On Saturday, June 10, 90 St. Markers received diplomas at the School's 152nd Prize Day exercises. Fifty-three graduated with distinction, twelve were members of the Cum Laude Society, and nine earned Classics Diplomas, having mastered both Greek and Latin, entitling each to wear a laurel wreath at the ceremony.
Prize Day began with the traditional procession of faculty, Sixth Formers, and all other students into the tent on Belmont Field. After Rev. Barbara Talcott, the School chaplain, gave a prayer of invocation, all those assembled sang "America the Beautiful" and recited the School Prayer. Head of School John C. Warren '74 spoke, congratulating the Sixth Formers, acknowledging their families, and recognizing faculty moving on from St. Mark's. Then, assisted by veteran faculty member Lee Wells, Mr. Warren presented the Prizes and Awards. These presentations would culminate in Siyi Lucy Cao '17 receiving the Founders Medal—the highest honor St. Mark's can bestow.
THE GEORGE HOWELL KIDDER FACULTY PRIZE, established by his children at the time of Mr. Kidder's retirement from the Board of Trustees. This prize is awarded by the Head of School to a member of the faculty who has contributed to St. Mark's above and beyond the ordinary and who has shown the same love of learning, compassion and commitment to excellence which marked George Howell Kidder's life.
THE CLASS OF 1961 FREDERICK M. BURR STAFF PRIZE, established by the Class of 1961 on the occasion of their 40th reunion to honor one of their teachers, Fred Burr, and his emphasis on the contribution of staff to the quality of the education provided by St. Mark's. Fred Burr considered himself one—like so many staff members—who enthusiastically supported the work of adults and students while working outside the limelight. The Burr Prize is awarded annually by the Head of School to a member of the staff who demonstrates extraordinary support of the work of St. Mark's adults and students, the approach the Class of 1961 sought to honor.
THE BRANTWOOD PRIZE celebrates the strong bond that has existed for close to a century between St. Mark's School and Brantwood Camp. This prize is awarded each year to the St. Marker(s) who have done the most for Brantwood.
Lindsay VanWyck Nielsen '17
Samuel Brody Fuller '17
THE JOHN A. CAREY PRIZE is given in recognition of and appreciation for the 36 years of loving service John Carey gave to this School. It is given to that student who has contributed the most to the visual arts at St. Mark's and who has excelled in more than one art form.
Virginia Bromwell Walsh '17
THE CARLETON BURR RAND PRIZE is given in memory of Carleton Rand, Class of 1946, and is awarded for excellence in journalism.
Siyi Lucy Cao '17
Lindsay Vanwyck Nielsen '17
THE COLEMAN PRIZE IN ENGLISH is awarded to that student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding essay during this academic year.
Elizabeth Eastman '18
THE WILLIAM OTIS SMITH PRIZE FOR ENGLISH VERSE is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1907 and is awarded to that student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding verse during the past year.
Urgyen Wangmo '18
THE HENRY REDMOND PRIZE FOR ENGLISH NARRATIVE is awarded to the student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding piece of narrative during the academic year.
Virginia Bromwell Walsh '17
THE FREDERICK A. CAMMANN MUSIC PRIZE is awarded to that student who demonstrates the most talent in musical theory and composition.
Xiaoqiu Steven Li '17
THE J. STANLEY SHEPPARD MUSIC PRIZE is given in recognition of Stan Sheppard's thirty-four years of faculty service to the music program at St. Mark's and is awarded to that student who has contributed the most to the musical life of the school during the current year.
John Ellis Gage '17
THE WALTER IRVING BADGER PRIZE IN DRAMATICS is given in memory of Walter Badger's thirteen years of service to the St. Mark's drama program and is awarded to the member of the Sixth Form who, during his or her St. Mark's career, has contributed the most to drama at the school.
Charlotte Grace McGill Wood '17
THE PHILIP GALLATIN CAMMANN SCIENCE PRIZE is awarded to a student who has excelled in more than one science course.
Jason Conroy Qian '17
THE CHEMISTRY PRIZE is awarded to a student who has excelled in the study of chemistry.
Jovin Ho '18
THE FREDERICK R. AVIS AND ANNA M. PLISCZ BIOLOGY PRIZE honors two revered St. Mark's biology teachers whose love of teaching and learning set examples for both colleagues and students. The prize is awarded to that student who by interest, curiosity, original thought, and practical application of ideas has acquired a better understanding of biological processes.
Samantha Riley Sarafin '17
Katherine Reagan Hartigan '17
THE ST. MARK'S PHYSICS PRIZE is awarded to that student who through original thought, practical development of ideas, and inspiring leadership has done the most for the advancement of the science of physics during the preceding year.
Zheyin Chen '17
THE JOHN SUYDAM MATHEMATICS PRIZE is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1904 who taught mathematics at St. Mark's for many years. It is awarded to that Sixth Former who has done the best work in mathematics, having also studied physics.
Shubo Gabriel Xu '17
THE ROY IRVING MURRAY PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN SACRED STUDIES is given in memory of a St. Mark's chaplain in the 1920s and 1930s.
Olivia Erna Sommers '17
THE H. CASIMIR DE RHAM PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN FRENCH is given in honor of a member of the Class of 1914.
Keely Elizabeth Dion '17
THE JOHN RICHARD WHITE PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN GERMAN is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1899 who also taught German here.
Xiaoqiu Steven Li '17
THE PETER BRYCE APPLETON PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN SPANISH was given by Francis Appleton, of the Class of 1935, in honor of Peter Bryce Appleton, a member of the class of 1961.
Cole Hunter Schmitz '17
THE HENRY P. KIDDER PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN LATIN is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1914. Henry Kidder is also the grandson of the founder of St. Mark's School.
Tatum Leigh Schultz '17
THE MORRIS H. MORGAN PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN GREEK is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1877 and for many years a professor of Greek at Harvard.
Keely Elizabeth Dion '17
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE PRIZE is awarded to a student for exemplary work in and a passion for the study of the Chinese language.
Seihyun Sarah Choi '17
THE FREDERIC A. FLICHTNER PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN HISTORY is given in memory of a member of the faculty for 35 years.
Siyi Lucy Cao '17
THE GEORGE HALL BURNETT PRIZE IN HISTORY is given to commemorate the graduation in 1902 of a grandson of the Founder. It is awarded on the basis of a special essay in American History.
Siyi Lucy Cao '17
THE SHEN PRIZE is awarded to the winner of a public speaking contest among Advanced Placement United States History students on the topic of democracy. The prize is given by Y.L. Shen in honor of his daughters, Ing-ie (Ava) Shen of the Class of 1988 and Ing-Chuan (Judy) Shen of the Class of 1989.
Rebecca Lovett '18
THE HEAD MONITOR PRIZE, is presented to the male and female Head Monitor in recognition of exemplary devoted service to St. Mark's. Both in their public roles and behind the scenes they have been exemplary leaders. The gift of these gavels honors everything our Head Monitors have given to St. Mark's in this role.
Teagan Elizabeth Ladner '17, Michael Alfred Alfieri '17
THE JOHN AND ELIZABETH MUNROE PRIZE, first given in 1949 in memory of a member of the Class of 1902, was renamed in 1990 to include his wife, a distinguished and inspiring figure in the field of social work. The prize is awarded each year, by vote of the faculty, to the underformer who has shown the greatest promise of intellectual leadership and who by his or her example has best fulfilled the ideals of St. Mark's School.
Jiwon Choi '19
THE ASSOCIATION OF ST. MARK'S SCHOOL PRIZE is awarded by vote of the faculty to that Sixth Former who best represents the ideals of St. Mark's School and who, through his or her service to the broader community beyond the St. Mark's campus, enriches both his or her own life and the life of the greater School.
Xiaoqiu Steven Li '17
THE CHARLES WILLARD BIGELOW PRIZE is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1891. It is awarded for promise of character by vote of the faculty to the Fifth Former who throughout his or her St. Mark's career has shown unusual determination in all his or her undertakings and who has continuously been willing to go beyond the call of duty to get the job done.
Colin Boylan '18
THE HENRY NICHOLS ERVIN SCHOLARSHIP is named for a member of the Class of 1936 who was killed in World War II. It is awarded by vote of the faculty to that student who best exemplifies the character of Henry Ervin who, while at St. Mark's, at Brantwood, at Harvard, and in service to his country, seldom missed an opportunity to do a kindness or lend a hand. This year the Ervin Scholarship is awarded to
Jason Conroy Qian '17
THE PIERSON F. MELCHER PRIZE is given in honor of the founding Headmaster of the Southborough School and is awarded by the St. Mark's faculty "to that girl who through clarity of expression, effectiveness of logic, and sense of community well-being best exemplifies the tradition and spirit of the New England town meeting."
Charlotte Grace McGill Wood '17
THE DOUGLAS H. T. BRADLEE SCHOLARSHIP is named for a member of the Class of 1946 who was killed in the Korean War. It is awarded by vote of the faculty to that student who best exemplifies the qualities of Douglas Bradlee. In the words of his Headmaster, what was special "was not so much (Douglas Bradlee's) keen mind or his frankness or his manly physical courage or even his firm forthright moral courage; it was his spiritual strength."
Henry Robert Hirschfeld '17
THE WALTER WALTER CLAIR '73 PRIZE usually given at opening Convocation, is selected by a vote of the faculty to a rising VI Former who embodies the intellectual and community service priorities characterized by Dr. Clair's life and career. A celebrated medical researcher, practitioner, and innovator, Dr. Clair has worked tirelessly to enhance the educational and economic opportunities for underserved members of his community.
Sophie Haugen '18
THE DANIEL B. FEARING ATHLETIC PRIZES are awarded to the boy and girl who best combine athletic ability with good spirit, good team play and sportsmanship. The prize was established to reward both the winners' contribution to the success of their teams and their wholesome and positive effect on the athletic life of the School.
Tatum Leigh Schultz '17, Samuel Brody Fuller '17
THE HAROLD HAYES PRIZE, named for a member of the Class of 1907, is awarded by vote of the faculty to the member of the graduating class who has been of greatest service to the school.
Teagan Elizabeth Ladner '17
THE WILLIAM G. THAYER SCHOLARSHIP FUND PRIZES were established by the alumni to honor the Thayers' first twenty-five years of service to St. Mark's. It is awarded each year to those students in each form with the highest academic average for the year.
Shubo Gabriel Xu '17
Sada Rose Nichols-Worley '18
Matthew Henry Walsh '19
Helen Zhou Huang '20
THE DR. & MRS. THAYER SCHOLARSHIP to the student with the highest academic average among all III, !V, and V Formers.
Matthew Henry Walsh '19
THE WILLIAM TOWNSEND WHITE SCHOLARSHIP is named for a member of the Class of 1886. It is awarded by vote of the faculty to a deserving student based upon academic achievement
Shubo Gabriel Xu '17
THE FOUNDER'S MEDAL, the school's highest academic award, honoring the School's Founder, Joseph Burnett, is endowed in memory of Brigadier General Richard Townsend Henshaw Jr., of the Class of 1930. It is awarded to the member of the graduating class with the highest academic standing over the last three years of his or her St. Mark's career.
Siyi Lucy Cao '17
After the prizes and awards were presented, the 2017 Prize Day speaker, Dr. Walter Clair '73, was introduced by St. Mark's Board President Alys Reynders Scott '85.Dr. Clair A skilled physician, medical researcher and innovator, told the story of his youth in Chicago and his arrival at St. Mark's through the A Better Chance (ABC) program in the fall of 1969. Central to his powerful narrative was a clear message: it is much better, he said, to "build intellect on a foundation of character, than to try to build character on a foundation of intellect." Character, he declared, was the central component to a good life.
Mr. Warren then presented the diplomas, followed by a speech from the 2017 Valedictorian. One of the most interesting and unique St. Mark's Prize Day traditions is that of the Sixth Form Valedictorian. Unlike most schools, where the Valedictorian is the senior with the highest academic standing, at St. Mark's the Sixth Formers elect one of their classmates to give the Valedictory address. This has been the custom at St. Mark's since its earliest days, recognizing the original definition of "valedictorian" as one who delivers the closing or farewell address at a ceremony (a "valedictory", from the Latin vale dicere, "to say farewell"), with no reference to specific academic standing requirements. This year's valedictorian was Charlotte Wood '17 (see the text of her full valedictory address below).
Ms. Scott then welcomed the ninety new graduates to membership in the St. Mark's Alumni/ae Association, and with a Benediction by Rev. Talcott, the 2017 Prize Day ceremony came to a close.
PRIZE DAY ADDRESS delivered by Dr. Walter K. Clair '73
Good morning Head of School Warren, trustees, faculty and staff, students, family, and friends and, of course, the St Mark's graduating class of 2017.
It is truly an honor to be invited to speak today to an audience of some of this nation's brightest students and most dedicated educators. Let me begin by offering my congratulations to you, the graduates. You, your families and your faculty should be proud of what you have accomplished individually and collectively.
Now, please relax. Don't worry if you fall asleep, the applause that will arouse you will not be for me. They will be to let you know that we are moving on to the most important part of today's program. Unfortunately, there are plenty of data to suggest that as excited as you are, you won't remember me or what I have said today when you return for your fifth year reunion. But one thing you will likely never forget is the St. Mark's School motto: Age Quod Agis. This morning I want to share with you what our school motto means to me.
Before I came to St. Marks, the old folks in my family (when I was doing household chores or completing school assignments) would often say, "Be the labor large or small, do it well or not at all." So, when I came to Southborough more than 40 years ago, Age Quod Agis, or "Do what you are doing", as we translated it then, seemed self-evident to me. More recent generations of St. Markers have taken the motto to mean "Do and be your best." Before I explain what I believe is the subtle difference in these interpretations, let me tell you how I got here.
A couple of months ago we honored another cohort of distinguished alumni. Among them was Ethan Loney who was the first African American student to graduate from St. Mark's in 1969. That winter I was an eighth grader violating the school districting policies of the Chicago Public School system. You see, for two years, my family had been using a false home address to get me into what they believed was a better middle school in the neighborhood that surrounded the University of Chicago. As long as I was on good behavior, the school principal had agreed to turn a blind eye to this transgression. But while that false address got me into a better middle school, the very same false address was zoned to an underperforming high school. Just as today, poor, black kids in inner-city Chicago in the 1960s had limited opportunities for a quality education. If they wanted me to get a good education, my family had to lie or send me away.
On a cold day in 1969, I stood on 63rd street, a block from my home. Two years earlier I and my middle school safety patrol had been robbed by two teenagers with a zip gun at this very same intersection. Now I stood alone in front of a US postal mailbox and a trash bin. In my hand was an application to the same A Better Chance program that had facilitated Ethan Loney's admission to St. Mark's. Though we knew nothing of each other, while I was trying to decide if I should mail my application, Ethan was successfully completing his last semesters at St. Mark's.
The application to ABC offered the possibility of my being accepted into a program that sent inner city youth to private boarding high schools. If accepted, I might escape not only low teacher expectations but also the gangs, drugs, and street violence that would eventually result in the murder of one of my brothers and, a generation later, two of my nephews.
My life had already been dramatically changed three years earlier. My mother was failing at raising her eight children, each of whom had a different, absent father. Fortunately, one of my mother's cousins adopted me and my older brother who suffered from learning disabilities. In my new home, I attended school and church more regularly but was still teased by my schoolmates for being on welfare, wearing clothes that I had clearly outgrown and shoes that had cardboard covering the holes in their soles. Nonetheless, they had no problem bullying from me anything of value I might occasionally acquire. In spite of this, I had no desire to go off to a school where the other students would be from families that in my estimation lived in fairy tale wealth.
There I stood. I was a 13 year-old boy choosing between a mailbox and a trash bin. Well, figuring I would not get into the program anyway, I chose the mailbox. However, several weeks later was accepted to St Marks School. My family was euphoric! I had the chance to be the first in my immediate family to finish high school and the thought that I could attend a school that would prepare me for college was like winning a lottery. Everyone sacrificed to buy me luggage, school supplies and clothes. That fall I arrived at St. Mark's... totally unprepared! At the end of the first grading period, my third form English teacher refused to give me the failing grade that I deserved. Instead he told my family not to accept collect phone calls from me. He wanted them to force me to write home hoping that doing so would help improve my writing. When I wrote to my family, I pleaded to come home. They told me I was welcome to come and stay home once I got straight A's.
A key feature of the grading system at that time was the awarding of an effort score in addition to a letter grade. I received plenty of high effort scores along with my low letter grades during my early years at St Marks. While straight A's were an unrealistic goal, I desperately did not want to return to Chicago and have to repeat the ninth grade. With sympathetic and supportive faculty and with sweat, swearing, and tears on my part, I slowly overcame the educational apartheid of my early Chicago Public School years. I eventually caught up academically and, with help from roommates, adapted socially. I made the honor roll my junior year.
One afternoon my senior year, I was asked to meet with my English teacher after the senior English exams were graded. I thought, "This cannot be good." Had I skipped a section on the exam? Was I about to be accused of plagiarism or cheating? As he stuffed tobacco into his pipe and leaned back in his chair, Ned Hall looked out of the window of his office and reminded me that he was the reason my family had not accepted my calls when I was a third former. Then he looked me in the eyes and said "I called you here to tell you that you scored the highest grade on the senior comprehensive English exam. However, I can't tell you that because when we reviewed the tests, it seems you tied with one of the smartest boys in your class. Well done, my boy.''
I had not done well by myself. Frankly, the faculty nurtured me and the other two black boys in my class. They and the seniors in the class ahead of mine had appointed, elected or drafted the three of us into all the school leadership positions we could possibly hold our senior year. So, in spite of an unspectacular over-all GPA and only respectable SAT scores, I was advised that because my record showed sustained improvement, I should be able to get into a top-rated college. To my surprise, I was accepted into every college to which I had applied. This was also true for the other two black boys in my class. We had won the lottery!
What should have been a great senior spring instead became a time of anxiety, disappointment, hostility and accusation. Several of my classmates ostracized the other black seniors and me. We basically ran St Mark's during the 1972-73 schoolyear. While our service and leadership was respected and appreciated, it did not, in the eyes of some of our classmates, earn us... three black scholarship students ...the rewards that some thought belonged to them. They believed that we were taking their college spots. The pie had gotten smaller so their table manners had changed. Suddenly friendships that had developed in the dorms, over meals, on the sports fields, and in the science labs began to unravel. At our weekly meeting with the Headmaster, the other monitors and I had to discuss the school's response to "the year of the N word" a phrase that was being whispered (and in a few cases shouted) by a small band of disgruntled seniors. It took a lot to heal the hurt. In spite of the kudos I received from close classmates and advisors who had nurtured me through my many academic challenges, I began to doubt myself. I wrote a letter to Harvard's Dean of Admissions demanding to know if I had been admitted simply to fill a quota. His response read in part, "Harvard makes its very difficult selection by looking carefully at each applicant. ...every applicant is an individual who is evaluated on his personal strengths and achievements. Some men admitted may have lower test scores or grades than others not admitted, but if so they clearly had personal or other strengths which made up the difference. "
To me, there is the distinction between "Do what you are doing" and "Do and be your best". You see, I now believe that Harvard was much more impressed with what St. Mark's had done for the development of my character than the development of my intellect. Many of you may know that after a certain age, it is easier to nurture intellect on a foundation of character than to nurture character on a foundation of intellect.
Graduates you will face many challenges in your lives as you transition to college and into the real world of work and adult responsibilities. As you sit listening to that jazz standard 'Round Midnight, perhaps thinking of Reed Andary, '17 on bass and Cole Schmitz, '17 on Sax, you will have to answer important questions. Is college right for me? In what should I major? Should I join this or that chat group? How will I vote? What causes will I champion? Should I contribute to the larger social good? And, if so, how? Your answers to these questions will be based more on your character than your intellect.
I was given the life changing opportunity to come to St. Mark's in 1969 not because I chose the mailbox rather than the trash bin, but because in 1965, beginning with Ethan Loney, the trustees and faculty of St. Mark's believed intellectually that the education of poor black boys mattered. More importantly, they had the character and moral courage to do something about. And your current trustees and faculty believe that the education of children of all races and all genders matters!
The world is not a perfect or predictable place for the majority of the earth's population or for a large number of our fellow citizens. Truth, social justice, science, the environment, tolerance and civility are all under assault. You may find the not-so-perfect reality of this world troubling, especially as you transition into this next important phase of your young lives. Therefore, it is important that you strive to fine-tune the core values of intellect, character and leadership that you have learned while at St. Mark's. To paraphrase what John F. Kennedy said when describing the goal of putting a man on the moon, Age Quod Agis. Do and be your best "not because it is easy, but because it is hard"; because it will serve to organize and measure the best of your energies and skill; because it is a challenge that your time at St Mark's has prepared you to accept and one that your families are willing to help you achieve.
Thank you and again Congratulations to the Class of 2017!
VALEDICTORY ADDRESS delivered by Charlotte Wood '17
Good morning, class of 2017. Good morning, parents, friends, family, faculty, staff, coaches, dorm heads, and everyone else who helped us get here. Thank you so much for taking the time to celebrate this milestone with us today. I'm Charlotte Wood (but you all just heard that), and it's an honor to be speaking to you today. Well, here we are, as in, at graduation, graduating, as crazy as that sounds. It doesn't feel like all that long ago that we were greeting each other with orthodontia-infused smiles at 2013 orientation. So, first and narcissistically foremost, I want to congratulate the class of 2017, because, you know, we did it!
I gave a chapel speech earlier this year, on the second day of the second semester. I talked about the beginning of the end, the opening of the close, and so I feel that it's appropriate for me to be speaking today: at the end, at the close. I care very deeply about proper conclusions and proper goodbyes. I'm proud to say that I do know how to pronounce Will Hollinger's last name now, and I'm proud to say that Kitty Chen and I have had many conversations at this point, beyond me addressing the fact that I like her name because I'm a cat person. Now, don't worry, I'm not going to start walking up and down the aisles right now. See? No lapel mic. Plus, these shoes aren't exactly conducive to strolling through uneven grass.
However, I am a theater kid with a captive audience, and we all know how much theater kids like those, so buckle up. I think I would disappoint myself, not to mention my director and all the other members of the theater department, if I didn't sneak something from one of our productions into this speech, so I'd like to share with you all a bit of dialogue from the winter play of my sophomore year, specifically an exchange between Picasso, Einstein, and Elvis Presley (I swear I'm not making this up) that feels particularly appropriate right now. It goes, "Did you see that? Shooting star. They hit the atmosphere and burn white. I'd like to leave a long trail. A long string of fire...So bright that when you look away, you can still see it against your eyes. I would like that...a retention of vision." I think that we, the class of 2017, have been striving for a retention of vision, and I think that we have achieved it. I think that when we walk away from this place today, people will still see us on the backs of their eyelids when they blink. Our legacy will remain, our legacy of leadership, activism, optimism (at times), struggle, perseverance, quirkiness, good humor, honesty, character, and some great fashion sense (I'm looking at you, Bryce). We will not be soon forgotten. Our class is weird and silly and imperfect and amazing. I'm so glad that I've been able to grow up with you all. I think we all owe a lot of who we've become to those that have simply been with us all these years—for these long, endless, short four years. They say that high school is a formative time, and they're right. I'm glad that I spent my formative years here.
But, of course, our class had a great deal of help along the way, people who have guided us and helped us to become the extraordinary group of individuals sitting here today. Parents, teachers, coaches, advisors—all those adults I mentioned just a minute ago. High school kids aren't always the easiest to deal with, and I'm glad that there are some adults out there that elect to spend their lives dealing with surly fourteen year olds, and helping them to become not-quite-as-surly eighteen year olds. Helping them learn to not only cite in Chicago style (thanks, Mr. Eslick), or graph the second, third, and fifteenth derivatives (thanks, Ms. McBride), or even to not take high school quite so seriously (thanks, Rev. Talcott), but also helping them learn to be people of integrity, to be people of loyalty, to be people of authenticity. Simply put, to be better. These aren't the easiest jobs in the world, but I have no doubt they're some of the most rewarding.
Sir Isaac Newton's (wow, I'm making my physics teacher so happy right now, not to mention my calc teacher—or, I guess, my former physics teacher and my former calc teacher...sad), Sir Isaac Newton's last words were "I don't know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." I believe that at this very moment, we are all staring out at the great, unexplored ocean of truth, ready to dive in. St. Mark's and all of its teachers, coaches, and advisors helped us to stop messing around with shells and pebbles, to look up. To see all the possibilities extending out before us. St. Mark's gave us goggles and surfboards and wetsuits, and now it's time for our journey into the deep to begin. I'm not sure what I'll discover in that ocean of truth, and I'm sure it is far different from what some of my peers will discover, but I believe we will all find what we are looking for, and what we are meant to find—and we have St. Mark's to thank for that in many ways. Every single one of us has come extraordinarily far in our four (or three, or two) years here.
And, I think it's safe to say that our class has had a particularly interesting four years here, what with the nixing of the six-day schedule, the implementation of the five-day schedule, the addition of St. Mark's Saturdays, the tearing down and rebuilding of the STEM building, and the introduction of Lion Term. St. Mark's is a very different place now than it was four years ago, and I'm proud to have seen this school evolve in the way that it has, even if there were some awkward phases here and there (but then again, I'm pretty sure every single one of us has had an awkward phase during our time here, so who are we to judge). These changes haven't always been easy to adapt to, but we made it through all of them together. In this crowd I see some of the kids I took chemistry with the year they were building the STEM building (and trust me, taking chem in a temporary classroom is not ideal), and I see some of the kids I took bio with the year the STEM building opened. I see some of the kids who were in my three-week-long beta Saturday class sophomore year (behavioral econ with Mr. C!), and I see some of the kids who were in my last Saturday class ever (time travel with Mr. Camp and Mr. Backon!). During our time here, St. Mark's has grown and changed nearly as much as we have.
But what really amazes me is how uniquely each and every one of us has changed. We haven't been standardized to death, turned into zombies (a little wink to Dr. Harwood, resident zombie fan), or told to be this or be that. St. Mark's has taught us how to be—to be kind, to be curious, to be critical, to be strong—not what to be—a doctor, a lawyer, an athlete, an artist. Rather, we are all St. Markers, and the beauty of that title is that it can mean infinitely many things. And, St. Mark's has taught us that the formation of our identities does not end now—far from it. St. Mark's has taught us to always keep growing, to keep asking questions and searching for answers, to keep trying new things and going to new places. Simply put, to keep on.
And we will! That's the next step to all of this, right? I stop talking, you're all relieved, we skip off into the sunset, then go to college, then start our inevitably successful careers (I mean, St. Mark's education, right?), get married, send our kids here, donate to the annual fund, etcetera, etcetera. Our impending futures are beginning to materialize in the distance. We're all gazing out at that undiscovered ocean of truth. So exciting, but also so strange. After today, our class will scatter, and of course some of us will stay in touch, but some of us will never see each other ever again. Today might be the last time we're all together in one place. This, right here, is a moment for us. So, class of 2017, enjoy it. Cry, laugh, eat a bunch of cupcakes, declare your undying love to your secret crush, whatever it may be. Don't daydream about summer break just yet, or stress about class registration. Enjoy this moment of reflection. Enjoy this moment of being here. Enjoy this moment of transience.
Now, I know this might be pushing it, but I'd like to leave you with a bit of dialogue from our winter show this year, Peter and the Starcatcher: "We change. We grow up. It always happens. Nothing is forever. That's the rule. Everything ends. And so our story begins." I know it's cliché, and I know that addressing the fact that it's cliché is cliché, and I think pretty much every graduation speech in the history of the world is at least sort of cliché, but it's true: every ending is a beginning. This, right here, is a moment for all of us, one that we will always remember. Not the beginning of the end or the opening of the close, but rather the closing of the close, the beginning of the beginning. This is a moment of both extreme sadness and extreme joy. You need to take it. Hold on to it. Don't let it pass you by.
I know we're all moving on, past this place and into college, but I believe that we will all look back fondly on our years at St. Mark's, for it is from St. Mark's that our entire future stems. Thank you, and good luck!