basketball team, Alan Williams learned a lot about perseverance. He visited students at Saint Mary’s Hall to discuss the importance of humility and determination.
A former United States Air Force fighter pilot, Scott O'Grady was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 while enforcing the NATO no-fly zone. He turned his experience of survival, preparation, and focus into a powerful message for our students: "In the most dire situations, you learn your own strength and discover what is truly important to you."
Michael McManus shared stories from his career as a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent. He spoke to students and parents about the true perils of illegal drugs, and offered candid insight to the industry of illegal drug sales.