Upper School Closing Award Ceremony, 2022

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

As taken from Head of School, Andrew Menke's welcoming remarks at the second annual Upper School Closing Awards Assembly.

Good morning, Waterford Upper School. It’s good to be with you! And Class of 2022… 11 more days! Congratulations!!!

Welcome to this Upper School Awards Assembly. I’m so happy that we are all here in person. Last year, I’m not sure if you remember but Class XI and XII, you were here in the Concert Hall, but Classes IX and X you tuned in over zoom. And parents who are with us—welcome to you as well.

This is another wonderfully uplifting moment in a string of momentous occasions for all of you, and especially, you seniors. We are so very delighted to be together to celebrate the closing of the year and your many accomplishments.  

This morning, we will hear from Dr. LaBau with reflections about the Class of 2022 and recognize student leaders and community builders. We will also recognize Cum Laude recipients, Departmental Award winners, Waterford Awards, and confer the junior Book award.

We will close with singing the Waterford anthem which will be good practice for our upcoming commencement! It is great to be here with you this morning.

On my Saturday morning dimple dell run I was mulling over what brief message or pehaps a little advice I might share with you at this, our last, US assembly.

I had attended the Upper School Play the night before—Lady Windermere's Fan—WOW… congratulations to the cast and crew,  and earlier in the day the last regular season men's lacrosse game against Juan Diego—you played so hard and so well, and last Thursday, the Choir Concert—incredibly beautiful and moving sound from these singers. And I could go on—the crew team, and earlier this spring, Waterford robotics, Science Olympiad. Seniors, your wonderful college choices. Yesterdays lunchtime International Festival—Samir and Arnav, your dancing was amazing.

What I am reminded of though, and continually impressed by in every facet of your lives here at Waterford is your commitment to the pursuit of excellence.

Your drive, to stretch, to learn, to being ever better and to lean into the at times uncomfortable risk of extending yourself in service to broadening and deepening an experience. This is what it is to be a liberal arts learner—to poke and prod at the edges of your capacity, and then extend it beyond perhaps what you thought possible, to seek the transcendent and the idealism of, as Dr. Bennett often invokes, Arete—the Latin word for excellence.

Arete is an ideal. It is the virtue of striving, of expansive thought and action that makes a community better.

This is who you are and who I hope you continue to be as learners. That this environment—subject matter, peers, and perhaps most importantly teachers—all help to inspire you to continue to pursue excellence. 

Our theme next year will be “joy in the journey”—a perfect invitation to continue down the path of excellence that we are on together, and an opportunity to embrace the arc of the broad experience here at Waterford.

So thank you for your leadership and resilience during this unusual year, and for all that you have done to contribute to excellence here at Waterford. You elevate, and lift all of us, and I am proud of each of you! Congratulations on a great year! 


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 2022 were inducted into the Cum Laude Society this year.

Cum Laude 2022

Allison Cao
Avery Carlson
Ella Dolan
Emma Greally
Finn Pead
Christine Peng
Lexi Peterson
Neve Rauscher
Gia Rinella
Roman Schlichter
Devon Tonneson
Ellie Vogel
Megan Wade
Howard Wang
Lydia Wells
Ai Lee Woods



Lucza BrewerLucza is one of the most talented, dedicated, and passionate young artists I have met in my 20 years of teaching art.  Her work is both visually stunning and conceptually sophisticated.  She is incredibly skilled across disciplines, and has received impressive recognition as a photographer, filmmaker, painter, and sculptor.

She lives a life immersed in art, and has been to more gallery and museum shows than many artists twice her age.  Among her many recognitions are a national Scholastic medal, a bevy of regional Scholastic gold keys, a cash award at the Springville HS Art Show, and multiple awards for the short film her team created as part of our special Documentary Filmmaking course two years ago.  This year she was selected to be a part of YoungArts, a highly competitive and prestigious national program.

She will attend the outstanding art school at UCLA next year, and there she will represent Waterford and Utah artists in a powerful way.

This is all very impressive, so it is worth noting that Lucza is also humble and down-to-earth — she often seems a bit surprised when people tell her how incredible her latest creations are.

She has deep curiosity about the world and a burning need to push, stretch, alter, create.

For her accomplished tenure in our studios and her deep engagement with art making, we are proud to present Lucza with this award.


Henry Chen Henry has shown that, within the demands of a rigorous liberal arts education, one can dive deeply into the computer science curriculum. He “speaks” several computer languages. More significantly, he made the difficult leap from knowing language syntax to applying computing skills to solve real problems.

Henry is not just a consumer of computer science but a contributor as well. Early on he prompted and then shaped courses in game development. Along with others, Henry founded the Computer Club which has been an inviting and inclusive community for those who enjoy computing and want more. As a Teaching Assistant for the AP Computer Science A course, and in many other ways, Henry has helped his peers achieve mastery of a challenging discipline.

Of much greater import than these physical tokens of congratulation, Ms. Ross and I are pleased to convey to Henry our respect and our gratitude.


Gia Rinella Our 2022 Dance Department prize goes to Gia Rinella, for her integrity as a dance artist. 

When I think of Gia’s dancing, this word ‘integrity’ comes to mind. Derived from the Latin word “integer,” meaning “whole,” this defines what she brings to the studio and stage. She reveals not just skill or technique, not just hard work and dedication, not just a love of dancing, but she reveals unspeakable truths, the “words cannot explain” kind of truths of who she is. Gia reveals herself as the whole dancer—the dancer where you have to be vulnerable and courageous, and the dancer where you have to be true to yourself.

Thank you for bringing dance to life, by bringing your life to the dance. Thank you for telling the story by sharing your story. Thank you for revealing the whole you and for being all the parts of you that make this possible.


Ai Lee Woods Ai Lee is a dynamo of creative energy and passion for literature. As a writer she crafts—in Mr. Rosett's words—"complex worlds of fantastical human striving, intrigue, drama, and loss ..., populated by complex, real, and three-dimensional characters." As a reader and a critic, Ai Lee recognizes instances of well-executed craft as well as the authorial choices that didn't quite deliver on their promises. She knows how challenging it is to write meaningfully, and so while she can provide trenchant critique in her reflections on a text, she also knows when it's best to just move on. There are so many books to read, after all. Ai Lee has been instrumental in guiding the US book club to a new level of enthusiasm and joyful appreciation, and her participation in The Raven storytelling event allowed her to share stories of human compassion and understanding. And that's such a key aspect of Ai Lee's love for literature: she recognizes the importances of stories to communicate who we are and what we value, and her commitment to meaningful representation in fiction of a diversity of identities reflects this important belief. We are so happy as a department to have known and learned from Ai Lee, and we are so eager to read the stories she has to tell. Congratulations, Ai Lee!


Abraham Qian Whether with a tilt of the head, a hand to the chin, or a lean back in the chair, one can literally see Abraham thinking, considering, and learning.

Abraham's curiosity about the past has come through in the courses he took, the questions he asked, and the connections he made.

In addition to advanced courses in European and U.S. history, Abraham took time this year to explore the history of the FBI, rock & roll, and race and gender in Hollywood along with classical myths through art and civics.

Abraham has used his interest in history and current events to devote time to service learning in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington DC with an emphasis on international diplomacy.

Abraham is sensitive to the impacts historical decisions have on those who may not have a voice and is able to see the value of conflicting views. He recognizes how the lessons of history can help improve the lives of others and takes that responsibility seriously.

On behalf of the History Department, thank you, Abraham, for your dedication to the discipline.


Finn Pead Few Waterford students have ever embodied our core value of curiosity quite like Finn. His curiosity leads him to ask the right questions and independently research the answers, bringing this new understanding to each math class. This love of exploration sometimes makes us math teachers feel he is doing our job for us because he comes to class with insights about topics we have yet to cover.  In class, he actively looks for connections between ideas across curricular areas striving to apply his newfound knowledge. His genuine joy in the journey is infectious. Throughout his high school career, he has proven that math in the liberal arts curriculum is a never-ending source of intellectual play and we are grateful for the influence he has on all around him.


​​ Esme Smith Passion, discipline and beauty are the first words that come to my mind when I think of Esme’s playing. Esme is one of the most decorated music students we have ever had at Waterford. Esme’s unique gift is not just in her ability to play difficult and demanding repertoire, but in her ability to go beyond the notes and create a level of musicianship that is rare at this age.

Esme is a leader. She never complains nor says a bad word about anyone or anything. She always has a positive attitude that lifts up the entire orchestra. She is by far my most diligent student who I have ever taught. Anything I ask of her, she does for me and does to the best of her abilities. I believe that not only is she one of the best musicians who has ever come through my program, but also one of the kindest and most thoughtful persons I have had the privilege of getting to know. She has grown into a fearless leader who cares about her classmates and coming together as one ensemble. She often puts the needs of others before her own. Esme is concertmaster of our US Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra and is the first violinist of the Waterford Varsity String Quartet.

Esme is kind, patient, compassionate and self-motivated. She alway strives to be the best person and musician she can be. Congratulations Esme!


Seven Castain Simply stated, Seven is as highly a decorated athlete as we have seen at Waterford. Seven has earned  All-Region and All-State honors every year in every season at Waterford. She capped off her impressive list of awards as a senior with her 2A MVP Award and being selected as a HS All American and being selected to represent the West team in the ALL American Game. 

When asked what makes Seven so special as an athlete coach Miysahima writes “ Seven Castain is an exceptional player and person. Technically and tactically, it is obvious that Seven is an exemplary soccer player and brilliant on the field. What distinguishes Seven as a teammate, player, and person, however, is her approach to the game off the field. I've known her as a player since she was young and she has always had a hunger to get out and play, to continue to learn, to find ways to improve, and to push herself in every aspect of the sport because she simply loves soccer. Her indisputable passion for playing inspires me, her teammates, her community, and everyone she encounters. It has led her to the collegiate level today.”

We are all so excited to follow her soccer career at TCU. We know she is ready to make the same contributions to her new team and teammates at the next level.  

Congratulations Seven - you have made a huge and lasting impact on the Waterford Athletic program over the past four years and we will miss you dearly.



Devon TennosonWe are confident that Devon will be leading a research lab one day, after she secures her  inevitable Ph.D. Devon is ceaseless in her journey for knowledge. Her appetite for learning and her dedication to education is deep and unwavering. Her questions push us as teachers, giving us impetus to dive deeper into our own areas of expertise. Devon's questions aren’t about enthalpy or entropy - she already understands those concepts - but instead about how these measurements connect to making a cup of coffee or to the beginnings of the universe. Devon is unbounded by curriculum--she thrives at the edge of knowledge, devouring new information, connecting, extrapolating, combining, and deconstructing. 

Devon's passion for science extends beyond the classroom. She led our young science Olympiad team to a third-in-state victory and in the pharmacology internship her work was exemplary.  As a researcher Devon joyfully dove into literature to learn gene expression and animal models, and with equal verve developed the lab skills of generating knock-out mice, PCR, cell-staining, and Western blotting in order to better understand a gene (Bin1) that is involved in myriad diseases. Devon encapsulates the drive, vision, creativity, and leadership qualities that could very well win her a Nobel prize in Science. Today, with great pleasure, we honor Devon with the Waterford Science Department prize.


Mirabel Bienert Mirabel arrived at Waterford ready to perform. She brought her characteristic curiosity and insight to each theater class, and her unflagging dedication to each play. She has performed in nine productions during her time at Waterford, including roles as various as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, Jesse in Prayers of Sherkin, and Prince Hal in Henry IV Part I. With each character, Mirabel sees, moves, and speaks beyond her own lived experience. She discovers new worlds, and learns to love beyond herself. She has made the black box her second home, and often brings samples of her latest baking adventures. This fall, Mirabel will study acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. We are proud of her, and we will miss her. Congratulations, Mirabel.


 Mateusz StepienMateusz is a passionate and enthusiastic learner of languages! After only one year of traditional study of Spanish last year, and some self-study over the summer, he took on the challenge of TWO advanced level Spanish courses this year - Spanish 3 Honors and AP Spanish Language and Culture. Mateusz has gone above and beyond in his study and application of Spanish, discovering the most surprising details of the language (a now defunct future subjunctive tense, among other things), seeking out and reflecting upon poetry by Neruda, and making observations about and discussing current and historical events of the Spanish-Speaking world. His writing is native-like and he demonstrates an enthusiasm for -- and creativity with -- the language that is contagious, writing creative "lost scenes" to a play, as well as thought-provoking articulate essays, and even designing a trip around the world in (great, great) detail which cost very (very!) little money. We are inspired by the enthusiasm and clear joy Mateo exhibits in his pursuit of Spanish. Congrats to Mateo!


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.

Garrison H.
Lauren L.
Gavin R.


This inaugural award recognizes remarkable students who have made a significant impact on our community throughout this school year, as nominated by their peers. Waterford celebrates excellence in the classroom, and in our extra-curricular activities, but we also have a deep appreciation for the members of our student body who make intentional efforts to build our community, who show kindness to those around them and who take joy in making others happy. We would like to celebrate them in our closing assembly and acknowledge what they have done for all of us.

Class IX
Natasha L.
Avery C.
Class X
Auden S.
Ethan B.
Class XI
Luca R.
Kylie S.
Class XII
Atticus Benson
Caroline Lotulelei
Lalith Suresh


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.

Neve Rauscher

Neve Rauscher Neve is a devoted, multi-talented student who thrives across a breadth of academic disciplines, in the arts and outdoors. She is a true resonance scholar and person! She personifies excellence in a wonderfully humble and understated way. She extends a warm smile and un-endless kindness to all in our community, and practices servant leadership in a variety of roles as president of community service, captain of the debate team, student body vice president, and editor and creator of The Rave, the school’s first student-run newspaper. She practices an intuitive democratic and affiliative leadership style, she conveys trust and confidence while inviting others into the thinking and planning process. She trusts and is trusted as she creates a culture of caring and commitment in all of the many ways that she contributes to Waterford.

During Covid’s Zoom learning environment, Neve, of her own volition,  reached out to cohorts of classmates and created opportunities for connection and cohesion.   

Neve leads by example.. and leaves a positive impact on whatever community she is a part of. On any given school day Neve might be seen pensively creating a beautiful sculpture, actively teaching young PE students how to play ultimate frisbee, measuring liquid in a lab for AP Chemistry, then heading to Environmental Club, followed by rehearsing her solo for the school ballet over and over and over (with some good laughs mixed in) with the rest of her dance company.  

Never is a fierce outdoorswoman of the Wasatch Mountain Range, She loves the challenge and reward of mountain sports. Neve often takes peers and friends who know nothing about the outdoors backpacking and adventuring; an excellent way of helping others venture outside of their comfort zones. Simply put; when Neve sees a need, she makes it happen. She is a doer! In a speech given to Waterford parents earlier this year about our school’s theme for this year, Excellence. She said, “excellence is improvement, excellence is putting effort into projects that you are passionate about. Excellence is striving to try new things.”  Neve across a broad range of disciplines and activities, you are a model of excellence for us all.

Leo Stockham

Leo Stockham Leo's boundless energy and optimism are contagious to all in his orbit. He enjoys phenomenally high Emotional Intelligence—a magnetism that draws students and faculty in. He radiates positivity, warmth, and authentic care for all in the Waterford community. Leo is a ray of sunshine,  always in motion. He shows up for his friends and that friend group is boundless, and therefore, his impact on the community is broad and deep. Leo is kind, and compassionate and channels his endless energy toward the public good.

As the founder and leader of Waterford’s climbing club, Leo, a skilled and dedicated climber, seeks to share his love of the sport with other students in our community and organized a climbing club to do so. He recruited a faculty sponsor, designed sweatshirts, ordered gear, and organized climbs with club members. Leo is a talented three-year starter on the varsity soccer team. He has been a two-year captain and last year led the team to an impressive run to a second-place finish in the state championship. 

Leo volunteers as a Waterford School student ambassador, welcoming new and prospective students and their families to campus. Through campus tours, phone calls, and campus meet-ups, he is selfless with his time and helps those new to the Waterford community feel cared for and connected. Leo’s volunteerism extends beyond our campus boundaries, and he has been a mainstay contributor at Neighborhood House - an organization that supports underserved families in the greater Salt Lake Community - taking portraits of  students and teachers. Leo has worked as a Waterford summer school counselor energetically sharing his love for all activities with younger students. He is a natural leader and positive role model with an instinct for teaching others how to choose an upbeat, can-do attitude each day.  Leo is also an avid skier, mountain biker, and competitive racquetball player.  

Leo contributes to the vitality of our community in a multitude of ways, and he is a strong student excelling over a range of subjects exhibiting a deep commitment to living by the example of the Waterford mantra—we teach students to do hard things. And yet, what defines Leo is his inexhaustible goodwill, compassion, and love for his classmates and his school. He lives our core values—caring, responsibility,  integrity. We are all better for knowing him, and Waterford has benefited tremendously from his many contributions.

Congratulations to the entire Class of 2022. We are so proud of all your accomplishments—you have left a lasting mark on the Waterford School community!