On Monday morning, June 1, 2020, the St. Mark's community celebrated the academic achievements of its students and bid farewell to departing faculty and staff.
Head of School John C. Warren '74 opened by asking all for a moment of silence, remembering and reflecting upon current events in these challenging times, "that we as St. Markers may contribute to making a better world."
Mr. Warren then went on to talk about St. Mark's response to the COVID-19 era, thanking both students and faculty for their hard work in making two months of remote learning work, and particularly crediting the VI Form for their embrace of experiential learning.
After an introduction from Dean of Academics Nat Waters, next year's Monitors said thank you and goodbye to 13 adults who would be leaving St. Mark's at the end of the school year.
Co-Head Monitor Lily Luo '21 spoke about chemistry teacher Jean Lindsay-Dwyer. "She was always there for us," said Lily. "Ms. L-D taught us with care and was always willing to give us time outside of class hours."
Speaking about math teacher Michelle Nieves, Jake LaMalva '21 praised the "positivity she brought to her classes." He went on to say that "her passion for math and for the betterment of her students made her one of the best math teachers I have ever had."
About science teacher Carol Smith-Nichols, Richard Zhang '21 noted that "her contributions throughout her St. Mark's career have been invaluable." Richard particularly appreciated her innovative Sat. Mark's Saturdays classes, especially "Journey Through the Labyrinth." He also declared that "her lessons opened new doors for her students."
Megan Miantsoko '21 said goodbye to Loris Adams, director of community and equity affairs. In her work, "she provoked thoughtful conversation" about "how we embrace our culture at St. Mark's." Ms. Adams' office was "allowed to be a safe space," and Megan said that "she cared for all of us and always helped us to be our better selves."
Another science teacher, Matt Eddy, was praised by Kaley LeBlanc '21. "It is clear," she said, "that Mr. Eddy was energetic and passionate, both as a teacher and as a squash coach. During our time of remote classes, he found ways to make learning fun." As a teacher, she said, "he encouraged us to question the world, inspiring curiosity and allowing us to explore the complex world of chemistry."
Veteran teacher Showjean Wu, holder of the Antony and Elsa Hill Asian Studies Chair, was also lauded by Richard Zhang. "Her engagement with students has been honorable," he declared. "She will be dearly missed as she has brought our Chinese language department to a much higher level."
Brooke Farrell '21 spoke about French teacher Patricia Gilbert. She reminisced about the "shared excitement" of Ms. Gilbert's classes, especially the regular Friday morning breakfast class in the Dining Hall. "You always made the extra effort to put us first," she told Ms. Gilbert. "You truly care about us and have given so much to our community."
Science teacher Chris Roche "has always been there for me," said Henry Sansone '21. "He's such a beaming example of light, always putting himself second and the St. Mark's community first: teaching robotics and computer science, coaching baseball, or playing his guitar."
Henry went on to describe science teacher Kimberly Berndt as "one of the hardest working, honest, kindest people I know." Adept at "steering all of her students through a sea of uncertainty," she is "a model teacher, coach and advisor, and a model human being."
Alumna Liz Cavanaugh '04, senior associate director of admission and girls' varsity crew coach, was described by Megan Miantsoko as "positive, passionate, and welcoming." Megan, who was inspired to join girls' crew by Ms. Cavanaugh, told her: "We will miss your cheerful and loving personality" (as well as her dog, George).
Lily Luo honored longtime librarian Marion Donovan, retiring after 25 years at St. Mark's, recognizing Ms. Donovan's "passion for history and for creating a healthy learning space for all students." Lily enjoyed her conversations with Ms. Donovan over tea. "It was a safe space," she said. "Ms. Donovan made our experience at St. Mark's all the more valuable."
It then fell to co-Head Monitor Tommy Flathers '21 to speak about Mr. and Mrs. Umiker.
Ginny Umiker, manager of the School Store and currently the senior member of the St. Mark's staff, "has gone out of her way to help us as much as possible," said Tommy. Noted for "her smile and her energy" she is loved by all. She gives students a chance to de-stress from their hectic lives in a safe space." He also recognized Bella, her dog, a constant loving presence in the bookstore. "Mrs. Umiker always took other people's thoughts and feelings into consideration," concluded Tommy. "She will be missed."
Over 40-plus years at St. Mark's, veteran math teacher Rick Umiker "has seen St. Mark's change and grow more than anyone on campus," continued Tommy, "and he has grown with it." Mr. Umiker, he declared, "exudes kindliness and humor. I'm having a hard time imagining what St. Mark's will be like without you. There will be a massive gap in the Math Department and in our hearts."
After the Monitors' farewells to departing faculty, Mr. Waters turned to showcasing the thinking and the process that went into the academic achievements of St. Markers this year, particularly over the last couple of months.
He shared the newest edition of LEO, the School's academic journal. He described it as a special "remote issue."
He also recognized the VI Form "legacy artifacts"—independent study work created by members of the graduating class. Some of the examples he shared included a series of videos. In one, Grace Gibbons '20 captured the spirit of the St. Mark's experience and shared how she learned how to knit. In another, Maeve Ahern '20 sang an original song she wrote (accompanying herself on the piano): a special farewell to her time at St. Mark's. The last line: "Goodbye, a four-year home. Just know we're not alone." Another original song came from singer-songwriter Paul Hornbostel '20. Entitled "Friends are Reduced," she sang it while accompanying herself on guitar (and accompanied by her father on percussion). The chorus: "I'll follow you when you show me the way."
Will Appell '20 delivered a video of him piloting a flight simulator. Last year he received a Matthews Grant to further his progress toward his pilot's license, but that wasn't possible this spring. So he utilized an online ground school and then shared a video of himself taking off, flying, and landing in the simulator.
Other videos included Lydia Rascher '20 learning to speak Korean and Hunter Mulvey '20 learning to play the guitar, and there were more.
Click on the links below to see some of these videos.
Examples of written presentations from this year's VI Formers doing independent projects this spring included reflections from Madeleine Wass '20, Ashley Battiata '20, Tucker Hartmann '20, Jane Dubrova '20, and Alie Hyland '20. See below for some of these essays.
Mr. Waters then went on to acknowledge both the Global Diploma and Classics Diploma presentations, which would take place later (see other web stories).
He concluded by sharing a poem by American poet Howard Nemerov, entitled "September – The First Day of School."
My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
He cries a little but is brave; he does
Let go. My selfish tears remind me how
I cried before that door a life ago.
I may have had a hard time letting go.
Each fall the children must endure together
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible
Bow down before it, as in Joseph's dream
The sheaves bowed down and then the stars bowed down
Before the dreaming of a little boy.
That dream got him such hatred of his brothers
As cost the greater part of life to mend,
And yet great kindness came of it in the end.
A school is where they grind the grain of thought,
And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one,
As from the alphabet come Shakespeare's Plays,
As from the integers comes Euler's Law,
As from the whole, inseparably, the lives,
The shrunken lives that have not been set free
By law or by poetic phantasy.
But may they be. My child has disappeared
Behind the schoolroom door. And should I live
To see his coming forth, a life away,
I know my hope, but do not know its form
Nor hope to know it. May the fathers he finds
Among his teachers have a care of him
More than his father could. How that will look
I do not know, I do not need to know.
Even our tears belong to ritual.
But may great kindness come of it in the end.
Madeleine Wass '20
It's hard to reflect on my St. Mark's experience as a whole because of the
enormous amount of growth I have had in my four years there. These years were filled
with amazing friendships, intellectual learning inside/outside of the classroom and a
pursuit of finding myself that I'm sure will continue to navigate. There was a time around
the middle of sophomore year that I strongly considered leaving St. Mark's and that
another school would be a better fit for me. Looking back on that experience now, I
know that those thoughts were not about St. Mark's at all, but rather high school in
general. I realized that I was sick of people who wanted to fit in, when all I ever thought
about was how I could be different. My interesting fashion choices and ill placed jokes
rubbed some people the wrong way, but I refused to change anything about myself
despite the lengthy conversations I would have with myself in the mirror about it. I
instead chugged out the rest of sophomore year with hope.
Things did change for me junior year, with a huge credit to the PineOak dorm.
Becoming a prefect put me in a situation with newfound trust and responsibility that I
thrived in. Junior year I showed myself that when it comes down to it, I can put in the
work. My fellow PineOak prefects were my rock that year with endless homework
parties that lasted far too late into the night. One of the proudest moments of my life
came at the end of this year. Getting into my journey with crew would take a whole other
essay, but when I became a NEIRA gold medalist, I truly felt everything I had gone
though was worth it.
While junior year has its ups and downs, senior year was the absolute best. I fell
in love. I fell in love with a group of the most amazing girls that stand by me in
everything I do. I fell in love with a boy who motivates me to be the best version of
myself that I can possibly be. And most importantly, I fell in love with myself. I am going
to graduate with grades I could have never imagined freshman year, going to my first
choice college, and I am going to take my love of learning from St. Mark's out into the
world and make a name for myself.
I have to shout out some of the teachers that have helped me along the way. Mz.
Belt- for being a rocking advisor. Coach Cav- for putting with my crying and supporting
my crew career every step of the way. Nora Guyer- for being the coolest person ever
and always someone I can talk to. Ms. Warner- for our awesome van ride talks and your
genuine interest in how my life is going. Ms. Hultin- for our common room talks and
being the sweetest. Mr. Lubick- for being so interesting and giving me confidence in my
thinking/writing skills. Ms. Lee and Ms. Roussinos- for being amazing dorm heads and
the love/trust/support that you have given me. These adults and many more have
shaped the amazing experience that I have had at St. Mark's, one that I wouldn't trade
for the world.
Jane Dubrova '20
I am not a big fan of sudden, unpredictable changes. In fact, I do hate them very much. This is
not quite the way I imagined ending my St. Mark's journey — sitting on the kitchen floor in my
PJ's, trying my best not to spill anything on my laptop, and gathering the last bits of patience to
avoid deliberately harming my father who walks around singing greatest hits of his youth while I
try to finish my homework. Sometimes I wonder how on earth I didn't end up accidentally
submitting the lyrics to some 1990s Russian song instead of my English essay, but then I'm not
entirely sure I didn't. My point is, the last several months of my St. Mark's career were anything
but well-planned, relaxed, and peaceful. And yet I also know that I learned from them a great
deal, in part, by looking back at the past two years and realizing how incredibly lucky I've been
to have ended up at this place.
St. Mark's faculty and staff motivated me to pursue my interests and get out of my comfort zone,
be it by challenging me in the classrooms or by reminding me to take advantage of
extracurricular opportunities. Every single one of my English teachers (and I had a privilege to
learn from four of them in two years that I spent here) gave me the confidence to explore my
passion for writing and to share my work with others. If it weren't for their support and
guidance, I would never have had the guts to consider pursuing creative writing in college. Being
a part of two different publications on campus — Vindex and The St. Marker — allowed me an
opportunity to get to know amazing students-writers and to learn from their creative ideas.
In addition to pursuing my passion for writing, I explored my newly found interest in history at
St. Mark's. My experience as a History Fellow was one of the highlights of my senior year. This
class helped me hone my research skills and build a necessary foundation for pursuing a
college-level research in humanities.
Applying for one of the grants at St. Mark's was one of the best decisions I made during my time
at this school. Spending several weeks traveling through Ireland not only gave me a new
perspective on Irish literature but also sparked my interest in Celtic cultures and languages. This
experience shaped me in so many ways — I fell in love with Ireland, started learning Gaeilge,
and decided to go to a study abroad program in Ireland while in college. I met incredible people
and visited places so rich in history and culture that it took my breath away.
Finally, even though I didn't get the chance to participate in the traditional Lion Term this year, I
had a wonderful experience working on my final project. I combined my interests in writing and
history and worked on several pieces of historical fiction set in the Soviet Ukraine. While
pursuing this project, I refreshed my knowledge of the history of my country and worked on my
writing skills. I greatly enjoyed the process and am planning to continue working on this project
even after graduation.
Tucker Hartmann '20
A Journal Reflection on St. Mark's
When I think about my time at St. Mark's, focusing on what I learned and what I can
carry into my future... I know it all stems from that trip freshman year.
Nope, not the "swimming with alligators" one (sorry Disney). I'm talking about
Sure, I can talk about how Brantwood helped me appreciate the present, how it helped me
understand the preciousness of struggle in pursuit of success, in the pursuit of joy. How it made
me know who I want to be.
But... let's hear past Tucker tell you about Brantwood. You're damn right I saved my
narrative journal from the trip, with some additions from throughout my high school career.
Entry 1: 6/3/2017
"Brantwood, in my opinion, was a success. Why? Because I think I go to be who I really
am. Who I am in our (sometimes) harsh reality, versus this simple, dirty paradise in New
Hampshire. In my real world, I am an athlete, scared to make jokes, horrible at holding simple
conversations, good at sticking in my comfort zone- a preppy white hockey player who is
sometimes a leader and has big dreams.
Who am I [at Brantwood], however? Or, should I say, who is the real Tucker Hartmann?
This week, I haven't felt the pressure of an athlete, the need to hold up my pride, my reputation,
my name. I can talk without the worry of awkwardness, yet I can be silent, content in just
watching the world go by. Sometimes, I wish I could be here always, but, in reality, I can't be
who I really am without being the 'normal' Tucker. In Brantwood, I can be an excited, slightly
obnoxious kid striving to be a good man. Someone who is willing to follow, yet also someone
with the potential to make change in this million-mile-an-hour world."
Entry 2: 10/2/18
"I was sitting up in my room one warm October day when I decided to read my
Brantwood reflection entry. I discovered how absurdly specific that piece is.
Regardless of who you are and what you represent in society, Brantwood breaks you
down into your human monomers. In Brantwood, you're no longer the athlete, the theater kid,
the pretty girl, the basket-case (The Breakfast Club 1975... just learned about MLA citations). In
Brantwood, you realize beauty around your immediate world, the beauty of the people in it, and
the beauty of unity between everything [stoner comment... I see that now]. Everyone should
experience this because understanding the broken down components of what makes us us can be
brought into our pursuit of idealism, whether that pursuit be towards materialistic wealth,
non-physical happiness, or simple contentment or enlightenment."
Entry 3: 11/3/18
"In my previous entries I forgot to mention this one moment I had up North ... I was
watching a storm of leaves falling, and it looked like utter chaos. No pattern, and it's so rushed ,
so frighteningly chaotic and meaningless. What I realized then, however, is if you look at one
leaf, really focus on it, and you'll see the beauty in the blitz from tree to ground.
In case future you gets lost in the metaphor... life is going to be CRAZY. There's SO
MUCH CRAP going on here...
Focus on each and every present moment, you'll realize how simply precious they are."
Entry 3: 2/3/2019 (the dark one)
"How many people can you trust in your life, including yourself? Can we actually trust,
or just force an illusion that what you or another person says is real? Does trust contribute to
happiness? Do we need trust to survive, succeed, find peace, live happy, hakuna matata? How
much of trust is necessary?
The best trust is founded in simplicity- in cases when it's so simple to be on each other's
team... because you are together with your team in the big ole pursuit, because team's do or die
Find your team. You know some of your teammates, and there's always more for you out
Entry 4: 8/25/2019
"You're in the good times now kid. Doesn't mean you can't have more... just know
you're in them right now"
Entry 5: 5/29/2020
"Ok... just to be clear, Brantwood did not teach me every lesson I learned at St. Mark's.
That list goes on and on through classes, teachers, friends, sports, and everything else that I
experienced throughout high school.
Brantwood was a pause button for me in my life- a literal halt in the stress and pressure
that I felt my freshman year. For many reasons that was a really challenging time for me
personally: I didn't make this US National Development Team Program tryout, I had recently
been SUSPENDED as a 14 year old (?!?), and, worst of all, LITERALLY all of the close friends
I had made during my freshman year (friendships that took a REALLY long time to form) were
pursuing opportunities at different schools. It was one of the only times in my life that I was truly
disappointed in myself, one of the only times I truly felt like I wasn't enough .
But then I got onto a bus at St. Mark's, rode up to Brantwood, and put my phone into Mr.
Monheim's box. I stepped out of the bus, slapped a couple of bugs away, then went on with full
focus on the activities of the week.
Everything I did during that week... I didn't do it with acknowledgment about who I was
and how I acted back in Southborough, I did everything that week as who I was there ... the only
way I can describe it is I was ME.
I realized I had a personality and beliefs when there's no pressure to become someone
else, when there's no fear of failure and pain. And, most importantly, I realized that I can be that
person if it's who I want to be . I have it in me, and there's no reason to not let it shine each and
every day, whether that day is stressful or peaceful, jovial or tragic.
So, that's what I'm going for: Brantwood Tucker- a Tucker who appreciates the moment,
a Tucker who won't ever hesitate to step up to the challenge, and a Tucker who won't hesitate to
help a friend or a stranger. A Tucker who has the potential to make change in this
A REAL Tucker... the one I choose to be."
Ashley Battiata '20
My St. Mark's Career Experience
Though my St. Marks experience did not get the ending I longed for, I am grateful to have spent
four years as a lion. St. Marks has allowed me to take advantage of so many opportunities other
kids in the world are not presented with. I strongly believe the education I received here is
greater than any other private boarding school, and the community here is stronger than any
When I look back at my freshman self and compare her to myself today she has definitely grown.
I thank St. Marks and more specifically Ms. Adams and the pathways team for strengthening my
knowledge and awareness on global topics. Coming in I was diverse, "a person of color", and I
guess I knew that, but in Lawrence, Massachusetts I never had to define myself because
everyone was of color. Coming into St. Mark's and having to create an identity, having to explain
my background and my culture was shocking. Similarly, learning about other cultures was eye
opening. I was different, but so were my classmates.
At St. Mark's I wanted to make sure that my "being Hispanic" or "being of color" was just that. I
integrated myself in the community, I involved myself in sports and I hung out with just about
anyone. Fortunately they accepted me too. Choosing to not hide behind my differences and
insecurities was the best thing I did at St. Marks, because in doing so I got to connect with my
Personally, I think that throughout my four years at SM I stayed connected with different
members of my community, from freshmen, to sophomores to juniors, I continued to make
relationships. With that said, as the years went by, I did have a set friend group, people who I
surrounded myself with the most. Around junior year I learned the importance of surrounding
myself with people who are positive, determined and that help me grow. I learned to surround
myself with great influences, funny and chill non dramatic people. Highschool can be chaotic,
and I surrounded myself with people who stayed away from that chaos. I needed people who
cared about the same things as I did; who cared about their future, athletics, leadership
opportunities, getting good grades, getting into college etc. You subconsciously pick up the
habits of those who you surround yourself with, and I made sure to only pick up great habits. My
friends supported me running for and being a Monitor, which was huge for me, because certain
friend groups hate on others for being a Monitor. To have their support meant everything and I
knew I chose the right friends.
I am very proud of my performance academically. Getting high honors my senior year and
finishing off strong was a great accomplishment. I am not the same student I was freshman year,
or even junior year. Every year I grew more as a scholar and challenged myself more. I credit the
three classes I had with Ms. Berndt for that. Her classes not only built the way I think ( deeper
and critical) but it grew my confidence. I am not shy, or introverted, but when placed in a SM
classroom I knew I wasn't the smartest. My classes with Ms. Berndt helped change that, I
learned that I am just as smart as my classmates, and once I learned that I spoke with more
confidence and improved my classroom performance and my scholarship.
Overall, I am proud of everything I got to do at SM, from attending AISNE's, to going on the
Dominican Republic Service trip, to being a pine oak prefect and to being a Head Monitor. I am
grateful for all of that and had the most fun doing it. I will always love St. Mark's School and
look forward to my future reunions with my wonderful and successful classmates.
Alie Hyland '20
VI Form Legacy Reflection
These past two weeks of learning have allowed me to leave my home, spend long periods
of time away from technology, and reconnect with nature and the sense of normalcy that I have
been deprived of for months. Socially-distanced hiking with my small group has greatly
benefited both my physical and mental health.
Over the course of these past two weeks, mygroup and I traveled to some of the most beautiful trails in Massachusetts. Each of these trails were well maintained and had their own unique features. The Great Blue Hill Skyline Trail was challenging due to its steep and rocky slope, however, this difficult journey was worth it due to the beautiful view of Boston at the top of the hill. Purgatory Chasm was one of my favorite hikes because of the diverse terrain and various trails that allowed for a "choose your own adventure" type of experience. On this hike, we climbed through giant rock structures and walked through almost every trail on site in pursuit of a waterfall that I distinctly remembered from the last time I visited.
Other trails we visited include Tipling Rock, Callahan State Park, Nobscot Scout Reservation, and Ashland State Park. Traveling to and exploring various parts of Massachusetts was a highlight of these past two weeks and we plan to continue hiking throughout the summer. Our goal is to hike Mount Monadnock when weather permits to create a full-circle experience from our Third Form Lion Term. St. Mark's has largely influenced my views of and interactions with nature.
My first SM Saturdays class was Hiking and Outdoor Appreciation, and in this class we explored trails within a 25 mile radius of St. Mark's. Third Form Lion Term was my first indepth introduction to the importance of sustainability and preserving nature. Hiking and Photography Saturday Class in my Fourth Form year provided more opportunities to take time out of my day to explore nature and focus on capturing the beauty of the wilderness. All of these experiences in my underform years significantly impacted my Sixth Form year.
I was awarded the Matthews Fund Grant to study conservation and sustainability on the island of Nantucket, which was yet another opportunity to take the time to explore nature and spread awareness of the importance of preservation. I also led the Students for Sustainability group and Climate Change
Walkout this year, and my passion for sustainability that I developed after Third Form Lion
Term drove my leadership.
St. Mark's has strongly influenced my knowledge and views of the importance of nature and outdoor activity, and my experience over these past two weeks provided another opportunity for me to spend time exploring nature and clearing my mind.