This story first appeared in Nobles Winter 2023, 2021-2022 Annual Report.
1949–the first Poloroid camera goes on sale at the Boston Jordan Marsh for $89.75, the World Health Organization is established, and the Olympic games are held for the first time in 12 years. In the small down of Dedham, Massachusetts, two forward-thinking directors and five staff members welcome 48 children to the inaugural summer of Nobles Day Camp (NDC).
Nobles faculty members Grandin Wise and George K. Bird knew their proposal to start a day camp on campus held some promise, but even these visionaries could not have imagined that, three quarters of a century later, their inaugural program would grow to a camp that employs over 300 staff and welcomes 1500 campers per summer. This past summer, NDC celebrated 75 summers of learning and fun that Bird, Wise, and the directors and staff who followed them created for countless children and families.
Since its inception in 1948, Nobles Day Camp has seen only five directorships – an average tenure that is almost unheard of at summer day camps, which tend to see frequent turnover in leadership. In 2003, NDC welcomed its 5th head, the beloved Emily Parker. For 19 years, she seamlessly ran a camp intent on continuing the legacy of its founders, emphasizing the enjoyment of play through multiple activities and resisting the trend towards specialization. In January 2023, on the cusp of two decades of leadership at NDC, Parker, who has mentored hundreds of staff and has seen thousands of children through the program, will step ever-so-hesitantly away from her perch on the Owl’s Nest. Parker has been instrumental in the camp’s success, her unwavering devotion to the children, the staff and the founders’ mission making the camp what it is today.
“There may be no better model of the school’s mission than Nobles Day Camp,” says Chief Financial Officer Steve Ginsberg, who has worked closely with Parker over the years. “The camp,” he adds, “models positive relationships between adults and children and provides real opportunities to take risks and grow. Over the past 20 years, the upholding of that mission has been modeled by Emily Parker. It is incredibly rare to find a true camp person who understands the business of camp. In her years at Nobles, Emily has led the biggest program that we have at the school with incredible care and thoughtful mentorship of campers and counselors, all while generating critical revenue for the school’s operation.”
Echoing Ginsberg’s sentiments about the connection between the school and the camp, Parker also alludes to the deep connection between the school and the camp and explains where the two diverge. “We feel pretty strongly that we have been able to follow the school’s mission, all the way up to academic rigor, and then we take a sharp left turn because we say, ‘Kids have so much pressure all school year, and this is the one place they can do something just because they want to. Our program will let you dabble and find what your interests are and what you want to continue to pursue, but more importantly, what it does is it really allows kids – and staff – to continue developing the social-emotional side, what it is to be in a group, conflict resolution, and socialization skills that they don’t have time to do anywhere else.”
Parker explains that Bird and Wise sought to use the campus “in a way that promotes education, but through a fun learning experience that is hands-on, experiential and recreational,” and this is exactly what NDC continues to do today. “We have tried to do a good job of care-taking the vision and being the steward of that philosophy,” she adds, “and we have tried really hard not to stray from it. Nobles Day Camp is a vibrant, caring summer community, and campers and staff all recognize and appreciate what a great place it is to spend their summers. None of that would be possible without the vision and dedication of GK and Grandy. How proud they would be to know their legacy lives on!”