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90 St. Markers Graduate at 158th Prize Day

90 St. Markers Graduate at 158th Prize Day
Jackie Waters
St. Mark's School's 158th Prize Day on Saturday, June 10, marked the conclusion of the 2022-2023 academic year. Ninety VI Form students graduated from St. Mark's in a ceremony under the tent on Belmont FIeld. Patricia Branch '04 delivered the keynote address, and Alden Mehta '23 was the valedictorian.

"Your time at St. Mark’s has been marked by extraordinary complexity, and throughout your years here, you have shown extraordinary generosity of spirit, resilience, and determination to make our School community the best it can be," Head of School John C. Warren '74 said during his opening remarks to the graduates.

Mr. Warren also noted how, as VI Formers, the graduating class led the School in a positive direction. "You have taken the steps necessary for you and fellow St. Markers to feel a full sense of belonging; and you have brought a sense of joy and fun to our School," he added.

Mr. Warren went on to offer special thanks to departing faculty members, including those who are retiring after dedicated service to the School: English teacher and Evill-Glavin chairholder Jeniene Matthews, and Director of Music James Wallace. Prizes and awards were then presented, beginning with the George Howell Kidder Faculty Prize and the Class of 1961 Fred Burr Staff Prize.

The George Howell Kidder Faculty Prize is awarded by the head of school, on the advice of faculty, staff, and student leaders, 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. Director of Student Life Caitlin Kosow was this year's recipient.

The Class of 1961 Fred Burr Staff Prize was 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 staff make to the quality of the education provided by St. Mark's. Fred Burr considered himself one—like so many staff members—who enthusiastically support the work of faculty and students while working outside the limelight. The Burr Prize is awarded by the head of school, on the advice of faculty, staff and student leaders, to a member of the staff who exemplifies these qualities. Audiovisual Manager Ron Boston was this year's recipient.

Mr. Warren then presented the student awards, including the Founder's Medal, which honors the School's founder, Joseph Burnett, and 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 their St. Mark's career. This year the Founder's Medal was awarded to Han Sun. A full list of award recipients appears below.

Following the presentation of prizes and awards, Ms. Branch delivered the keynote address. Reflecting on her time at St. Mark’s and the lifelong lessons learned, Ms. Branch shared these words of wisdom with the graduating class, “Ultimately, who you know yourself to be is what matters the most. It is crucial to self-define rather than allowing the world to define you.”

“Society may attempt to impose labels, expectations, and limitations upon you, but it is essential to remain true to yourself and your unique identity,” Ms. Branch continued. “Be unapologetically yourself, St. Markers, because it’s through that self-definition that you’ll unlock your greatest potential.”

At St. Mark's, the valedictorian is chosen by the VI Form class. In his valedictory address, Alden Mehta '23 offered this advice to members of the graduating class, "I encourage you to let your childlike imagination run wild. Bring your authentic self wherever you go and do what feels right to you. Don’t be constrained by social conformity or a lack of faith in your abilities. You are well prepared for wherever you are headed and for whatever you intend to do. Your resilience, which you have proven time and time again, will take you far."

Trustee Tarah Donoghue Breed ’00 then welcomed the Class of 2023 to the Alumni Association before Head Chaplain Rev. Barbara Talcott concluded the ceremony with a benediction.

Prizes and Awards

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. This year the Carey Prize was awarded to Maisie Pierce.

The Carleton Burr Rand Prize is given in memory of Carleton Burr Rand, Class of 1946, and is awarded for excellence in journalism. This year the Rand Prize was awarded to Sophie Chiang and Ingrid Kai Yeung.

The Coleman Prize in English, endowed by Joseph G. Coleman Jr., Class of 1899, is awarded to that student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding essay during this academic year. The winner of this year's Coleman Prize was Ziyue (Kelly) Yang.

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. This year, the Smith Prize was awarded to Shiang-Hua (Ariel) Cheng.

The Redmond Prize for English Narrative, presented in memory of Henry S. Redmond, Class of 1923, is awarded to the student who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding piece of narrative during this academic year. This year's Redmond Prize was awarded to Shiang-Hua (Ariel) Cheng.

The Frederick A. Cammann ’47 Music Prize is awarded to that student who demonstrates the most talent in musical theory and composition. This year it was awarded to Tongjun (Albert) Wu.

The J. Stanley Sheppard Music Prize is given in recognition of Stan Sheppard's 34 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. This year, the Sheppard Music Prize was awarded to Jasmine Grace Liu.

The Walter Irving Badger Prize in Dramatics is given in memory of Walter Badger's 13 years of service to the St. Mark's drama program and is awarded to the member of the VI Form who, during their St. Mark's career, has contributed the most to drama at the School. This year's Badger Prize was awarded to Sophia Ledonio.

The Frederick R. Avis and Anna M. Pliscz Science Prizes honor two revered St. Mark's biology teachers whose love of teaching and learning set examples for both colleagues and students. The Avis-Pliscz Science prizes are awarded to two students who, through curiosity, determination, passion, and practical application of ideas, have acquired a deeper understanding of particular scientific processes. This year's Avis-Pliscz Science Prizes were awarded to Sophie Chiang and Jiayi Yu.

The Philip Gallatin Cammann '14 STEM Prize is awarded to that student who has most successfully pursued breadth and depth of study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses. This year the Cammann STEM prize was awarded to Aitong (Ivy) Li.

The Edward A. Taft '69 Computer Science Prize is awarded to that student who by interest, curiosity, original thought, and practical application of ideas has acquired a deeper understanding of the field of computer science. This year the Taft Computer Science Prize was awarded to Tyler Scaringella.

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 VI Former who has done the best work in mathematics, having also studied physics. This year the Suydam Mathematics Prize was awarded to Owen (James) Nichols-Worley.

The Roy Irving Murray Prize for Excellence in Sacred Studies is given in memory of a St. Mark's chaplain from the 1920s and 1930s. This year it was awarded to Joel Lawore.

The H. Casimir De Rham Prize for Excellence in French is given in honor of a member of the Class of 1914. This year it was awarded to Lori Can Cui.

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. This year the White German Prize was awarded to Ziyue (Kelly) Yang.

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. This year the Appleton Spanish Prize was awarded to Austin Gorman.

The Chinese Language Prize is awarded to the student who has demonstrated extraordinary aptitude and passion for the study of Chinese during their career at St. Mark's. This year the Chinese Prize was awarded to Hyeonji (Tiffany) Ahn.

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. This year the Kidder Latin Prize was awarded to Yunxuan (Coco) Chen.

The Morris H. Morgan Prize for Excellence in Greek is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1877 who was for many years a professor of Greek at Harvard. This year the Morgan Greek Prize was awarded to Jiayi Yu.

The Frederic A. Flichtner Prize for Excellence in History is given in memory of a member of the faculty for 35 years. This year it is awarded to Owen (James) Nichols-Worley.

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. This year, the Burnett Prize in History was presented to Avery King.

The Ely Prize in Public Speaking, originally given by a member of the Class of 1892 in memory of his mother, is presented to the student who gave the best speech in the Global Seminar Public Speaking Competition. This year's Ely Prize was awarded to Eleanor Tesoro.

The Shen Prize is awarded to the winner of a public speaking contest among Advanced 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. This year's Shen Prize was awarded to Katelyn Yang.

The Head Monitor Prize is presented to the two Head Monitors in recognition of exemplary devoted service to St. Mark's. Both in their public roles and behind the scenes, they have been outstanding leaders. This year's Head Monitors were Kaitlyn Breslin and Joel Lawore.

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 their example has best fulfilled the ideals of St. Mark's School. This year's John and Elizabeth Munroe Prize was presented to Divi Bhaireddy.

The Association of St. Mark's School Prize is awarded by vote of the faculty to that VI Former who best represents the ideals of St. Mark's School and who, through their service to the broader community beyond the St. Mark's campus, enriches both their own life and the life of the greater School. This year's Association of St. Mark's School Prize went to Owen (James) Nichols-Worley.

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 V Former who, throughout their St. Mark's career, has shown unusual determination in all their undertakings and who has continuously been willing to go beyond the call of duty to get the job done. This year the Bigelow Prize went to Steven Heng Zhang.

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 was awarded to Matthew Parry.

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 student 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." This year's Melcher prize was awarded to Avery King.

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...physical courage or even his firm forthright moral courage; it was his spiritual strength." This year, the Bradlee Scholarship was awarded to Charlene Murima.

The Daniel B. Fearing Athletic Prizes, named for a member of the Class of 1878, are awarded to the two VI Form students 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. This year's Fearing Prizes were presented to Kaitlyn Breslin and Alden Mehta.

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. This year's Hayes Prize went to Darius Wagner.

The St. Mark's Prize for Experiential Learning, selected by vote of the faculty, goes to that VI Former who has demonstrated, through action and reflection, a particular passion for applying knowledge gained in St. Mark's classrooms to challenges existing in the larger world beyond our campus The recipient of the St. Mark's Prize for Experiential Learning was Sophie Chiang.

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. This year the White Scholarship was awarded to Kwan Yin (Mandy) Hui.

The William G. Thayer Scholarship Fund Prizes were established by the alumni to honor the Thayers' first 25 years of service to St. Mark's. They are awarded each year to those students in each form with the highest academic average for the year. The recipients of this year's Thayer Prizes were Austin Gorman (VI Form), Yoonjeong (Gina) Yang (V Form), Jasmine Grace Liu (IV Form), and Xinyue (Sherry) Mi and Yaqi (Amy) Zhan (III Form).

The Dr. and Mrs. William Thayer Scholarship is awarded to the student, not in the graduating class, with the highest academic standing in the School. This year's recipient was Yoonjeong (Gina) Yang.

The Founder's Medal honors the School's founder, Joseph Burnett, and 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 their St. Mark's career. The recipient of this year's Founder's Medal was Han Sun.

Full text of Patricia Branch's address:

Head of School Warren, fellow trustees, faculty and staff, students, family and friends, and last but not least—the ever-resilient St. Mark's class of 2023, Good Morning and welcome to Prize Day!

It is truly an honor to stand before you today both as an alumna and a Trustee of St. Mark’s, a school that I love. As I reflect on my own journey and the invaluable experiences that this school has provided me, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude and nostalgia. Prize Day is not only a celebration of accomplishments, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. It wasn’t that long ago where I was a student leader here at St. Mark’s, and much of those experiences helped me to become the woman that I am today. But, for you to truly grasp the weight of my words and the message that I’m here to bring to you, I’m going to be candid and share a few things about myself that forced me to reckon with the most meaningful learnings in my time here at St. Mark’s.

Like one of your fearless Monitors Sophie Ledonio (who reminds me so much of myself), I arrived to St. Mark’s in III Form year as an A Better Chance scholar, having never stepped foot on the campus. Before I got here, I was just a piece of paper to St. Mark’s, and the School an abstraction to me. I felt incredibly guilty and selfish for leaving my recently widowed mom and little brother in New York to attend this prestigious school that my family could barely afford. I was determined to be an exemplary student in order to make them proud. I got off to a great start, and made friends quickly, but my experience was not without its bumps and bruises. While I discovered my passion for cross-country running and classics in IV Form year, I was also SDCed and learned lifelong lessons about trusting my gut, and the importance of regaining trust in broken relationships.

In my V Form year, I began to hone my leadership skills as yearbook editor and as a Pine House dorm prefect, but also endured paralyzing moments of being objectified by my male peers in ways that made me self-conscious about my body and forced to learn the power of self-confidence and advocacy. In my VI Form year, I became a Monitor and cross-country captain, but I learned to reconcile the gift and curse of representation. I was the only Black Monitor, the only Black graduate with a Classics Diploma on Prize Day, the only student on campus of Grenadian descent—just to name a few elements of my identity—and it came with both an immense sense of pride and incredible weight.

I share these headlines in hopes that you will get to see St. Mark’s through my eyes and will internalize my first message to you: As you embark on the journey that lies ahead, make peace with the fact that people will hold different versions of you in their mind—some will remember your glowing accomplishments, and others will define you based on your shortcomings. As the great philosopher Aubrey Graham once said, “Haters will broadcast your failures but whisper your success.”

Ultimately, who you know yourself to be is what matters the most. It is crucial to self-define rather than allowing the world to define you. Society may attempt to impose labels, expectations, and limitations upon you, but it is essential to remain true to yourself and your unique identity. Embrace your passions, talents, and quirks with confidence. Be unapologetically yourself, St. Markers, for it is through self-definition that you will unlock your greatest potential. Now, indulge me with a quick trip down memory lane on how I experienced my own Prize Day speaker—19 years ago.

As I sat where you are now, with a laurel wreath on my head and in a brand-new white dress (it was clearly from Natick mall), I recall feeling inspired but also intimidated by the accomplishments of my Prize Day speaker, the late George Putnam. George was a tall, imposing and distinguished trustee, who went on from St. Mark’s to lead a life of real consequence that included several degrees from Harvard and leadership positions at premier education and financial institutions. “Besides our St. Mark’s experience, I’ll never have anything in common with him” is what I naively thought to myself. George struck me as a genius, a polymath, and someone with a résumé beyond anything that would be within reach for someone who looks like me.

Through God’s grace and my own perseverance, my professional and academic experiences have led me to have more in common with George, including a degree from Harvard, than I would have ever imagined or dreamed. And if I were more discerning back then, and even bolder back then, I would have realized that for any ways that we are different, we are all St. Markers. George would have likely taken my request for a meeting to discuss my goals and dreams. Herein lies my second message to you: My hope is that after today, each of you will see yourselves in me and in every other St. Mark’s alumni—regardless of the differences in our gender, race, zip codes or bank accounts. As you proudly transition from students to powerful ambitious alums, know that every alum desires to see you win in this world—to see you create a better future—one that makes space for our hopes and dreams for you, but also allows you to be true to yourselves.

In just a few hours you will be joining the prestigious network of SM alumni, where we will have unbreakable bonds in our memories of traditions like Groton Night bonfires, and the beauty of our ‘intentionally small’ community, which allows your peers, teachers, dorm parents, coaches, and advisors to get to know you well and to see you—fully. You have been inspired, challenged and deeply understood by many of the same incredible educators who helped shape my time at SM: Kinne McBride, Karen Bryant, Aggie Belt, and Jason Eslick, among others. Know that alongside your families, these faculty and staff are beaming with pride today in admiration of your individual and collective transformation.

Class of ‘23, your experience at SM will go down in the history of our School community as one of the most unique that any have ever had. You’ve overcome Covid and social distancing, forged new friendships, and had a step change experience in each year of your St. Mark’s journey. You arrived as III Formers in a pre-pandemic world, and by “spring break” were saying goodbye to classmates, unsure if you would see them again. Many of you faced extreme isolation when you returned to campus IV Form year, living in singles (shout out to Molly and the E-trap crew of Thayer) and being apart from family due to Covid restrictions. You returned to campus as V Formers with a desire to redefine your community, making up for lost moments in the dorms, classrooms, fields, stages and hallways of our campus. You also sought to reshape St. Mark’s in ways that would leave a true legacy. You’ve helped to craft a commitment to sustainability because you feel the gravity and even peril of our changing planet. You have advocated for more engagement in community and equity because you felt not only the societal weight of inequality but also right here in Southborough, the everyday social and emotional challenges that arise based on your country of origin, whom you love, or the color of your skin. And this is just to speak of your experience as students. As Darius Wagner so poignantly framed for me—You played games, performed on stages, studied for exams—persisted—through several consequential moments in our history with the racial reckoning across America spurred by the killing of George Floyd, multiple mass shootings, insurrection in the capital, and the invasion of Ukraine. Against this backdrop, your four years at SM will coincide with world events that are forever etched in our collective memories.

As VI Formers, you have helped reintroduce the fun—teaching younger St. Markers about the traditions of this School—like senior skip day—and some new, like Songfest and 009, and some rebranded—like kisses and carnations, which is a much more sustainable tradition than the Orange Crush cans we had going back in my day…Most importantly, you’ve poured into each other with a deeper appreciation for life’s small wins—and I applaud you for learning this crucial life lesson so early in your journey, even if you didn’t quite know there was a lesson here! We often get caught up in the pursuit of grand achievements and significant milestones, forgetting to relish the beauty in the simple, everyday moments that make up the fabric of our existence. Cherishing the laughter shared with friends in the dining hall, the quiet conversations with an advisor that leaves a lasting impact, and that the unassuming power that a solo walk down to Grungie’s can have on a weary soul…. It is said that life is a tapestry woven with countless small threads, and it is in these threads that we find true joy and meaning.

So how do you harness your success here at St. Mark’s into a winning formula to prepare you for the journey ahead? Or if you are even more meta, how do you determine what to do with your one wild and precious life? The truth is that the answer to this question will look very different for each of you. But I would love to share the single guiding principle that has been key for me in self-defining and living a life that I’ve come to love. I have learned that we are each a purpose of God—our talents, personalities, and abilities were all fashioned to answer a problem in this world, and overtime that will reveal itself to you—you won’t have to go looking for it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I was some version of “super chill”—for instance, it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear someone say—“Hey, do you know Patricia?” “Yeah, she’s super chill”... “Hey, is Patricia on your team? “Yeah, she’s suuuper chill”... Here at St. Mark’s, that enabled me to serve as a Monitor and friend to whom many would confide their secrets. In college, this talent proved important when I volunteered with a nonprofit that taught financial literacy to refugees and disadvantaged youth, as I was the unassuming mentor they could confide in. With each chapter of my professional journey, “super chill” evolved into new adjectives like “client whisperer,” where my superiors, my clients, and my colleagues would exclaim that “everything is much better” when I’m around. For a long time, these messages were disparate data points in my head, and it wasn’t until I began to grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s voice that I could make sense of it all. Most of my work days are spent with high-powered executives, solving difficult problems with a myriad of implications for their careers and their companies. Besides the table-stakes skill of being able to help them solve these problems, my superpower is helping them to feel good about the process, serving as a trusted advisor and for many, a friend.

By seeking moments of solitude and reflection, and observing the effect that I had as a leader on the people around me, I have discerned how God wants to use me in each moment. Ecclesiastes 3:11, reads, “God has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted a sense of divine purpose in the human heart, yet man cannot comprehend God’s overall plan from beginning to the end.” I can’t say with certainty where my life’s journey will take me, after all the story is still being written. But what I can say is that I’ve learned the power of trusting God and knowing that he has already placed the tools that I need to navigate this journey deep inside of me, as he has for each of you.

It is easy to feel (and be) overwhelmed by the magnitude of choices and expectations that lie ahead. But trust that within you lies a compass, a guiding force that will lead you towards your true purpose. Seek moments of solitude and reflection, for it is in the stillness that you will hear the whispers of your soul. Embrace your passions, follow your intuition, and trust the path that unfolds before you. Your purpose may evolve and transform over time, but trust that every experience, every setback, and every triumph will contribute to your growth and eventual fulfillment.

What satisfies you and fulfills you might not be the most lucrative or fit what your parents want you to do—and that’s OK. My mom is here today and can likely still remember how disappointed she was when I came home from college sophomore year and announced that I was not going to be pre-med, having spent my entire childhood proclaiming that I was going to be a doctor. Mom—it’s working out, I promise! And if you see my mom today, just say hello —she’s super chill…

Do not be afraid to carve your own path, even if it diverges from the conventional norms. The world needs individuals who are courageous enough to challenge the status quo, to question the existing narratives, and to dream beyond the boundaries set by others. Your worth is not determined by the opinions of others; it is found in your authenticity and the impact you make on the world around you. And that is exactly what St. Mark’s has prepared you to do—Age Quod Agis. A phrase that none of us will ever forget. Go out there and do what you do—for you.

Before I go, let me recap my key messages to you—(1) Be bold in self-definition, unafraid to break free from society’s mold. (2) Use your network—you are joining an incredible group of alumni who are rooting for your success and happy to help however we can. (3) continue to appreciate the small moments in life, for they are the building blocks of happiness.(4) And above all, trust that God has already placed your life’s purpose deep inside you, waiting to be discovered and embraced. And, in the words of the same philosopher cited earlier, he also goes by Drake, “even if you only get part of it right, live for today, plan for tomorrow…party tonight.”

Congratulations, Class of 2023—celebrate this moment! You are embarking on a remarkable journey filled with endless possibilities. Embrace the challenges, savor the victories, and never lose sight of the extraordinary individuals you are destined to become. From one St. Marker to another—you’ve truly earned this one.

Take care.
Full text of Alden Mehta's address:

Hello everyone and thank you all for coming, It’s no secret that we find ourselves at a very special occasion today. Class of 2023, you should feel overwhelmingly proud as you sit in those seats in front of me. Making it here is a grand achievement, but it’s not one we can claim all the credit to because we certainly didn’t do it alone. To family, friends, teachers, coaches, advisors, staff, role models, and everyone else, thank you for your immeasurably important support along our journey to today. Where are we, though? I mean, what is today?

This is it. This is the end. Or is it?

It’s certainly the end of something, our time spent together here at St. Mark’s. However, when I asked someone how they felt about this moment, they told me this: “this is not the end—in a final sense—but the end of the beginning.” So Class of 2023, CONGRATULATIONS on graduating and arriving here ... at the end of the beginning. I like this phrasing because it puts this moment in its appropriate context. More than at an ending, we are at a moment of transition.

Transitions prompt a range of thoughts and emotions that vary from person to person. We feel sad, happy, hesitant, eager, anxious, hopeful—if you're like me, an untidy assortment of all these feelings and many more. Transitions are complicated. Ours will be no different. But these moments set us on new trajectories. They quite literally change our lives. So I believe it’s important to fully address our transition. It can be split up into three stages.

The first stage of our transition is the “leaving behind” phase. Everything that we’ve gone through in the past four years is now behind us. This compels me to reflect. While this speech is far too brief to do justice to this incredible journey of ours, I hope that my words lead you to relive it in your memory. I hope that your mind flashes through the moments that defined your experience here and that you recall not only what’s happened, but how it made you feel.

So where do we start? Well, I’ll start at the beginning of the beginning: Revisit Day. Some of you may not have had the chance to attend Revisit Day, but I went into it with a little aggravation. You see, not too long ago I was informed by my admissions decision that if I wanted to attend St. Mark’s, I needed to be a boarding student. Don’t get me wrong, being a boarding student here is awesome, but I live eight minutes from campus.

Nevertheless, as I went about my Revisit Day, with “maturity beyond my years” I somehow managed to free myself from this aggravation. All jokes aside, I found myself magnetically drawn to this place—the high standards, both academic and moral; the positive energy; the closeness among the people. I sensed that there was something really special here, and I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. You all, or maybe a parent on your behalf, made that decision too. And I have to say, I’m glad you did, because each and every one of you is an integral part of the Class of 2023 and of St. Mark’s School.

The secret to what makes this community so extraordinary is actually quite simple, I think. It can be encapsulated by a saying my grandfather once told my father who then passed it on to me: “Real friendship comes from doing things together.” Here, we’ve done a lot together: academic classes, visual and performing arts, athletics, clubs, affinity groups, and other extracurriculars. Again and again, we’ve gathered together in the Chapel, at School Meetings, and at probably a few too many required events in the PFAC. We’ve participated in an array of memorable on campus events from Groton Night to the Wick Festival. We’ve connected virtually in Zoom calls as Covid scattered us all across the country and around the globe. We’ve crowded around tables in the dining hall, sharing laugh after laugh until our stomachs hurt. We’ve challenged ourselves with the support of those around us and grown both individually and collectively as a result. We’ve received valuable advice from St. Markers who preceded us and did our best to pass along a bit of our own wisdom to those who follow us.

Our shared experiences have formed sturdy bonds between us. We were brought together not only by our shared achievements and successes, of which there are many to celebrate, but also by our struggles and failures—and trust me, there was no shortage of these either! But that’s life and it’s how we grow. Now, these times are behind us. And since we can’t go back, whether we’d like to or not, let’s look to where we must inevitably go: the future.

This brings me to the second stage of our transition: the liminal phase. The liminal phase is a term used to describe the in-between phase when you’ve left something behind but haven’t yet rooted yourself in a new place. Metaphorically speaking, it’s the hallway that connects one room to another. We are on the verge of entering this phase.

The coming months might not be as smooth-sailing as we’d like them to be. Change can be hard to adjust to. For this reason, the liminal phase of a transition can be a bit disorienting. We’ll be tasked with navigating uncharted territories and facing the uncertainty of the future, so I want you to lean on the people you’ve met here and allow others to lean on you as they need to. We’ll soon lose the comfort of routine, but it’s a two-sided coin. With the end of the familiar comes the excitement of new beginnings. Maya Angelou captured this sentiment beautifully. She said, “This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.” Each new day is unique and therefore presents a whole host of new possibilities. I encourage you to let your childlike imagination run wild. Bring your authentic self wherever you go and do what feels right to you. Don’t be constrained by social conformity or a lack of faith in your abilities. You are well prepared for wherever you are headed and for whatever you intend to do. Your resilience, which you have proven time and time again, will take you far.

Eventually, we will settle in our new environments. This “settling stage” is the third and final stage of our transition. In time, the unfamiliar will fade into normalcy, and we’ll begin to leave our mark on our new communities. We’ll “do what we do” under new roofs and around new faces. We’ll explore and inquire. We’ll take more leaps and continue to grow. We’ll do all this with the many things we’ve absorbed from our time at St. Mark’s. I mentioned all that we are leaving behind, so it’s only fitting that I mention all that we are bringing with us.

St. Mark’s has not only given us the intellectual tools we’ll need to thrive in our next destinations, but also the meaningful relationships we’ve fostered here. Cling to these and they’ll last a lifetime. And our time at St. Mark’s has instilled important values in us, ideas like respect, integrity, care for one another, and the importance of the common good. If you weren’t aware, the world’s got a lot of problems—division, recession, climate change … what feels like a never ending list. You hear it all the time, but we are at a pivotal moment in time, and St. Mark’s has equipped us with all that we need to make a positive impact on the world around us. People like us can make a difference, need to make a difference, but the difference isn’t always made in the Oval Office or at the United Nations. Sometimes it's the combined force of many small, seemingly insignificant actions on their own that can have a profound effect on the world. I urge you to bring a bit of good with you everywhere you go as you “do what you do.” Kindness rubs off on people. One person’s kindness has the power to inspire those around them who will then inspire more. By means of this ripple effect, one person’s goodwill can flow through a multitude of people.

Now back to today. As we consider this special moment of our transition, this brief interval of time between one ending and a new beginning, between the quote unquote ending of the beginning and our new adventures, I leave you with a quote from American author John A. Shedd—“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” So, St. Mark’s Class of 2023, sail on! Thank you.

Photography by Alissa Williams of Thorn & Petal Films
More photos of Prize Day are available on our SmugMug page here.
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