As taken from Head of School, Andrew Menke’s welcoming remarks at the second annual Upper School Closing Awards Assembly.
Good morning. Members of Class XI and XII, it’s so good to be with you—in person, and classes IX and X, thank you for joining us virtually. Welcome to this Upper School Awards Assembly, our 2nd ever, and the first last year done over Zoom. To parents who are with us, welcome to you as well.
This is another historic moment in a string of momentous occasions for all of you, and especially, you seniors. We are so very happy to be back together, to celebrate the closing of the year and your many accomplishments.
Before we hear from Ms. Munson, and move to conferring awards, I just wanted to pause and let this moment sink in a bit. Look around… it is oddly astounding. Here we are back together again in this venerable space celebrating the end of the year.
Only a short while ago, I took this kind of gathering for granted—the ability to come together in shared purpose to think and discuss, to play music—as so many of you did so beautifully last Saturday evening, to engage in the breadth of this profound liberal arts experience. I don’t think, at least I hope I do not, take for granted the joy of being together ever again. The power and energy of human connection is something that has been absent from our lives for such a long time.
And while we come together this morning to celebrate award winners, we also celebrate all of you—for your determination, for your courage, for your grit, for your stamina, for your perseverance in the face of uncertainty the likes we have never known. Not one of us, during our lifetimes, have faced a global pandemic.
Yet there you were, back in September with the unease we were all likely feeling, masked and working your way through blue and gold days and the unpredictability of zoom learning, COVID testing, some of you making further sacrifices in quarantine, modifying or having to fully abandon activities that you loved to ensure that we could maintain some semblance of our learning environment. And the Class of 2021, mostly returning to campus learning after the holidays and then others after spring break. We felt the joy of simply being back together again on this campus. Something that I took for granted.
Everyone in this concert hall, everyone zooming in from across campus, every student, faculty and staff member, and parent should be immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished together. We—all of us—pulled together in what seemed like very difficult hours to make a challenging but quite miraculous year possible.
Each of you seemed to make two choices each day that have made all the difference in our being back and staying back. Despite the immensely demanding backdrop of COVID, you chose every day your effort and your attitude. Effort and attitude. Two character traits that are always within your control!
The pandemic painfully and very clearly illustrated that life changes rapidly and dramatically, and there are times that we are less in control day to day of our outcomes than we’d like. But what we can control is how hard we work and how we approach the challenges in our lives, and I am absolutely certain that your choice of effort and attitude each day was the key to such a successful year.
I hope it is this intrinsic drive—the true understanding that the capacity to dig in and work for things we care about with love and support for and from others—is what you will take from this year.
The reward we all get to celebrate this morning is being here together. I hope with growing satisfaction of a job well done—the notion that you’ve done all that can be done to realize the best possible outcome. And the knowledge that the motivation to excel comes from your heart and soul—that doing hard things is within you, it is within all of us if we just remember that we control our effort and our attitude. It’s about you, and it’s about us always.
Thank you for your commitment to the life of the mind and heart and for caring enough to allow for an extraordinary year here at Waterford.
Upper School students…I salute you!
Each year, the Cum Laude selection committee aims to honor students who demonstrate true scholarship. Committee members look at students’ academic records and students’ contributions to the lively intellectual community that is fostered in the Waterford classrooms. This honor is bestowed upon the members of a graduating class who have a record of excellence in all academic disciplines and to those who demonstrate sustained commitment to the life of the mind. The below students from the Class of 2021 were inducted into the Cum Laude Society this year.
ART DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Stella Peters
This young woman of many talents pursued Waterford’s Painting track and she has thrived there. Her teachers will tell you about her energy — she has always been genuinely excited about the possibilities of visual art. They will tell you about her maturity — she is a self-starter who understands that great art can only come from hard work. And they will tell you about the impressive skill she has built with that energy and work — including her eye for composition, her wonderful sense of color and texture, and her sophisticated mark-making style. It has become clear to me that this is someone who will step out from our campus and do great things. Stella draws from a bottomless well of curiosity — this trait is what drives her passionate work in art and in the academic disciplines, and her heartfelt engagement with the people around her and with the broader world. For her accomplished tenure in our studios and her deep engagement with art making, we are proud to present Stella with this award.
COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT PRIZE – DJ Lambert
The recipient of this award is always a student who manages to squeeze computer science courses into a schedule that is already impossibly full, who completes the AP course, who foresees computer science as a part of her or his future, who thinks and talks about computer science issues and events that are beyond the scope of formal courses. DJ checks all of these boxes.
In addition – and for me, most importantly – DJ solves problems. His interest and enthusiasm are in direct proportion to the difficulty of the task. Hard problems are fun, impossible problems are more fun. He is resourceful and independent. He has learned how to learn.
DJ, along with this token of departmental esteem comes the hefty burden of high expectations. There are problems to be solved. So get to it.
DANCE DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Siya Pandit
Siya dances and her spirit shines.
She dances and shows us her heart.
She dances and no words are needed.
She dances and we smile for having the chance to really know her.
Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us. Congratulations!
ENGLISH DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Abia Fazili
Abia embodies the values that guide us in our study of literature. She recognizes the ability of art to change the world, she’s fascinated by the power and beauty of language, and she loves literature and the empathy it allows. We are proud of Abia’s time at Waterford, and we are excited to see her take on the world with an incisive mind and a kind heart.
HISTORY DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Payson Dolbin
Since Payson entered middle school, a passion for history has emanated from him. His teachers have recalled that he, remarkably, still seems excited about what he learned in ancient history in eighth grade. Another recalled that Payson was “the most excited 7th grader” he had ever seen when the school proposed a trip to Washington, D.C. Since then Payson has developed from a voracious consumer of history to a producer of it as he has learned to write persuasively using an array of historical sources. He is also someone who is always looking for ways to involve people in conversations about history. As one of his instructors noted, Payson is “inquisitive, balanced, and creative in his interpretations and reading of history.” With such a love for history, I wouldn’t be surprised if Payson isn’t one day up on stage honoring a history student of his own. Congratulations, Payson!
MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Tarun Martheswaran
While many in our community have known of Tarun’s mathematical prowess, few understand the level of his talents. Those in the Math Department do. Tarun’s knowledge of applied mathematical techniques of modeling using differential equations, linear algebra, and Monte Carlo simulations far surpasses most of the faculty. His work to apply these skills to solve world-wide public health problems is quite literally award-winning. Waterford School’s Math Department honor that and value that.
But, as important, they value the time Tarun has spent weekly with our Middle School students, passing along his passion and joy to them. He has coached Waterford MS students to achieve at the highest levels nationally. For example, just last weekend one of his sixth-grade mathletes placed 4th in the nation at the MathCounts competition.
And, while public accolades and accomplishments are important at events like this, those in the Math Department also want to acknowledge that we value Tarun’s unheralded, quiet mathematical moments. We value the conversations we’ve overheard where Tarun is consoling a younger student experiencing frustration and disappointment. We value the hours he has spent independently working out a tricky proof from Real Analysis to share with no one but his teacher. Quite simply, Tarun, we value all you bring to our discipline. Congratulations.
MUSIC DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Omeed Moshirfar
On behalf of the music department at the Waterford School, I have the honor of presenting this year’s music award to Omeed Moshirfar.
I have taught Omeed for the past several years and I feel I know his strengths extraordinarily well. He is a very intelligent, talented and highly motivated student who has made a lasting contribution to the Waterford Music program.
Omeed has been principal violist of the US Orchestra, US Chamber and performs with the Waterford string quartet. He has participated on our International trip to Finland, Estonia and Russia. Omeed has represented Waterford at the Solo and Ensemble Festival for several years and has made it to the State level each time, where he received top honors in the solo viola category, as well as quartet and chamber orchestra.
Omeed is a gentleman. He is kind, sensitive, and leads with a quiet confidence. He is also patient, compassionate and inspires his peers to do and be better – all characteristics of a good leader. Passion, discipline and beauty are the first words that come to my mind when I think of Omeed’s playing. He makes playing the viola cool! Omeed’s enthusiasm for life and love of music is evident every day he walks into my classroom. Congratulations Omeed!
PE/ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Jaimeson Meyer
On behalf of the Athletics Department at the Waterford School, I am thrilled to present this year’s senior athletic award to Jaimeson Meyer.
Simply stated, Jaimeson personifies all that this award represents. A true multi-sport athlete, Jaimeson has played soccer, basketball and lacrosse during each of her four High School years at Waterford. Not only has she played all of them for four years but has started at the Varsity level for each team since her freshman year. She is the most decorated athlete to have come through the Waterford program: an All-Region and All-State performer in all 3 sports, a US Lacrosse All-American her sophomore year, and on the preseason 2021 Under Armour All-American Lacrosse team watch list.
While all of these awards are impressive, when I think of Jaimeson it is her dogged determination and absolute love of competition that makes her so special. Some might look at all of Jamieson’s awards and accomplishments and assume that she is just naturally a great athlete, that it comes easy to her. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one works harder to improve her game than Jaimeson, calling coaches to get into the gym or unlock the goals for extra work was Jaimeson’s calling card and what I admire most about her. Give Jamie an obstacle and she says game on – a physical challenge, or a defender on the basketball court or the lacrosse field all get treated the same way. You’re in my way and I am coming through and there is nothing you are going to do that is going to stop me. She has lifted the level of play on every team that she has been a part of and made all of those around her better players simply by having to match her intensity in practice day in and day out.
Jaimeson has emerged as an outstanding leader and Captain on all 3 of her teams. She leads by example, and with her enthusiasm and fun loving spirit. Jaimeson’s contributions to her teams are countless, and her teammates and coaches will miss her everlasting smile, work ethic, and leadership.
Congratulations Jaimeson – you have made a huge and lasting impact on the Waterford Athletic program over the past four years and we will miss you dearly.
SCIENCE DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Tyler Deane
As a charter member of the Science Nerd Society myself – I can say that when I first met Tyler, I immediately recognized a fellow member of the tribe. Tyler loves to understand how the world works and he has a fantastic curiosity about all aspects of the universe of Science. In my AP Biology class, Tyler was a top student – a person who could ask thoughtful, probing questions that made me pause before attempting to answer. Three years ago, Tyler was one of the Founding Students on Dr. Osipovich’s Science Olympiad team – and he has remained an active participant ever since. This year Tyler took over the organization of the school’s Chemistry Lab and I’ve never seen it cleaner or more well organized. Our Chemistry teachers will miss Tyler’s skills next year to be sure! Tyler is not only a fantastic student of science, but a fierce competitor in our lunchtime tabletop game club. Congratulations Tyler!
THEATER DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Anya Malugin
Anya has led the Theater Department through this Covid year with her signature quiet confidence and good humor. Over the years, she has played such roles as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex, Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Countess De Tournay in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and most recently, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. This coming weekend, she will lead the cast of Prayers of Sherkin as Fanny Hawke. Anya connects with her characters on a deep emotional level, helping the audience to love and understand them as much as she does. This year, Anya created her own independent study of costume design, during which she designed and built a costume for the title character in Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. She will attend the University of Utah this fall, where she will pursue acting and costume design. And we will miss her. Congratulations, Anya.
WORLD LANGUAGES DEPARTMENT PRIZE – Tioné Hoechner
Tioné’s participation in French class has been exceptional through all 4 years of Upper School. She was also a star in Latin, and continued her studies in Latin 4.
Tioné is supremely curious, and we are proud to have her represent an example of excellence in world languages this year. She is mature and conscientious. She is proud of her heritage, and has worked hard to maintain fluency in Armenian (her mother’s native language), and German (her father is from Austria). She also displays a unique understanding of these cultures.
Tioné delights her teachers with her inquisitive nature and her strong sense of responsibility. She does not take language learning for granted; she always strives to do her best. Never content with just the minimal requirement, she excels and does it with a smile. Congratulations, Tioné. Well done!
THE JUNIOR BOOK AWARD
Each year, Waterford confers the Junior Book Award to Class XI students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement. This year, we recognize five juniors for their commitment to academic excellence and their thorough pursuit of intellectual growth in and out of the classroom.
Ai Lee W.
Each spring the Head of School recognizes one or two students, who exemplify the spirit of our mission—joyfully growing through the depth and breadth of the liberal arts experience and selflessly giving back to the School in a multitude of ways.
Our First Waterford Award winner is Mike Osborn. Mike is a devoted, multi-talented student who thrives across a breadth of academic disciplines in the arts and athletics. He is a true resonance scholar and person! But what truly sets Mike apart is his selfless, authentic leadership. Elected student body president during an unprecedented time, Mike has been an exceptional leader when we’ve needed him most! From filming initial welcome back safety videos in the Fall, to using his infectious enthusiasm to give thumbs up in a variety of Morning Meeting talks, Mike Osborn has been a tireless worker…always upbeat in a world desperately in need of someone to believe in!
Mike’s personality and openness make space for all members of our community and he has brought upper school students together in unprecedented ways. He led our student government meetings with great ease, and encouraged his cohort to be accountable to him and each other. Mike was the lynchpin for many of the upper school student-life events. He found the time to lead, even while attending to a heavy load of AP classes, and a long application process to Stanford. He wowed us with his cover of Smooth Criminal and still found time to be a committed lacrosse player and member of the entrepreneurship and community service clubs. When many of us were struggling to find time to be of service… and involved with others- Mike found a way…and invited us to join him.
Mike Osborn personifies this year’s school theme, and one our most cherished values – caring! He has fundamentally altered the role and responsibilities of student body president and laid a cornerstone of student leadership excellence for our community for years to come.
Congratulations once again to Mike Osborn!
Our second Waterford Award winner is Ulla-Britt Libre. Ulla has been at Waterford since her youngest years arriving in Nursery 3s. From those earliest days she has been determined and persistent, devoted and hard-working—setting a Lower School goal to become a Supreme Court Justice! While her professional goals may have changed, her commitment to excellence and work towards that end has never waivered. She has been genuine in her curiosity, always choosing the more challenging path whether in the classroom or on the water. She is creative, smart and kind, and a broad interdisciplinary liberal arts thinker. She is down to earth and earnest, and dedicated to helping others. Ulla has enriched our community sharing mindfulness techniques that have assisted both students and faculty alike in embracing a more enlightened and sustainable path to excellence. She is a talented musician, playing viola in the orchestra and a dedicated rower, providing inspired leadership to the crew team. She is a ski racer and outdoor enthusiast where she loves hiking, biking, and paddling rivers.
Ulla is a person of immense integrity—deeply committed to her beliefs and to a breadth of experience and impact here at Waterford and well beyond. Last year as the pandemic raged Ulla teamed up with other Waterford students to start the Virtual Family Project, raising money to provide i-pads to loved ones for much needed hospital connection during times of crippling isolation for covid-19 patients. While Many of Ulla-Britt’s successes have been public; it is her quiet care for others that sets her apart. Ulle-Britt reaches out to those who are marginalized, always offering a listening ear and attending to needs others often do not even see. Her calming presence puts others at ease, and we at Waterford—from faculty to students—have been the beneficiaries.
Ulla, it has been our privilege to have you here at Waterford, Congratulations once again.
Congratulations to the entire Class of 2021. We are so proud of all your accomplishments—you have left a lasting mark on the Waterford School community!
December 15, 2020
December 21, 2021
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