Entire Chapel sings Jerusalem at Gary Sutton's Memorial, December 2019.
Beloved Traditions Keep School Spirit Vivid
Both serious and fun traditions are at the core of our school culture. From our daily Morning Meeting in the Chapel led by the School Government Association president, where we sing the alma mater to start the day, to the spirited fun of Hornet/Jacket competitions, and the beautiful solemnity of commencement at historic Westminster Presbyterian Church, we maintain a respectful and dynamic school culture for both students, faculty and alumnae.
- Hornets and Jackets
- Morning Meeting
- Hanging of the Greens
- Honor Code Assembly
- Winter Revel
- Why Jerusalem?
- Endowed Lectures & Visiting Artists
The Hornet/Jacket competition is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Buffalo Seminary; it's also one of SEM's oldest traditions, dating back to 1916.
Legendary headmistress Miss L. Gertrude Angell organized SEM into two basketball teams in 1916 and it has grown into a school-wide intramural competition for over a century.
Each fall, on "Hornet/Jacket Day," every new student, faculty, and staff member is made a member of one of the teams. For life. Selection is a closely guarded process of the athletic directors and head of school. It may also be an inheritance - team membership is passed on through alumnae siblings and other family members who attended SEM.
Hornet/Jacket Day begins with a freshman sleepover at the school the night before, commences in the morning with a neighborhood costume parade and proceeds to our Larkin Field for group dances and field games.
When you meet a SEM girl of any age, anywhere, the first thing you should ask is: Hornet or Jacket?
The two teams battle to win points in contests throughout the year - particularly for Spirit Week, Hornet/Jacket Day, the Halloween costume and skit contest, the Hanging of the Greens day's holiday sweater contest, school decorating and bushe de noel contest, and finally culminating in the Putting on the Hits contest in June when the winner of the Hornet/Jacket is announced and engraved on the Hornet/Jacket Spirit Cup.
4/16 - Sarah Hamdan '18
I am a proud Jacket! From being sprayed with shaving cream to the endless screaming on Hornet/Jacket activities, it feels a great to be a part of this incredible experience! It brought me closer with some great people. GO JACKETS.
1/16 - Harry Schooley
Proud to be a faculty Hornet from 1967 to 2010 (and a former Faculty Hornet) from 2010 on!
10/15 - Natalie Rice '16
100 years of green and 2 years of driving this baby down Elmwood!
9/27 - Anonymous '19
I am a freshman at sem and I had an amazing time at the hornet jacket sleepover and the next day!
9/27 - Lauren '17
Hornet Jacket Day!
9/27/2015 - Erin Kelly
So many pictures are starting to come in! This one was sent to me while I was in Bermuda at a school fair on Friday.
Each school day begins at 7:55 a.m. in the chapel with Morning Meeting, a beloved tradition that puts the spotlight on individual students, while bringing together the entire school. Led by the School Government Association president, all students and faculty gather together for singing, presentations, and announcements. Whether it’s a senior's presentation (senior year each student makes a presentation - sometimes academic, sometimes musical, sometimes funny, always poignant), a community service opportunity, or an update on team sports scores, or an invitation to a club meeting, students take center stage. We also invite guests from the community to make special presentations on issues such as distracted driving or teen health.
Quincy visiting Morning Meeting to accompany Grace McHale's '20 Senior Presentation
SEM graduation has been held at beautiful and historic Westminster Presbyterian Church for as long as anyone can remember or document. (SEM was founded in 1851 and Westminster was founded in 1847.) Graduation is an all-school ceremony - freshmen, sophomores and juniors attend. Often alumnae and former faculty return to sit in a back pew. It's a day filled with red roses, white dresses, singing, tears, inspiration and hope.
Look at a gallery of the formal graduation picture of each entire class here.
What started as a decorating responsibility for the annual BSAA Holiday Bazaar each December has become a happily anticipated day filled with traditions that celebrate the diverse cultures and associated winter holiday celebrations in our school community. A chain of students stretches from Bidwell Parkway through the big wooden doors and up the stairs into into the Chapel. A day of music, dancing, art, craft, learning and of course, decorating (for Hornet/Jacket points, of course!), culminates with cinnamon buns and hot cocoa and caroling in the Magavern-Sutton Courtyard.
Winter Revel sings students and faculty out into the winter vacation. The Ensemble plays, the student Glee Club and a cappella group the Semachords sing; even the faculty has a Glee Club!
It's also a tradition at Revel that young alumnae return home to SEM to catch up with teachers, coaches, and underclassmen and rejoin with the Semachords.
Buffalo Seminary Convocation September 9, 2019
By: Patrick Long P '18 Chair, Buffalo Seminary Board of Trustees
You have no idea who I am, or these people sitting in the front row. We’re the trustees of the school. Many of us are current or former parents. My daughter, Charlotte, graduated from SEM last year. Many of us – the lucky ones – went to SEM. We work with Mrs. Marlette to make sure SEM will be here for the next 169 years. It’s our job to worry.
It’s your job to learn. Well, it’s part of your job to learn. SEM is more than just a school that teaches you a curriculum. And your teachers are more than just people who tell you what you need to know about history, or science. And you are more than just students. Every morning, you promise to do something remarkable, something special. Every morning you promise to build a New Jerusalem here on Bidwell Parkway. That’s what I want to talk about this morning.
The first song you sing as you enter SEM, and the last song you sing when you graduate, is Jerusalem. When this school sings that song, it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world. Trust me, when you sing Jerusalem at your Commencement, your folks will cry like little babies. It’s fun. There’s mascara running everywhere. The words to Jerusalem come from William Blake, a great – and totally bonkers -- English poet. Make sure Ms. Wright lets you read him.
What’s important about the song, and why you sing it, is this verse:
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.
Other than the overwhelming beauty of your singing, the reason Ms. Angell picked this song for SEM almost 100 years ago is that verse.
First, a quick word about why this poem has music. Originally, the poem had no music. In 1917, England was deep in the misery of World War I. There seemed to be no end to the killing, as an entire generation of young men were lost in the mud of the Western Front. Sir Hubert Parry knew the British public needed something to boost morale, so he set Blake’s words to music. He wrote a tune that could be song by voices in unison. His song took England by storm, and it became one of the most beloved songs in all music. It is England’s unofficial national anthem.
What does that have to do with SEM? Well, Buffalo can be pretty bleak in February, but we are nowhere near as bad as London in 1917. You sing this song because of the words of that stanza. You sing this song because you promise, every day, to build a new Jerusalem here on Bidwell.
Jerusalem, of course, is the name of the city in Israel, considered sacred by three major religions. Its ancient name means City of Peace, which you probably noticed, as Salem sounds like salaam, the Arabic word for peace, and shalom, the same thing in Hebrew. But Blake is not saying we need to build a new city with buildings and streets and plumbing. There’s no need to – that Jerusalem already exists.
No, he’s talking about something much more strange, and much more important. He wants us to build a new Jerusalem not from bricks and mortar, but from kindness, and compassion, and love for one another. That’s what’s so amazing about the line:
Bring me my Bow of burning gold
Now, a bow of burning gold would be really cool to own. But it would be useless in battle, or as a tool to build anything. Gold bends too easily. And it’s burning. And what good is an arrow of desire when you need to build a wall? You need a shovel, not a chariot of fire, if you are putting in sewer lines.
Blake is being all metaphorical. He uses the imagery of battle to show us that building a city of peace, a city of love, is not easy. It’s as hard as war. It’s easy to hate your classmate. It’s easy to make fun of Mr. Hopkins. It’s easy to be jealous when someone gets a better grade than you, or has more likes on SnapChat than you, or gets into her choice of college. Being kind to one another, supporting one another, helping one another, is not something you can just decide to do one day and then move on. There’s no going cold turkey when building a new Jerusalem. You need to get up every morning, put on your armor, and fight the battle again. As Blake says, and you promise, I will not cease from mental fight. It’s a mental fight, not a physical one. But it is just as hard, and just as important. And it never ends. You promise never to cease from the fight. And no one will fight this battle for you. Notice the words: you do not sing Bring us our spears. You sing Bring me my spear. It’s your fight. It’s your job, alone.
That’s why you sing this every morning. As a member of the Buffalo Seminary family, you are not just a student. You have a mission. When the days get short, and the nights long, you commit yourself to building a city of peace in these walls. We cannot control what happens outside SEM. But we can … you can … build a new Jerusalem here. All of us – you, the faculty, the trustees – all of us need to make SEM a city of peace, a place where kindness … where compassion … where love … is our marching order. Let’s do that today, and tomorrow, and the next.
That’s why you sing this song. Let’s build Jerusalem here on Bidwell Parkway. Have a great year. Thank you.
SEM has a number of endowed funds to enrich to the school program. In the fall we welcome the Adsit Lecturer, often to give our convocation address. In the spring we welcome the Colby Oishei Artist, the Wilkinson Poet, and the Prince Lecturer. Many of our faculty invite practicing professionals in the arts, sciences and business, and law fields to share in classes.
Colby Oishei Arts Fund (1983)
Established with a gift from Patricia Oishei Colby ‘32 in honor of Robert W. Colby to further foster art education and art appreciation, by naming women artists connected with the Western New York community to serve as Colby Artists, who spend time on campus with their work to the benefit of the SEM community.
Betty McNulty Wilkinson ‘25 Poetry Chair (1986)
Established under the will of Elizabeth M. Wilkinson to bring to SEM’s campus and classrooms practicing poets to enrich teaching and learning of poetry, supporting SEM’s English Department.
Harriet M. McNulty ‘26 and Willcox Adsit Lecture Series (1999)
Established to fund a visiting lecturers program, inviting distinguished scientists, authors, politicians, scholars, and lecturers to share their expertise with SEM students and faculty.
PRINCE FAMILY GUEST LECTURE SERIES (2004)
This fund established by the Prince Family, seeks to enhance SEM’s curriculum by inviting distinguished scientists, authors, politicians, scholars, and lecturers to share their talents with the Buffalo Seminary community.