Pace Academy is famous for polite, rule-following students; however, anyone who has gone to Pace knows that this perception is very false. This article will cover some funny stories from Assistant Head of Middle School Student Life Mark Sommerville and Head of the Upper School Michael Gannon, all about past Pace students and events. 

Mr. Sommerville was full of stories about witty lower and middle school students. His first story was about trying to convince a new lower schooler to join the wrestling team. After giving his spiel, Mr. Sommerville recalls the student giving him a “puzzled” and “stern look.” The little boy considered it for a few moments, and then said “I’ll have my people call your people,” to which Mr. Sommerville responded “You do that.” 

His second story occurred while he and a fellow coach were trying to discipline a middle schooler for “acting up in class.” Their punishment of choice was having the student line the soccer fields, a task that is now done by Pace’s wonderful maintenance crew, but in the past was left up to the coaches. “We didn’t think it would be a job that was hard to do, because the soccer field already had lines down – he would just have to go over the lines,” said Mr. Sommerville. “He wasn’t a soccer player, but we didn’t think that would be a hindrance for him.” After the student finished and the coaches went to check on the field, they “were so mad.” As Mr. Sommerville described, the student had “x-ed the field,” and another coach had to “to erase the field as best as she could.”

Mr. Gannon also remembers a few funny things from his time at Pace, mostly centered around Spirit Week. Mr. Gannon remembers his first Spirit Week vividly. Back in 1996, “there were no movies to be made,” so the senior class would perform small dances in the FAC at assembly. That year, the senior theme was ‘Mission Impossible,’ and two senior boys effectively traumatized Mr. Gannon by “repell[ing] out of the catwalk.” He had no idea what Spirit Week even was, so a performance this spectacular made him wonder “what is happening here,” and “where am I teaching?” 

One of Pace’s most prized traditions is the senior sleepover the night before the dances during Spirit Week, where they decorate the school and sleep on the floor of the Inman center. Mr. Gannon explained that the reason for this tradition is that “seniors slept on the roof of the FAC” before the faculty decided it would probably be safest to host one in Inman. “They would decorate the building, and they were supposed to go home but they didn’t,” remarked Mr. Gannon. 

On the morning of the Great American Picnic (or GAP day for short), the seniors parade down from West Paces Shopping Center in similar fashion to the first day of school parade. Mr. Gannon recalls a particularly rainy GAP day when the seniors “gathered up at the West Paces shopping center … in their pick-up-trucks” and began their journey to the FAC. Things were going well at first, but there was one thing that they forgot to account for: an angry police officer. “Half-way down West Paces Ferry he pulled them all over – he put his flashers on and he pulled the entire parade over and he made them get out of their cars and walk up the block to Pace.” These poor seniors showed up 20 minutes late, soaking wet, and exhausted to their GAP day assembly. 

Rick Carson, a long-time English teacher and soccer coach, retired four years ago. His most exciting weekend at Pace took place after a Friday night away game, when Mr. Carson was putting soccer balls back in the storage unit near the tennis courts. Unfortunately, the door shut behind him, locking him in the tiny storage area for over 48 hours. He was let out only when Mr. Ague heard him screaming on Monday morning. Mr. Gannon recounts, “his wife didn’t know where he was, he did not have his cellphone with him, she had called the police to try to find him because he had essentially disappeared for two days.” Thankfully, he survived, and the faculty now looks back on this situation fondly. 

The class of ’23 celebrates after a successful spirit week dance. Photo: Fred Assaf

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.