Home Community Blog A Tribute to the Families of the Class of 2023

The following text are transcriptions of the meaningful and passionate speeches given by Waterford students, parents and faculty during a few of Waterford’s end-of-year events in tribute to the members of the Class of 2023 and their families. 


Introduction by Andrew Menke, Head of School 

Welcome to this final Parents Association meeting of the 2022-23 school year. It’s hard to believe… that we have only five weeks left in the school year. And, for many of you parents who have children in the senior class, an exciting and, I imagine,  bittersweet last stretch.

This is one of my favorite meetings of the year—an opportunity to hear from parents whose last child at Waterford is a member of the senior class. The end of an era for many, and the beginning of a new chapter for all! We hope no matter your child’s grade, that you have experienced joy in the journey over the course of this school year and the many before it. Waterford, as we often remind you, asks your child, by and by extension each of you, to do hard things. It is the determination and sacrifice that so often yields the deepest, most transformative growth.

Our vision is to inspire lives of meaning and purpose. As such our charge is not to prescribe or inculcate, but instead to enrich, enliven and encourage exploration and growth. To build in your child the capacity to think critically, to reason, to analyze and synthesize to communicate well— both in written and oral forms. Ultimately, to make sense of the world and ideally to love learning for a lifetime. This is the profound gift that you have provided to your children. The curiosity and drive the strong foundation to pursue that life of meaning and purpose. You have forever expanded  your children’s horizons and given them the power of unlimited possibility and that is one of the greatest gifts one human being can provide to another.

Last Tuesday, Dr. Davis, Chair of the English Department gave a talk entitled ”Why Education Is Useless.” He endeavored to make the point that we want students despite grades, AP scores and college pressure, which are all real and important, to pursue education for its own sake because in doing so, one pursues the idealism of the “liberation” that comes from liberal arts, that curiosity, wonder and passion that fuels a love of lifelong learning that will serve your children well for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Davis said to the assembled students, “Your accomplishments are remarkable precisely because you are guided by a dedication to learning that goes beyond any notion of incentive or utility.”

While college and university study awaits the class of 2023, and no doubt they are ready, we hope that each member of the graduating class, all of your children, have learned that education is the endeavor of a lifetime and fulfillment, contribution, and humanness comes from perpetual growth!

Julia O., a member of this year’s senior class said, “our academic success is not born out of a need for validation, but out of our passion and love for learning.” And showed great wisdom when she said, “this type of education is more important than ever in today’s complex world, where challenges are multifaceted and interdisciplinary. It equips us with the tools we need to be creative, adaptable, and effective problem solvers. Most importantly, it teaches us how to be lifelong learners by showing us that educational opportunities exist everywhere outside the classroom. That’s what unites us, a mutual love of learning that has encouraged us to go above and beyond, seeking out opportunities to improve ourselves.” This is our hope for all Waterford students and this is the ethos, the culture of learning that you have so ably supported in your child and as a dedicated parent-group at Waterford.

At this, our final Parent Association meeting of the year, please know how grateful  all of the faculty and staff are for your unwavering support, and most importantly, for sharing your thoughtful and talented children with us.

Parents of the class of 2023, congratulations, we salute you!

Tony W. – Class of 2023 

Good morning. I’m Tony Wang. Today, I’d like to share with you my experience at Waterford and how it has impacted my life. 

As an international student, my experience at this school was challenging at first, but became incredibly rewarding. The liberal arts education at Waterford has been a truly eye-opening experience for me. This way of thinking and learning was quite different from what I was accustomed to in my home country. This unique approach to education, however, has provided me with a fresh perspective on the world and has challenged me to think critically and creatively about complex issues.

The academic curriculum here has challenged me in ways that I never thought possible. The rigorous coursework has pushed me to expand my knowledge and think critically. I’ve been able to explore my interests and discover new passions through a diverse range of classes, from literature to computer science, from physics to art, from math to theater.

Beyond academics, Waterford has also provided me with countless opportunities to grow and develop as a person. Participating in our robotics team has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had. The opportunities to brainstorm with talented team designers like Luke Pead and Niko Weaver, to assemble drivebase structures with skillful team builders like Carson Wright and Grant Brady, and to perform on the field as a driver with the support that Lauren Watabe provided me as the team coder with the help of my mentors, Mr Harris and Ms Bennett —all of these opportunities have not only allowed me to pursue my interests and develop new skills as a future engineer, but also introduced me to a community of like-minded individuals who share my passion for complex mechanisms. I’ve learned how to work collaboratively, how to delegate tasks effectively, and how to navigate through challenges and setbacks. These are all skills that I know will be valuable to me in the future, both academically and professionally.

Another valuable experience I’ve had at this school has been the opportunity to connect with my teachers. All of the guidance and mentorship they provided me have been instrumental in shaping who I am today. I remember one instance where I was struggling with the line integrals in my math class two weeks ago, and Mr Golze explained with me in detail, with patience, to ensure that I fully understood it. I remember last year being confused by force concepts in AP Physics 1, and Ms Callens guiding me from scratch and pushing me to solve the problems instead of simply telling me how to do them. I remember that my Spanish teacher, Ms Bocahli, raised my deep interest in learning a third language through her creative teaching, where she allowed us to learn not only the grammatical structures, but also made us enjoy this process of embracing another culture. I also remember the effort the college counseling group put into my college application process, especially Mr Grenoble. Applying to college was a difficult process, and we tend to pour all of our anxiety onto our college counselors. During this process, that’s what I did, but Mr Grenoble’s smile lowered my anxiety and cured my lost feelings, and simply chatting with him made me feel much more comfortable. That level of dedication and support from all of the teachers I’ve had at Waterford is something that I will never forget, and their willingness to go above and beyond to help me succeed was something that I will always be grateful for.

The classmates I met here have become some of my closest friends. They were always willing to lend a helping hand or offer a word of encouragement when I needed it most. 

All of these experiences have had a profound impact on my life and have helped shape me into the person I am today. I know that I will carry the lessons and skills I’ve learned here with me for the rest of my life, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this community.

My experience at Waterford has been truly transformative. Through the academic curriculum, extracurricular activities, and personal connections I’ve made here, I’ve been able to grow and develop in ways that I never thought possible. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and apply it to my future endeavors. Thank you for listening to my story, and I hope that it has provided some insight into the impact that Waterford can have on your children.

Kenna M. – Class of 2023 

Hello parents, faculty, and staff! My name is Kenna Macdonald, I am a graduating senior and grateful for this opportunity to speak today. For those of you who are wondering, I know it is a million-dollar question for every senior right now. I am committed to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and plan to study in an intercollegiate program called IDEAS, where I can combine my interest in product design and mechanical engineering with an ethical lens.

I remember when I toured Waterford with Todd Winters just before the 8th grade. I can recall the friendly faces and plaid uniforms, but not much more. I wish I could go back in time and tell 8th-grade Kenna how amazing and transformative this school would be for me. Now each time I see a family touring campus, I want to jump out of my seat and tell them why they should become part of the unique Waterford community.

I want each touring parent and child to know two things:

  • First, Waterford taught me to truly love learning. No matter the subject, my teachers’ passion is infectious- it’s hard not to be engaged and excited in Waterford’s classroom atmosphere. I believe that this is accentuated by the applicability of each subject to the greater liberal arts curriculum. I learned how interesting education can be when it is purely for the sake of knowledge and growth.
  • Second, Waterford taught me to find joy in the journey. I love this year’s theme and couldn’t have picked a better theme for my last year at Waterford. Each year of high school I have taken increasingly difficult classes and at times I have struggled to enjoy the curriculum because my focus was set on the outcomes. With the mentorship of my amazing teachers, I learned that as I immersed myself in the material, the test score would come. And that’s exactly what happened. I want to express my deepest gratitude to all those who believed in me like Dr. O, Mrs. Woller, Mrs. Somsen, and many others. I’ve gone from angrily erasing my mistakes to high-fiving myself for each complex problem I solved. I can confidently say that I feel prepared for college-level courses next year because I have learned how to calmly navigate uncomfortable learning situations.

My Waterford experience has helped me discover and exercise my love for interdisciplinary work that I will continue in my college studies. The connections between my classes have become so evident and exciting to me that I found myself turning each school project into an interdisciplinary one. Some of these projects include:

  • My work in AP 3D Design, where I created clay-based manifestations of scientific concepts and used string to mimic the non-linear discussions we traced in English class. Merging these disciplines heightened my art’s purpose, broadened my view of chemistry’s applicability, and made me more empathetic in my discussions with others. 
  • Another example is the projects I did in my Engineering elective. I used my creative brainstorming ability I built up in AP 3D Design to generate more imaginative solutions while applying principles from AP Physics to improve my designs technically.

One of my most recent projects has been the 2023 senior class gift! I developed the idea in art at the beginning of Junior year as we were learning about installation art. My idea was this: to install a 7-foot “W” statue for the Waterford community to interact with. Little did I know this project would become so much more than that. The support the staff and seniors have shown for the “W” has greatly improved the project, expanded its shared meaning, and truly speaks to the passion my senior class has for this school. After the interruptions of COVID-19, I believe that we now have a greater appreciation for the magic that occurs on this campus. I hope the “W” will stand as a testament of the resilience, excellence, and beauty that this school offers to each who steps on campus for generations to come. Thank you, I’ll see you at the “W”.

Allyson Wapner – Class of 2023 Parent

Thank you for inviting me to share our family’s experience with The Waterford School this morning. We’ve had the privilege of sending all three of our kids to this exceptional school from Kindergarten through Class XII. I’ve had children enrolled here for 22 years.

It all started in the fall of 2001, when we enrolled my four year old, Samantha, into nursery fours. We didn’t know much about Waterford, nor did we know anyone who had sent a child here. My husband, Francis, and I referred to it as “that place off of 13th East”. After being waitlisted by another private school, we made the appointment to meet with Admissions staff at Waterford. The school was clean, and organized, and I thought it would be so cute to see my young daughter in a plaid jumper heading off to school. I dropped her off each morning, and relieved to have a few hours to myself, sped off to run errands or take care of things that you can’t do with a four year old around. Weeks went by and I received an invitation to join Mother’s Day in Samantha’s class. I didn’t think too much of it and even considered not going, as that had become “my time”. Mother’s Day arrived and holding my daughter’s little hand and hauling a colicky 6 month old in the other arm, I plopped down on the floor of the classroom and immediately looked at the clock to see when this would be over. The first thing I noticed was that no one else was wearing a disheveled sweatsuit, the second thing… no one else was sitting on the floor. I sheepishly slid into a chair. Soon after, my little, brown-eyed girl brought me a flower she had made in class with paper, scissors, and crayons. At that moment, I looked at her beaming face, the joyful expressions of other parents  and the loving, watchful, gazes of the three teachers. My impression of sending my young child to school went from black and white to vivid color and I was excited,  I knew it was no accident that we’d been turned down by the other school. We were meant to be here. Samantha graduated from Waterford in 2015, and went on to row Women’s Crew at Boston University and is “killing it” in a thriving communications career back east.

I am grateful for the support this school has provided me and my family. Those of you who know my son are aware of the difficulty he experienced as a Lower School student. We’ll be forever thankful to the teachers who saw a little boy that was struggling. They formed a protective pod around my rambunctious first grader, and in their free periods, invited him to take care of animals in the science room, share homemade banana bread in computer lab, and snuggle with “Perry”, the beloved Chihuahua who often came to school with his doting owner. I’ll never forget the Class II teacher who said to me, with tears in her eyes, “I so badly want this year to work out for him” and then she made it happen. And the pattern repeated itself year after year, through Middle School and Upper School. Tough, but even-handed coaching on the Waterford Lacrosse Field enabled my son to fulfill  his dream of playing collegiate lacrosse. He’ll graduate from Vassar College this month with a degree in Economics and minors in Political Science and Math, and has been offered a job in New York. The genuine consideration teachers, coaches, and administrators give to every child here is phenomenal. A recent example of this occurred as this year’s seniors were in the midst of the stressful college application process. I received an email from Christina’s photo teacher asking if everything was okay, as she hadn’t seemed like her usual sunny self. Many of you in this room have been intimately involved with our family’s success here, and for that we extend to you a heartfelt “thank you.”

I am not aware of another school that gives parents so many opportunities to be involved. I think I’ve done almost every single parent volunteer job here at least one time. The best part of being a parent volunteer is the chance to make new friends. Volunteer positions with the lacrosse team, the crew program, the ballet school, the basketball and volleyball teams has given me the treasured gift of calling other Waterford parents, as well as faculty members, my friends.  I remember fondly, a group of us secretly celebrating the end of a taxing costume making week with an industrial blender of full strength margaritas in the basement directly below Mr. Menke’s office…

My children have been well  prepared for college and for life. Samantha called early in her freshman year to say that classmates were stressed out by the reading requirements for their courses. It wasn’t a problem for her, she said, as she had already seen more than a few of the books as a student at Waterford. My son kept himself afloat, by remembering words from Waterford math teachers when his college courses weighed heavily on him. “I can see you doing something with math professionally”, one encouraged him. Another told him, “John, I can’t figure out what the hell you are doing, but keep coming up with your own creative ways to solve these problems, because you always get them right”.

While supporting my kids through challenging academic schedules, Waterford teachers and coaches have encouraged them to embrace life itself with the Outdoor Program, and the Waterford Garden, and the annual science egg drop, to be a decent human being by helping out at the Joni Jensen Dinner or making Valentines for kids up at Primary Children’s Hospital. They have been taught to keep on playing the game, even when your team is losing and treat your teammates with respect. The employees and faculty of Waterford School have shown my kids BY EXAMPLE to share what they are passionate about with others, to care for one another, to make their best effort no matter how mundane the task may seem, to be patient, and open minded, and don’t forget to throw their head back and laugh—I’ve seen this many times in action, from senior administrators, to Middle School office staff, to playground monitors, to those responsible for setting up tables for banquets in the concert hall foyer, and the smiley-faced crossing guards always ready with a joke in the Lower School parking lot.

As I try to wrap my mind around sending my youngest child off to George Washington University this fall, I look back over these years throughout which were so lucky to be part of Waterford. Both older kids still have very close relationships with classmates. I don’t think I’ll ever have another chance to bring the family dog dressed in a witch’s costume to read a Halloween story to a classroom of bright eyed five year olds. I’ll miss watching a strings performance directed by the silhouette of a boundlessly energetic conductor, and hearing the literally angelic voices of a Waterford choir, eagerly anticipating the growling introduction of players’ names and numbers on the basketball court in the East Gym, admiring the student photography exhibits and their ceramic displays, and just sitting on the bench outside the Middle School office taking in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains—a spot best described to me by Nancy Houston as a “healing place.” Thank you, Waterford School, for making this such a welcoming and meaningful experience for the Wapner family.

Steve Miller – Class of 2023 Parent

20 years, 8 months, 30 days. That is the time that will have passed between our oldest daughter, Madelaine, walking through the front doors of the Lower School as a Kindergartner, and our youngest son, Joseph, walking out of the Upper School doors as our fourth and final graduate at this school. A lot happens in 20 years. Here is a little perspective: 1,248—that is the number of individual parent teacher conferences that we sat through, and we sat through nearly every single one, hardly ever missing one. 416—that is the number of uniforms purchased out of this room. 100 (and perhaps more)—the number of times our kids were marked out of  those uniforms. 18—the number of snow days, and it seems like most of them came this year. 10,000 (what seems like it anyway)—the number of trips to this school to drop off a forgotten lunch or homework assignment. 7,577—the number of evenings that some portion of our family sat around our dinner table to discuss the myriad topics that were learned at Waterford that day, and trust me there were some interesting topics. In our home, no topic was off limits. That is because Waterford taught our children how to learn and how to have a conversation and how to see things from another person’s point of view. Perhaps only second to our faith, Waterford has had as much of an impact on our family as any other institution we are a part of. 

No two students— and by relation, no two parents— have the same experience here at Waterford. And it is impossible  to summarize 20 years in five minutes, but let me share a few of the things I treasure most when I think of our family’s time here at Waterford: 

While none of our kids, at least that I remember, ever studied with Kathy Morris, I remember being moved to tears at the holiday Vespers performances. They were as good as any orchestra I’ve ever been to. 

I think of attending our daughter Liberty’s plays, more than 20 in all, and wondering how something so powerful could be created by kids so young. Javen Tanner and the Theater Department are remarkable and have left an indelible impression on our lives and on our daughter Liberty. 

I think of Ms. Perkins and Mr. Bromley’s science classes, when our kids would tell us the types of things they were learning about, it made me want to enroll at Waterford. Where else do teachers care enough to take a bus full of students to the highlands of eastern Utah to watch the Greater Sage Grouse, or to the Great Salt Lake for birding excursions. I also have to admit I even came to appreciate the bug collections. 

I think of the summer trips to England to visit the birthplace of Shakespeare and the Globe Theater or the trip Jen took with two of our kids to South Africa to watch the choir sing in the concert halls of Capetown and other towns of South Africa. I think of Jonathan’s trip to climb Mt. Hood and I think of the two different tips that our girls took to the orphanages of India. 

I think of Dad’s and Donuts, Parent Visiting Day, Famous Person Day, egg drops from the gymnasium roof, Medieval Day and the castles (and thank goodness for Lego castles), basketball and lacrosse games. I will say, the artwork— the ceramics, the drawings, the mixed media and other types of art—are amongst some of the most valuable art that adorns our walls and shelves in our home, and they were created in the classrooms here at Waterford. 

In preparation of speaking here today, I asked my kids what it is that they liked about Waterford and here is what they had to say:

Our daughter Madelaine said that she liked the small class sizes, the caring teachers, and that extracurricular activities were emphasized and valued. The project in the lower school, the campus and the sense of community. 

Our daughter Liberty said that she loved the teachers that genuinely cared about you and their learning. 

Our son Jonathan said that the first thing that comes to mind is definitely Mr Bromley, the second thing is the Outdoor Program, and he liked how small the classes were and how that allowed the teachers to focus and dedicate more time to teaching their students. 

And I couldn’t get a response from Joseph because he is still in bed. 

In closing, I would say this, as a parent at Waterford, my experience was unique to me, just as yours has been to you. But it is our shared experience at this school that makes it special, it is the little interactions and lessons and conversations that happen one day at a time , one semester at a time, and one school year at a time that have helped our children transform from timid Kindergartners on their first day of school to bold and ready citizens that can and are going out into the world to live lives of meaning and purpose. Therefore, on this day, I thank and salute all of Waterford’s faculty that have made our children who they are. And I apologize for the tears, I am happy to be done now…as I am…but literally it was a half a lifetime ago. There was no gray hair when I entered, I was just a dad of four little kids, and here I am now with four adult children that I could not be more proud of—and it happened because of this school, so thank you. 

Dr. Davis – English Department Chair

Below is the text of a speech given by Dr. Davis, English Department Chair, at the Cum Laude Dinner

We are here tonight to celebrate your hard work, your accomplishments, and your commitment to education. Those are all noteworthy facts about you, and our presence here tonight should tell you that we think your pursuit of your education is valuable and important. But not everyone thinks that. In fact, as much as we hear about the importance of education in broad and even clichéd ways, our society frequently demonstrates that education—especially something as radical as education for its own sake and not for some monetizable purpose—is not something to be valued. 

One of the smartest people I’ve ever met—a former professor of mine named Dan who recently passed away—wrote a book once called WHY EDUCATION IS USELESS. To know Dan was to know immediately that a title like that one was both tongue-in-cheek and profoundly sincere. In a world of higher education that feels each day like it is more dedicated to corporate models of profit and loss than something as “useless” as education for its own sake, Dan stood out as a professor who encouraged learning without regard for its future utility. At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, Dan would freely offer unsolicited advice to graduate students about their outlook for the future. I completed a PhD after having a brutally honest conversation with him—or perhaps it was more like he had a conversation with me—about the lack of any discernible future in terms of “a job” when it came to English doctoral candidates. 

So education itself exists in this paradox—it’s good for us, but it’s best when we don’t worry about that too much. You have spent countless hours over the years learning from teachers who learned from their teachers about all of the stuff we’re supposed to know. But you know that much of that doesn’t matter. That the whole time we were trying to teach you how to teach yourselves, or at least to think for yourselves. My favorite quote about teaching comes from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. It says, “He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.” How’s that for a paradox? Learn “under my style,” but learn, please, that you don’t need me and probably never did.

We as a faculty have had many conversations about you and your commitment to education, and I would venture that precisely none of them included an urgent desire to know what you will DO in the future, which in our culture means what your job will be. Sure, we can be curious about it, and perhaps there have been times when we have imagined the various ways you’ll change the world through particular possible vocations, but mostly—and this is absolutely true—we wonder if you’ll get the chance to do what you want to do. As a teacher that’s what I get most excited about —students’ ambitious drive toward something that I can’t even put my finger on, even at my expense.

Because for those of you that I have taught—and I’m sure that this is true for those I haven’t—what I always found to be most impressive about you was your fearlessness about becoming—or being—the person you want to be. Yes, you are bright; yes, you know how to manage your time; yes, you know how to do the thing we call school and to get the most out of it; but you do all of that while knowing that the results you could desire might not be immediate. And I would even be so bold as to say that many if not all of you know that there may not be any discernible results at all. You might have done all of this, and you might continue to do all of this, for the sake of something that is not tangible, or definable, or cashable, or even knowable.

And for that reason I think that the best part of the Waterford mission is a value that we don’t even articulate: audacity. The audacity of insisting upon the liberal arts in a world that frequently discounts the importance of education to begin with. What might not be that obvious is that we learn that audacity from you. The students who go through our program and continually succeed in ways that we don’t always predict—who stretch the curriculum and their teachers and carve their own paths to meet their needs—they are the ones whom we hold up as deserving of the highest honors because they show us who we can be at our best. And that’s you.

Your accomplishments are remarkable precisely because you are guided by a dedication to learning that goes beyond any notion of incentive or utility. This recognition tonight is as much about who you are and want to be as people as it is about your accomplishments up to this point. It’s about the fact that you know above all else that education is useless. Thank you, and congratulations.

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