Members of the Class of 2021 were officially welcomed as Westminster Sixth Formers during a combined Lawn and Pin Ceremony Oct. 1 that was filled with pageantry and livestreamed to other students, alumni, parents and the greater Westminster community.
Due to the pandemic, the traditional Lawn Ceremony that usually takes place the night before commencement was canceled last spring. As a result, members of the Class of 2020 were unable to bring the Class of 2021 onto the Sixth Form Lawn in the customary manner. In order to make up for the loss of this special tradition, plans were made for a new ceremony that would meet social distancing requirements and recognize the Class of 2021.
The Oct. 1 ceremony began with members of the Class of 2021 gathered on Commencement Lawn looking toward Keyes Porch to hear some remarks.
Sixth Form Dean A-men Rasheed greeted everyone by saying: “As I look upon the sea of faces in the Class of 2021, I am so very proud of all of your accomplishments. We are all so fortunate to be able to gather together today. This day officially welcomes you to a fine group of Westminster Sixth Formers. Although we can never replicate the majesty of the traditional Lawn and Pin ceremonies that many of us have grown to love, I feel today will be a wonderfully unique experience for you to cherish with fond remembrance as you look back on your Sixth Form year at Westminster School.”
During his remarks, he recognized members of the Class of 2020 and their dean, Grant Gritzmacher, describing how, due to the coronavirus, the class lost out on many cherished school traditions from the spring.
Head of School Bill Philip told members of the Class of 2021 how wonderful it was to see them on campus, called for a shoutout to their dean and reminded them of the watchwords that had guided the campus during the pandemic: flexibility, perspective and patience. “Because of that patience, we are here today and are going to have a very special occasion this afternoon and this evening.” He explained how faculty with 20 years or more of service are named honorary alumni faculty. Alumni faculty and honorary alumni faculty would be bringing members of the Class of 2021 onto the Sixth Form Lawn during the ceremony.
“Each day of us here together is a victory,” he continued, as he described the long tradition of the Lawn Ceremony. “It was always here on the Sixth Form Lawn, which is the heart of our school, surrounded by the central community spaces that bring us together. Enjoy this occasion and think about the key element of this ceremony, which is about leadership. Your being brought onto the lawn is a signal of your acceptance before the school community of your role as leaders at this school throughout this year. The ceremony is fun, but it is also deep with meaning carrying through decades of the school’s history.”
Meg Rittenhouse ’20, last year’s head prefect, provided greetings to the Class of 2021 through an audio recording, saying: “I know this is not how you all pictured such a memorable moment as Lawn Ceremony. I am sad that we all can’t be there to experience it, but on behalf of the 2020 Prefect Board and the Class of 2020, I am glad to welcome the Class of 2021 as official Sixth Formers at Westminster School. Enjoy these moments with each other, and I hope you have a safe and healthy year.”
This year’s head prefect, Will Rizzo ’21 described how “gut-wrenching” it was last spring for the loss of so many school traditions. “But despite the many challenges we had to endure last spring, we persevered,” he said. “Teachers spent tireless hours rearranging their spring academic plans and learning how to teach on an entirely new platform, allowing us to continue to pursue our academic interests and passions. Thanks to the effectiveness of modern technology, we were able to stay connected as a community. And in our own virtual way, we were able to celebrate and send off our Sixth Form class. Although this was not a spring term anyone had ever imagined, our resilience as a community was ever apparent through those difficult three months.”
He offered advice to the student body: “Last year, we saw how fast great things can end. No one knows the future, but we do know that our time at Westminster is finite. We are all so lucky to be here and don’t be afraid to continue to be you. Continue to be leaders in the classroom, on the field and in the community. Continue to build those meaningful relationships and make your mark on this great school. And continue to wake up every day with a positive mindset and a goal of serving those around you.”
Despite the challenges of the current year, he encouraged students to commit. “Commit to this community, the people in it, and our combined goals and vision for a successful school year,” he said. “In doing so, we will look back on this year with a sense of accomplishment: new friendships and memories formed, a more profound understanding of social issues, academic knowledge gained, games won and lost, and our Westminster community, the characteristic that most defines our school, will be stronger as a result.”
For members of his own class, he concluded: “We all looked forward to this year for so long. And although it may be different than we had hoped or envisioned, why not make the absolute most of it. I am confident that whatever is thrown at us this year as a community, we will triumph. I love you all and am beyond excited for all of us as we enter into a school year filled with incredible amounts of potential and opportunity.”
Following the remarks portion of the event, Sixth Formers walked over to the circle surrounding the Sixth Form Lawn where they waited until they were brought onto the lawn, one by one, by alumni faculty and honorary alumni faculty using Sixth Form banners from years past. As is custom, the last to be pulled onto the lawn were members of the Prefect Board, the junior prefect and the head prefect. Bryan Tawney and Peter Doucette, who recently celebrated 20 years on the faculty, were led onto the lawn as honorary alumni faculty as were A-men Rasheed and Jenny Philip. After joining others on the lawn, members of the Class of 2021 signed the Sixth Form book and were given a Sixth Form pin or pendant, which their class had designed. The event ended with some photos, the bells ringing from the chapel and the playing of the Westminster Recessional.
With the declaration of a Hill Holiday from 5 p.m. Oct. 1 through 5 p.m. Oct. 2, numerous fun activities took place on campus that evening.