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Historic Year Concludes with Prize Day
Historic Year Concludes with Prize Day

A most extraordinary academic year at St. Mark's School concluded in festive fashion with the 156th Prize Day Exercises on Sunday, May 30, wrapping up a weekend that also included a special diploma ceremony for the Class of 2020 as well as Baccalaureate on Saturday, May 29.

156th Prize Day Exercises
On Sunday, 103 VI Form students graduated from St. Mark's in a ceremony under the tent on Belmont FIeld. Alumnus Nicholas Braun '06 delivered the keynote address, while Jake Oblak '21 was the valedictorian. Graduates and guests who were not able to attend in person joined remotely via livestream.

"During the 2020-2021 academic year, you have faced challenges with courage, integrity, grace and perspective, challenges which, taken together, are unlike any challenges faced in our School's history," Head of School John C. Warren '74 said during his opening remarks to the graduates.

Mr. Warren went on to offer special thanks to faculty members who are departing after distinguished service to the School: Brian Geraghty (15 years), John Camp (13 years), Jeanna Cook (11 years), Stacey Jones-Lee (nine years), Caleb Corliss (four years), Jordan Studevan (three years), and Luc Bonhomme (two years).

Prizes and awards were then awarded, beginning with the George Howell KIdder Faculty Prize and the Class of 1961 Fred Burr Staff Prize. This year, in a break from tradition, two recipients were honored with each award.

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 Health Services Adria Pavletic and History and Social Sciences faculty member Colleen Finnerty were this year's recipients.

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, of staff and of student leaders, to a member of the staff who exemplifies these qualities. Jose Tostoes of the Facilities Department and Luke Chiasson of the Office of the Dean of Students and the Athletics Department were this year's recipients.

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 his or her St. Mark's career. This year the Founder's Medal was awarded to Beining "Cathy" Zhou. A full list of award recipients appears below.

Following the presentation of prizes and awards, Mr. Braun, an actor who is well known for his role on the hit HBO show Succession, delivered the keynote address. "St. Mark's forces you to try," Mr. Braun said. "And I believe that's the best thing that we can ever do. I believe that trying is winning." In conclusion, Mr. Braun encouraged graduates to "live your lives with passion, and courage, and kindness, and you can't go wrong."

Select this link to read the text of Nick Braun's keynote speech.

At St. Mark's, the valedictorian is chosen by the VI Form class. For his valedictory address, Jake Oblak '21 enlisted the help of five graduating classmates who shared thoughts on their St. Mark's experiences: Ning Zhang, Vianey Morris, Eduaniel Reinoso, Nick Haugen, and Leila Frederick. "The reason St. Mark's has been so special isn't because of the events, or the games, or the weekend activities," Jake said. "It's because of the people. St. Mark's isn't the tests or School meetings. St. Mark's is the memories created with our best friends."

Alys Reynders Scott '85, president of the St. Mark's Board of Trustees, then welcomed the Class of 2021 to the Alumni Association before Head Chaplain Rev. Barbara Talcott concluded the ceremony with a benediction.

Prizes and Awards

Convocation prizes from September 2020 were handed out in person:

The Walter Clair '73 Prize, 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. The 2020 Walter Clair Prize goes to Samantha Wang.

The Alice Hung '86 Prize, selected by a vote of the faculty 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. The 2020 Alice Hung Prize goes to Lily Wang Luo.

The Peter Saccio '58 Prize, selected by a vote of the faculty 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. The 2020 Peter Saccio Peter Saccio Prize goes to Lina Zhang.

The Dorothy Anderson Prize, selected by a vote of the faculty 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 2020 Dorothy Anderson Prize goes to Thomas Flathers.

The Peter M. Schuh '92 Scholarship Award, given in memory of Peter M. Schuh '92, 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 2020 Peter Schuh Award goes to Delaney Grace.

The Andrew Michael Sheridan '05 Prize, given in memory of Andrew Michael Sheridan '05 and each year is awarded 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 Chaplain.

This year's Andrew Michael Sheridan Prize goes to Graham Butterfield.

2021 Prize Day Awards:

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. Markers who have done the most for Brantwood. This year, the Brantwood Prize was awarded to Sarah Winters and Mateo Macri.

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 Daniella Pozo.

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 Samantha Wang and Chenghao (Jack) Cai.

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 is Carl Guo.

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 Lina Zhang.

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 Lina Zhang.

The Frederick A. Cammann '47 Music Prize is awarded to that student who demonstrates the most talent in musical theory and composition. This year's prize was awarded to Grace Li.

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 Waverly Shi.

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 his or her St. Mark's career, has contributed the most to drama at the School. This year's Badger Prize was awarded to Reily Scott.

The Frederick R. Avis and Anna M. Pliscz Science Prize honors two revered St. Mark's biology teachers whose love of teaching and learning set examples for both colleagues and students. The Avis-Pliscz Science prize is awarded to that student who, through curiosity, determination, passion, and practical application of ideas has acquired a deeper understanding of particular scientific processes.

In recognition of her commitment to scientific research, her enthusiasm for deep scientific exploration, and her sophisticated, methodical approach to her STEM Fellowship project this year's Avis-Pliscz Science Prize was awarded to Cara Mulcahey.

In recognition of the breadth of her studies at the highest level across the scientific disciplines including Computer Science and Robotics; and someone who has persevered and challenged herself throughout her time here at St. Mark's, this year's Avis-Pliscz Science Prize is awarded to Felicity Keyzer-Pollard.

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 Thomas Flathers.

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 Kartik Donepudi

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 Beining (Cathy) Zhou.

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 Clara Hua.

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 Siwoo (Amber) Lee.

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 Sijing "Christine" Ling.

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 Grace Li.

The Chinese Language Prize is awarded to the student who has demonstrated extraordinary aptitude and passion for the study of Chinese during his or her career at St. Mark's. This year the Chinese Prize was awarded to Junho (Ryan) Song.

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 Tate Frederick.

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 Cara Mulcahey.

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 Frances Hornbostel.

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 Holden LeBlanc.

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 Yunxuan (Coco) Chen.

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 Natalie Zaterka.

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 outstanding leaders. This year's Head Monitors were Thomas Flathers and Lily Wang Luo.

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. This year's John and Elizabeth Munroe Prize was presented to Darius Wagner.

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 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. This year's Association of St. Mark's School Prize went to Jake Oblak.

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 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. This year the Bigelow Prize went to Laryssa Barbosa.

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 Elizabeth Flathers.

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." This year's Melcher prize was awarded to Bannon Jones.

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 Thomas Flathers.

The Daniel B. Fearing Athletic Prizes, named for a member of the Class of 1878, 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. This year's Fearing Prizes were presented to Lauren Tolve and Brendan Gibbons.

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 Lily Wang Luo.

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 Cara Mulcahey.

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 Ning Zhang.

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. It is awarded each year to those students in each form with the highest academic average for the year. The recipient of the Thayer Prize from this year's VI Form was Elizabeth Flathers.

On Saturday evening, May 29, the traditional St. Mark's Baccalaureate Service took place in the tent on Belmont Field. Departing faculty members John Camp, Stacey Lee, and Jeanna Cook delivered the Baccalaureate address.

The School's head chaplain—the Rev. Barbara Talcott—and associate chaplain—the Rev. Katie Solter—presided over the service. A musical prelude from director of music James Wallace and the hymn "For the Splendor of Creation" began the ceremony, followed by a welcoming salutation and opening Collect.

As in the past, there were scripture passages in different languages read by St. Mark's VI Formers: Brett Harmon (from Deuteronomy, in Hebrew), Peter Ragone (from Ecclesiastes, in Greek), and Samantha Wang (from Philippians, in Latin).

In their Baccalaureate address, Mr. Camp, English faculty member and director of experiential learning and student enrichment; Ms. Lee, associate dean of students and director of residential life; and Ms. Cook, a faculty member in the Classics Department, focused their remarks on the value of residential life, teams, and individuals.

Ms. Lee remarked that when people ask her what subject she teaches, she replies, "I teach life." She continued, "For me, being part of the St. Mark's community—living and teaching and learning constantly, even as an adult—is about that life experience."

"We're a team in my classroom, just like we are as a community here at St. Mark's," Ms. Cook said. "We learn from each other, we challenge each other, and we get better, together."

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Camp asked the Class of 2021 to speak from their hearts as they move through the events of Prize Day weekend.

"Over the next 24 hours, take the time to think about what you want to say to the people in this community and say it to them," Mr. Camp said. "Don't hold it back."

Text of Jake Oblak's speech:

Good morning and good evening everyone. I want to begin by acknowledging everyone who has made today possible. On August 12, 2020, Mr. Warren sent an email to the St. Mark's community saying we would not be returning to campus in the fall but instead learning remotely. Although we were one of the first and only schools to make this decision I didn't think there was any way we would be able to return to campus, so I want to start first and foremost by thanking everyone for all of their resilience throughout this unprecedented year. Without everyone's diligence to follow Covid protocols, we likely wouldn't be having Prize Day today, so thank you so much to all of the families, students, faculty, and staff who have helped make this year a reality and helped Arya keep his mask on.

Next, I would like to officially congratulate the Class of 2021 on graduating and making it πthrough the past four years. I also want to congratulate Jacob Silvester on being awake during a speech for the first time since March of 2020. All jokes aside I am truly honored to be part of such a special class and sincerely hope that everyone can enjoy today because it's very well-deserved. Although our time at St. Mark's feels like it was cut short, we truly made the most of it and helped lead everyone through the craziest year of our lives.

When I was tasked with speaking on behalf of our grade, I struggled greatly to think about what to say in order to best represent our class. For some context, the only directions I was given when writing this speech were "Your speech should be around 10 minutes and should honor the occasion and your class." Knowing this, I began to reflect on past speakers to hopefully generate some ideas about what I could possibly say to encapsulate the thoughts and feelings of 103 unique individuals. I remembered past speeches and while all the speakers had great ideas and were very well-spoken, I was consistently left wondering how the students in the class felt about the address. Although they were always excellent, the speeches had presented the thoughts and feelings of one individual as opposed to the entire grade. With this idea in mind, I wanted to ensure that my speech today would not be a reflection of Jake Oblak's thoughts and feelings, but instead the thoughts and feelings of the Class of 2021. In a grade filled with tremendously talented students, athletes, artists, musicians, and Brendan Gibbons, it didn't feel right to me to use this speech to address what I felt was important. Instead, I wanted to try something new to ensure the ideas of the grade were reflected, as opposed to just my own.

In order to achieve this goal, I reached out to five of my peers and asked if they would be willing to write anecdotes about their takeaways from St. Mark's so that I would be able to share them with you all today. Unsurprisingly, all five students gladly agreed and were willing to give up their precious personal time during their last few weeks at St. Mark's to help me write this speech.

The first one of my friends I reached out to was Ning Zhang. When asked to reflect on St. Mark's and the past year in general, he had this to say:

"I used to crave for authentic Chinese food every night back in Maple 11, now I have it all, but at what cost?

"It's certainly unnecessary for me to stress how unique this year has been, but it's certainly true that the pandemic has affected me differently. I returned to China in March, after 14 days of strict quarantine. Returned to Ningbo, I was glad to see many of my family members and childhood friends, but every day, I looked forward to the day when I could return to campus. I remember saying to Oliver at LAX before boarding the last unrestricted flight back to China, 'maybe there's a slight chance we could come back in May.' I was referring to May 2020. Now it's May 2021. Due to policy and scheduling reasons, I never had the chance.

"I hardly saw any St. Mark's friends, only in the few lucky visits I had to Shanghai. In Ningbo, my middle school friends were already in college. The only opportunities to have fun with St. Mark's friends were through Discord in an extremely laggy game of League of Legends. Along with this isolation, the college application process beat me down to the ground. American colleges are notorious for being selective towards international students. For the dozens of colleges I applied to, I never heard back any positive results until late Feb/March 2021. I locked myself in my room for months. My schedule went a little something like this: get up at 2 p.m., homework till 7 p.m., classes until 2-3 a.m., college essays until 5-6 a.m. It all felt like a never-ending chapter as I kept losing weight, appetite, and morale.

"Now that I'm here, the only way is up. I guess I should stop complaining."

The next student whose point of view I will share is Vianey Morris who said the following:

"At the time that I am writing this, there are 9 days until prize day, but it doesn't really feel like it. It is hard to believe our time here is over, and I think it is partly due to the fact that COVID impacted the end of our junior year and our entire senior year. Even with these changes, I think we were able to make the best of it. I have truly enjoyed my experience at St. Mark's. If I had stayed in Chicago to go to a public school, I never would have had the opportunity to do a lot of the things I have done here. I've been a House Prefect, participated in team sports, became a Pathways Prefect, and met some friends that will be in my life for a very long time. I will miss things like Groton games, managing the football team, and having dinner with friends every day. Being here for 5 months straight was definitely hard and I do wish we had a spring break, but spending so much time on campus was a great way to go out. Thank you to all the teachers who have supported us the past four years."

When I asked Eduaniel Reinoso, he chose to reflect broadly on his time at St. Mark's as opposed to just the past year, writing:

"St. Mark's has been a series of ups and downs. I would like to imagine that most people here at St. Mark's go through some form of that. However, perseverance is a large defining characteristic of this place. As a group and as individuals we all had boundaries to push through and obstacles to overcome. There have been many times I've seen this community look broken, lost, and exhausted. But we made it this far. St. Mark's is full of perseverance and that is something we should all be proud of. As we all may know we are going to embark on a journey that places us at the forefront of building our own lives. We all have challenges. I think St. Mark's really taught that to us. However, St. Mark's gave us a place to challenge ourselves with those challenges at hand. All the people present can and will persevere."

Nick Haugen chose to write about his life before St. Mark's and what the school has taught him. He reflected on not only what he has learned, but also the things he will remember:

"Before I came to St. Mark's, I was somewhat of an academic perfectionist. least in my head I was. I held myself to unrealistic standards and devoted the majority of my time to homework and studying. These antics enabled unhappiness and stress in my life because I rarely met my standards. However, St. Mark's taught me the error of my ways.

"It was St. Mark's...that taught me that real perfection is about making mistakes and learning from them. It was St. Mark's...that taught me...and Mr. Palmer's advanced physics class...that I am more than a test score...because there is no universal standardized test that can accurately reflect your intelligence or what you have learned. And it was St. Mark's...that taught me the importance of "doing what I do" and doing it well.

"There was once a wise philosopher and metaphysician by the name of Ferris Bueller, who speculated about our short-lived existence...he said, 'life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it'...Ferris was absolutely right, because after four years of high school, if it's not the unit circle that I will remember, it's the things like playing spikeball in outer Forbes or getting way too heated over a game of go fish with my friends that I will remember. So, next time you get a...73 on your gov final or...something like that...take a deep breath...and relax. You're going to be just fine."

I would like to end with the final response that was written to me when I asked five of my peers about their takeaways from St. Mark's. Leila Frederick chose not to write a response to the question I asked, but instead a letter to me entitled "TAKEAWAYS FROM ST MARKS/THIS YEAR/GENERALLY" that reads as follows:

"Dear Jake Oblak,

I think I'll write this in the form of a letter if that's okay with you. I don't want it to be dumb so let me know if it is. Okay.

Dear Jake Oblak,

I'm sad that our time together is coming to an end. I can still remember the first time you introduced yourself to me at orientation as "James Oblak". I thought that you said O-block, and called you that for the entire year. You never corrected me. Sophomore year, I called you Jake because I didn't think we were good enough friends to be on a nickname basis. I was quite nervous that you would think I was weird for calling you what everyone else calls you. Junior year, I got over that and called you Oblak. No one seemed to have a problem with it. Now, I either go with Oblak or Jake. I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter what I call you. What matters is our Math class together, where Brett Harmon introduced himself to the substitute as you, or when we were both in the athletic trainers and you told me to "feel better soon" because "the tennis team needs'' me. People are important, and St. Mark's is the people. It doesn't matter what you call them by or how well you know them, what matters is how you interact with them, no matter how small. That's what they'll remember, and that's what I remember.

Best of luck in your next adventure,

Leila Frederick"

While the Class of 2021 is undoubtedly filled with a wide variety of personalities, one concept serves as a constant throughout all of these excerpts, the people. The reason that St. Mark's has been so special isn't because of the events or the games or the weekend activities, it's because of the people. St. Mark's isn't the tests or school meetings, St. Mark's is the memories created with our best friends. Whether it be the casual interactions in the hallway or formal annual events, the shared experiences are what will translate and what will be remembered by our Class for the rest of our lives.

After reading all of these responses, I began to think about what I might say if someone had reached out to me, asking if I would write around 200 words about my takeaways from the last year and St. Mark's. I would probably say something about not taking anything for granted and cherishing the time you have doing the things you love. Whether it be a performance by the Wolfpack, PD singing to Mr. C in Economics, or a random sports practice on a Tuesday afternoon, make the most of the time you have and don't take anything for granted because you never know when a global pandemic will completely change your life. Appreciate the little things and the connections you build because that is what will remain constant years after we all move on from St. Mark's. If I had been asked, I probably would have ended by sincerely thanking the entire Class of 2021 for all of the memories, for being my best friends, and for the best four years of my life, but since I wasn't asked I guess we'll never know.

Thank you.