Historic OES Bell Rung 152 Times to Kick off School Year

A beloved OES tradition, the Belltower Opening Ceremony kicked off the 2021-22 school year on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Grades 5, 8, and 12 were present for the ceremony where Head of School Mo Copeland, Board President Dan Drinkward ‘95, and Upper School Student Body President YooJin L. '22, addressed the community. For health and safety reasons due to Covid, additional students, employees, parents, and alumni watched a livestream from classrooms, homes, and cars.

“The Belltower Ceremony is one of the few times a year when we all gather together as a community, part of the richness of our heritage and tradition,” Copeland said. “Last year, I said those words with no one in the Belltower circle. This year, there's clear progress. We now have some students, some teachers, and staff here, and we have a lot of hope for this year.”

Copeland welcomed 70 new Lower School students, 29 new Middle School students, 21 new Upper School students, and 17 Boarding students, totaling around 100 new OES families.

“What a challenge to be welcomed virtually, but please know how much we look forward to getting to know you and being with you throughout the fall and school year,” Copeland said.

Drinkward offered encouragement to the community for another unusual school year.

“As we come back into this much more normal school year, it's going to feel a little different and that's okay,” Drinkward said. “It's okay to be a little anxious about something different and it's okay to try new things. I hope it spurs you to do something different, and try something new.”

2021-22 Upper School Student Body President YooJin reminded students to be grateful for the support they have in family and teachers. 

“As we enter into this new school year, I urge you to take some time and look around you. I want you to remember and appreciate people who have been there for you from the beginning,” YooJin said. “I want us to never forget that we did not come this far on our own. It was only possible because of people who got you back up when you fell down, who reminded you that you are able, and who sacrificed themselves for you.”

The ceremony was a first for 21 new employees who also got to ring the bell during their orientation in mid-August.

The Rt. Rev. Diana Akiyama Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon closed the ceremony with a prayer.

“May this school year be marked by wonder, joy, and discovery,” Akiyama said. “For each of you, that wonder will fuel your curiosity to ask questions, especially the big questions, questions about purpose, meaning, and identity. That joy will fill your innermost self to laugh with deep belly laughs as well as to remind you in those quiet moments, you are more than the worst thing you ever did, that you are loved.”

As is tradition, the students in grade 5 took turns ringing the bell 152 times.

Did you miss the 2021 Belltower Ceremony? Watch a recording of the broadcast at oes.edu/events.