Gunston Embarkation Welcomes New Students & Faculty

Centreville, MD – The Gunston School commenced its 113th year on Tuesday, September 5, with its annual Embarkation tradition, welcoming a total of 83 new students and five new employees to the community by boat. After exchanging a handshake with the Head of School, newcomers signed the school’s Honor Code, and made their way up the hill to greet fellow students and current staff and faculty. Parents and family members were invited to watch from the shoreline as students arrived. 

Once all new students and staff arrived by boat, they made their way to the Field House for Convocation. Student Body President Maren Kneeland ’24 welcomed the crowd and addressed new students. “You’ll find that what’s best for yourself is going to change over and over and over again and constantly revise yourself as you grow up. […] Being ready for the next chapter of your life, whether you’re starting high school or finishing it, is not feeling like you know everything, but that you’re ready to learn from whatever is going to come at you. So, as you go through high school, never stop asking yourself the hard questions, making the tough decisions, and setting challenging goals. The moment that you stop doing that, is the moment that you stop allowing yourself to learn at all.” 

After ringing an antique bell from Gunston’s days as an all-girls boarding school, Assistant Head of School Christie Grabis declared, “Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year, the bell has sounded, you may now commence the year!”

New students had the opportunity to get to know their peers well before the start of school during Gunston’s orientation and leadership retreats. Ninth grade students went on a two-day retreat at Camp Pecometh, where they spent the day and evening participating in various outdoor challenges and team building activities. They then returned to campus the following day, where they were joined by new upperclass students and current student leaders for informational sessions on central school values, technology, and more.

Running simultaneously, Gunston’s 8th Annual Leadership Institute invited student leaders from various clubs, student government, and athletics to gather and learn about leadership practices, set goals for the year, and to help facilitate activities for new students.

Faculty and staff were also busy preparing for the beginning of school with departmental retreats, new employee orientation, and annual CPR, First Aid/AED, ALICE and various other emergency response trainings. Gunston’s Math Department welcomes Captain Clay Saunders as a part time math teacher. Capt. Saunders possesses more than 35 years of military service and experience in industrial manufacturing. He holds Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; a Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island; and a Master of Science Degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Also joining the math department is Gunston alum Ryan Redding ’17, who has served as one of Gunston’s rowing coaches since 2022. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Washington College and a Master of Arts degree in Chemistry from the University of Delaware. With professional experience as a technician in the Research and Development Lab at the Lamotte Company, Mr. Redding gained valuable expertise in lab management and analytical skills.

Joining Gunston as the new Fine Arts Department Chair is Amanda Pesce, who earned a double Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Art History, as well as her Master of Arts in art history, authentication, and administration—all from Temple University. Most recently teaching art at St. Anne’s School in Annapolis, Ms. Pesce also taught at the Phelps School, and is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s prestigious Klingenstein Summer Teaching Institute.

Audrey McNeal joined Gunston as the Assistant to the Head of School and Alumni Coordinator. Mrs. McNeal is an accomplished administrative professional with 25 years of experience at a variety of institutions including large corporations as well as pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. Prior experiences also include expertise in tasks such as information analysis, report preparation, database management, and more.

Natalie Reading ’16 joined in January as the new Assistant Athletic Director for Waterfront Athletics and also serves as the Head Crew Coach. She is a familiar face in the Gunston community, as a four-year rower during her time, and she has experience both competing and coaching at the collegiate level for St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland club team. She earned her Bachelor’s of Art in Sociology at the University of Maryland.