Read Associate Head of School Brandon Bennett's opening remarks for the 35th Waterford School Commencement Ceremony.
So…Class of 2022, this beautiful campus, this beautiful night is for you.
As we bring this special 40th anniversary year to a close, it is fitting that we are celebrating a truly exceptional Class, a truly exceptional group of young people.
Excellence has been our anniversary theme this year, and shortly, continuing a Waterford tradition that dates back to the very first class of Waterford graduates in 1987, I will read tributes to each of you, highlighting just a few of the many dimensions of your individual excellence. But I think we can all agree that your collective excellence as a Class is what truly sets you apart. You have been compelled, over and over again through these challenging pandemic years, to unite in support of each other and your shared aspiration to continue learning, to continue growing, in pursuit of honor, beauty, and wisdom, and the promise of a well-lived life. Circumstances have reminded you of a simple truth that many don’t have the opportunity to discover this early in their lives: There will always be uncertainty in this world. But that uncertainty can be managed with the resources of a liberal arts education -- flexibility, adaptability, intellectual humility, and an unwavering commitment to the necessity of lifelong learning. A second simple truth, you have also learned in your time together: Managing an uncertain world is always easier with the help of friends.
We are grateful for the opportunity to honor your excellence and your friendship this evening.
Congratulations on this important milestone.
Each year, the senior class chooses a classmate to give a senior address at Commencement ceremony. This year, Leo Stockham gave the senior address, read it here:
This graduating class IS remarkable.
You may know us as ski racers, squash players, 100-mile runners, documentarians, science-olympians, bird watchers, athletes, dancers, hockey players, writers, rock climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, artists, robot builders, actors, and much more that I don’t have enough fingers to list them all.
But to each other we are a lot more than what we have done. To each other… We are loveable, caring, funny, thoughtful, dependable, challenging, supportive, and a family.
We are the stuff that friends are made of.
Vincent Van Gough said it best, “Close friends are truly life’s treasures. Sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves. With gentle honesty, they are there to guide and support us, to share our laughter and our tears. Their presence reminds us that we are never really alone.”
As the Class of 2022, none of us will ever be alone. Memories and moments we have shared have been life changing, and these friends with whom I have shared them are the true treasure of my years at Waterford.
‘Time Well Spent’......... These three words are meaningful to me because after spending 410 MILLION seconds at Waterford…… I have had the pleasure to create and keep all of the moments and laughs that I have shared with my classmates. I’ll save you the trouble of math conversion, that’s 13 years.
So Class of 2022……… let’s go down memory lane for a moment –– in Lower School, remember when a bunch of us would sit in the dining room and when Mr. Brennan walked in, we all would yell: “Sing to Sarah! Sing!” Or in art class when we made our viking boats and wood snakes? Or on the quad, anytime Atticus kicked a ball his shoe would fly away? Or in sixth grade when about 12 of us had to get on a 10-foot log and organize ourselves by age, height, and pet ownership, all without talking? Or when it rained so hard on our Freshman Interim trip and we were forced to sleep in the Assembly Hall? Or that time we danced a little too hard at Rice-Eccles Stadium and set off the earthquake alarm? …Or how about that time when Michelle’s foot got run over? I’m glad you’re okay. Or two weeks ago from this day when we all were on this quad crying while writing our hearts out.
We have been through 80 final exams together, danced all night long together, laughed and cried and been scared together, watched games of soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, tennis, racquetball, and hockey together, been moved by dance, musical, and theatrical performances together. Perhaps most profoundly of all… we have been shaped by Waterford’s amazing teachers and mentors together.
Are we more aware of these memories and feelings because of our time apart?
Well… in the beginning of March 2020, a virus you may have heard of, shut down our spring athletics before they even started. It not only stopped sports, but quickly pushed all of us into remote-learning. We did not get together, hangout, do homework, or play sports with each other… We sat at home looking at computers from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and that was it…. And yet, even though we were online for 6-7 hours and did not want to pay attention or answer any questions after hearing teachers ask multiple times, “Will anyone answer that question?” or, “Will anyone talk?” … There, I sat looking at my classmates' faces through Zoom, and day after day I found a reason to “go to school.”
Perhaps, as the saying goes… absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Maybe our unique COVID experience – being forced apart and then allowed to come back together – actually intensified our Waterford experience. Yes we were online… No we could not hang out with one another… BUT… we COULD still see each other in online class, learn collaboratively, and text and call one another… Seeing my peers face-to-face – or image-to-image – was a spark of hope.
And then…… It happened.
We came back together to laugh, learn, and make more memories that would last well beyond graduation.
After spending all these years with – and apart from – my classmates, I have learned so much from them. They inspire me to do more and be more everyday. Wherever I am, I will think back to this graduating class and know that I am never alone. I am grateful for that.
And my gratitude is not limited to these classmates. Beyond this incredible class of friends, I am deeply grateful for you –– our parents. I know that none of us would have had our Waterford opportunity if it were not for our parents’ time, patience, sacrifices, and support! And I recognize that, just as today marks the end of one chapter and beginning of another for all of us on this stage, the same is true for you. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
I am also deeply grateful for Waterford’s faculty and staff. This education. This confidence to do hard things. This freedom to fail and succeed. I know that our Waterford experience is born from you, the Waterford faculty and staff. Thank you for that!
On behalf of the whole graduating class of 2022, I would like to express gratitude to our Dean–– Dr. LaBau. Thank you for stepping into our lives in sophomore year and taking on the challenge of corralling us all the way up to this day. Thank you for always supporting us, making us laugh, for organizing amazing events for us, loving us, AND not only being our Dean, BUT also our best-friend. Even though you are not in-person with us currently, we are grateful that you are watching us through the live-stream and I have a hunch right now that you are crying for us, as we too will be once we step-foot off this stage. You have been a big part of bringing us all closer together. You always have wanted the best for us, and loved us deeply. We have felt it. We will miss your mime performances at FNL and Prom photos of you. So thank you so much for being a part of our lives!
Okay… therefore… to sum this all up without any chemical equations, pythagorean theorem, 4-page essays, Coulomb’s Law Formula, a presentation, or any ‘Justify your answer’ … I would like to say… students of the graduating Class of 2022 ––– We did it.
Over the course of my 13 years at Waterford, my days and minutes are at an end. I am grateful for this community because I have only gained more brothers and sisters each month and year.
I know, soon-to-be-alumni, that whoever you meet next, in college and beyond, that they are lucky people, and I wish I could re-meet every single one of you all over again and relive all of our adventures and memories once more.
Watch the livestream of the 35th Commencement Exercises
Congratulations, Class of 2022!