Celebrating School Walk Around the World

Peter Becker with students, School Walk 2022

This year, alumni and current parents were invited to help the School celebrate the beloved tradition of School Walk on October 6, by spending time outdoors, wearing their Gunn gear, and liking, tagging, and sharing photos of walks past and present via social media.

“In the spirit of Mr. Gunn, take a walk, go on a hike, plant a flower, or ride your bike — whatever you do, take some time to appreciate the outdoors and the power of connecting with nature,” the Alumni & Development Office said in a postcard mailing, encouraging the entire Gunn community celebrate School Walk Around the World.

Among those who participated from afar was TK Knowles ’85, who lives in Pacific Palisades, California, and went on an eight-mile hike with his dog, Bluto. Charles Cohen '63, submitted his School Walk 2022 photo from Guatemala, and McKay Flanagan ’16 shared a photo from his 2015 School Walk with Taylor Slade ’16. 

Here on campus, current students and faculty gathered on the Koven-Jones Glade at 10 a.m., dressed in commemorative t-shirts designed by Gunn Society leaders. Just before the procession began through the main gate into Steep Rock, Associate Head of School Seth Low P’26 reminded students that the tradition of School Walk is an opportunity to step away from technology and experience the beauty and wonder of the natural world, which Frederick Gunn so loved.

“It was 140 years ago that folks came together right around the corner to commemorate Mr. Gunn’s life, and certainly Mr. Gunn, I think, is smiling down and maybe had a hand in the weather today,” Low said, reading a passage from The Master of The Gunnery about “Monument Day,” a celebration of Mr. Gunn’s life that took place on October 4, 1882, one year after his death. On that date, which was also Mr. Gunn’s birthday, a large gathering of Washington friends and former pupils filled the Meetinghouse on the Green to capacity for a service that included tributes by Clarence Deming, Class of 1866, and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, a past parent and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The ceremonies concluded with a procession from the church to Washington Cemetery for the dedication of a monument at Mr. Gunn’s gravesite. Low read a passage from Beecher’s remarks at the service: 

“I congratulate you; you are a community rich, not in silver, nor in gold, but in that which is far more precious, and which silver and gold cannot buy. Henceforth, and for generations, no man of intelligence visiting this beautiful hill-top will fail to ask for the monument which we unveil to-day; for, as on the village green the church spire points heavenward above other roofs, so on that lovely hill-top his monument will be the spire and point upward to God, to Heaven, and to Rest. I could not but feel, when the morning broke over the hills, that God was before us, and had sent his heralds to cleanse the sky, and intended the very air we breathe to stir more purely and sweetly on such a day as this. An October day, — ripe, rich, clear, and beautiful! In such a day he was born. If you think of the year and its changes, June is the month that bursts out from the gates of heaven, with all that is youngest, and clothed in that which is the most tender and beautiful; and October is the month that goes back to heaven and to rest — is nearest to our Creator and to the glories that await us.”

Last year was the 160th anniversary of the first School Walk in 1861, when Mr. Gunn led 30 boys and a dozen girls on a 40-mile hike from Washington to Welch’s Point in Milford, Connecticut, where they camped in tents for 10 days. That first camping trip on Long Island Sound, which Frederick and Abigail Gunn led again in 1863 and 1865, is celebrated every October, when the entire school participates in School Walk, hiking eight miles through Steep Rock Preserve. The hike has evolved over time, taking students to Lake Waramaug and Mount Tom, and served as a precursor to the summer camps Mr. and Mrs. Gunn organized in the 1870s at Point Beautiful on Lake Waramaug, It is for these activities that the American Camp Association credits Mr. Gunn as the founder of recreational camping in the United States.

This year’s students and faculty, some accompanied by faculty dogs, followed a now-familiar eight-mile route past the Holiday House ruins, through the train tunnel, around the Clam Shell, along the banks of the Shepaug River, over the suspension bridge, and up to the Pinnacle, where they enjoyed a picture-perfect view of the surrounding hills.

Additional Images

Charles Cohen '63 School Walk 2022

Charles Cohen '63 celebrated School Walk 2022 in Guatemala.

TK Knowles ’85, School Walk 2022

TK Knowles ’85, who lives in Pacific Palisades, California, and went on an eight-mile hike with his dog, Bluto.

McKay Flanagan ’16 and Taylor Slade ’16

McKay Flanagan ’16 and Taylor Slade ’16 shared this photo of their 2015 School Walk.

Marlon Fisher '01, Associate Director of The 1850 Fund, encouraged students to enjoy the experience of School Walk.