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Convocation 2023: Maintaining Hope About the Future of Our Planet

Convocation 2023: Maintaining Hope About the Future of Our Planet
Jackie Waters
Each new academic year at St. Mark’s begins with Convocation, when our School community formally gathers to welcome new students and faculty, to celebrate achievements, and to set the tone for the year ahead.

At this year’s Convocation on September 8, in the Putnam Family Arts Center’s Class of ’45 Hall, Head of School John C. Warren ’74 delivered his first Head’s Reflection of the year, and notably the final Convocation talk of his career. You can read the full text of Mr. Warren’s remarks on “Maintaining Hope About the Future of Our Planet” here.

Reflecting on decades spent at his family’s cabin in the western mountains of Maine and the conservation steps taken to preserve the land and vital ecosystems surrounding the cabin, Mr. Warren shared why it is important to remain optimistic about our planet.

“There is no question that staying positive about the future of our planet has been especially hard this summer because of extreme weather events that have, surely, impacted the lives of a number of us in this room,” he said. “Despite all of that, today I want to make the case for hope and urge that you not give in to a sense of doom about the future of our planet. I also want to make the case that what we do now, every day, and the habits we develop and practice every day make a positive difference to the world we inhabit now and the world that we will inhabit in the future.”

“My optimism about a positive future for our earth has been fueled by positive examples of environmental resilience offered by Elin Kelsey in her book Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis,” shared Mr. Warren. “Also fueling my optimism are habits of mind researchers have discovered, according to Kelsey, that promote a positive outlook and determination to act on behalf of our planet. These habits of mind include kindness, empathy, and mindfulness…the evidence about habits of mind strike me as especially relevant to us at St. Mark’s because by working to develop them, we will be the best possible stewards of the natural world, we will be happier and more fulfilled, and we will be the best possible members of the St. Mark’s community.”

After Mr. Warren’s reflection, several faculty members were honored for reaching milestones this year. This is the fifth year at St. Mark’s for Dejai Barnes, Anthony Figueiredo, Nora Guyer, and Lauren Kelly, and the 10th year for Maggie Caron. Rob Calagione, Barbara Talcott, Adria Pavletic, and Nat Waters are beginning their 15th year of service to the School, while Anne Behnke and Sarah McCann are celebrating their 20th year.

Commemorative certificates were also presented by Interim Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Nat Waters to three faculty members—Caitlin Kosow, Rob Kuklewicz, and E.J. Valitutto—to acknowledge their installation as honorary alumni of St. Mark's. This tradition is a nod to St. Mark’s history as a six-form school that also included seventh and eighth grade. Faculty members receive honorary alumni status after completing six years at the School.

In addition, several VI Form students were recognized during the evening's program for receiving the following prizes:

The Walter Clair '73 Prize is selected by a vote of the faculty and awarded 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. Jeamilett Martinez ’24 received the 2023 Walter Clair Prize.

The Alice Hung ’86 Prize is selected by a vote of the faculty and awarded to the rising VI Former who best embodies the global citizenship priorities that distinguish Ms. Hung’s life and career. The founder and director of a highly successful international business operating on multiple continents, Ms. Hung has been instrumental in the establishment of a St. Mark’s partner school relationship in China. Maisie Pierce ’24 received the 2023 Alice Hung ’86 Prize.

The Peter Saccio '58 Prize is selected by a vote of the faculty and awarded to the rising VI Former who best embodies both the academic and the community and equity priorities that characterize Dr. Saccio's life and career. A leading Shakespearian scholar, who has participated in and steadfastly supported the arts, Dr. Saccio has been a strong voice for diversity and a thoughtful source of support for students, particularly those in the LGBTQ community, throughout his career at Dartmouth College. Jonathan Hernandez ’24 received the 2023 Peter Saccio Prize.

The Dorothy Anderson Prize is selected by a vote of the faculty and awarded to the rising VI Former who best embodies the character qualities inside and outside the classroom that Ms. Anderson emphasized during her tenure on the St. Mark's faculty. The first woman to teach advanced math courses at St. Mark's and the coach of numerous ISL and New England championship teams, Ms. Anderson steadfastly inspired collaboration, resilience, and rising above one's own expectations. The 2023 Dorothy Anderson Prize was awarded to Tiffany Ahn ’24.

The Peter M. Schuh '92 Scholarship Award, given in memory of Peter M. Schuh '92, is awarded each year to a rising VI Former based on the following criteria: maintenance of at least a B average in the V Form year; participation in more than one varsity sport; exhibition of leadership as a Monitor, Editor, Prefect, Peer Discussion Leader or other similar position; and, if each of the first three qualities are met, the recipient shall exhibit exceptional loyalty to, and enthusiasm for, St. Mark's School. The recipient of the Schuh Award is selected by vote of the dean of academics, the dean of students, and the director of athletics. The 2023 Peter Schuh Award was presented by Peter’s mother Barbara Schuh and Peter’s classmate Chris Wyner ’92 to Andrew Gibbons ’24.

The Andrew Michael Sheridan '05 Prize, given in memory of Andrew Michael Sheridan '05, is awarded each year to the rising VI Former who best exemplifies the character of Andrew, as remembered with these words:

"Through acts of kindness, optimism, faith in God and humanity, hard work, and gentle humor, Andrew strived to do what is right and shared his joy of life with others...every day. In so doing, he encouraged us to believe in ourselves and inspired us to be our best."

The recipient of the Sheridan Prize is selected by a committee that includes the dean of students, dean of academics, director of athletics, and head chaplain. Andrew Michael Sheridan's parents, Shirley Sheridan and Michael Sheridan, presented this year's Andrew Michael Sheridan Prize to Jacob Cifuentes ’24.
A gallery of Convocation photos by Ryan Davey is available on our School SmugMug page here.
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