By Kevin Fitzgerald, Editor
Clonlara School celebrated its 50th anniversary in a two-day event that brought together guests from across the United States and as far away as Japan. The festivities included a proclamation presented by Ann Arbor City Council Member Kirk Westphal on behalf of Mayor Christopher Taylor that showcased the school’s decades-long commitment to letting its students’ interests guide their learning.
Day One: 50th Anniversary Party
The free, public celebration on Saturday, Sept. 30, saw a crowd that filled the building and grounds of Clonlara’s Jewett Avenue location. Guests enjoyed a bounce house, face painting, and “Drummunity” circle led by Lori Fithian; and participated in a tree-planting ceremony commemorating Clonlara’s deep roots in Ann Arbor and subsequent growth into a global school that now serves students in 40 countries through its Campus, Off-Campus, and Online Programs. Founder Pat Montgomery debuted and signed her new book titled The School That’s Inside You, and a silent auction was held to benefit Clonlara’s scholarship fund.
Day Two: 50th Anniversary Brunch
On Sunday, Oct. 1, a more intimate gathering of Clonlara students, families, staff, and other supporters representing the past 50 years met for brunch at Zingerman’s Greyline. Keynote speaker Patrick Farenga—a writer, publisher, and leading voice for homeschooling and self-directed education—emphasized the significance of Clonlara staying true to its founding vision throughout the years. “Pat’s sensitivity to the context and the personalities of the learners in her school and her programs is so unusual compared to today’s standardized, point-click-and-rate education,” said Farenga. “[Her] knowledge and generosity have directly helped thousands of adults and children learn in their own ways for 50 years, and the team she handed her legacy to at Clonlara continues this important work.”
The festive weekend culminated with a rousing performance by Jeremy Kittel, a former Clonlara student who is now an award-winning violinist and fiddler, accompanied by cellist Nathaniel Smith.
Chandra Montgomery Nicol, Clonlara’s executive director and first student, thanked the event sponsors for making the celebration possible, and made a pledge on behalf of the staff to nurture and protect Clonlara School far into the future.
Clonlara gratefully acknowledges the following partners for their sponsorship of this special weekend: ACE Digital Academy, Aprill Insurance, DKSS CPAs+Advisors, Art French, and Kristine and Ray Iglesis.
Whether or not you were able to attend, we welcome your memories and stories. Tell us about your connection to Clonlara in the comments below.