Westminster School celebrated the graduation of 114 students during in-person commencement exercises May 16 on Commencement Lawn.
Head of School Bill Philip welcomed everyone and spoke about the remarkable year that no one will ever forget and how the Class of 2021 led with enormous Grit & Grace.
“Your courageous leadership made it possible for us to reflect upon and to strive to advance in our school community the enormous challenges accompanying our national and worldwide reckoning on diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “Thanks to the Class of 2021’s leadership, as well, we enjoyed a very successful year of in-person teaching and learning on Williams Hill. We were here on campus together, and we accepted the health protocols that were necessary for us to remain here. All of this was so hard, but the goodwill and energy of this class never wavered.”
He described how the Admissions Office received more than 1,000 applications this year for about 130 openings, while simultaneously reinventing the admissions process to accommodate stringent limitations on campus visits. He also recognized the work of the College Counseling Office, saying the college admissions results for members of the Class of 2021 were excellent with students admitted to many of their top choices, including many of the most selective colleges and universities. “Needless to say, this achievement underscores the impressive talent shared by all of the graduates we are celebrating today,” he said.
He cited the accomplishments of the Soar Together Campaign in transforming the campus setting and significantly expanding available resources to support students and faculty. “At over $101 million in total funds raised, the Soar Together Campaign deserves recognition as one of the most successful fundraising accomplishments by any small boarding school and vastly exceeds all previous campaigns at Westminster School,” he said. “The school is flourishing today thanks to the passion of our school community, including students, faculty, parents, alumni and friends here on campus today, as well as those around the country and the world who cherish and seek to advance this great school as it makes a difference in the lives of students.”
In his Salutatory Address, Head Prefect Will Rizzo ’21 spoke about the many achievements of his class, and its disappointment in not being able to experience a traditional Sixth Form year at Westminster due to the pandemic. “It was difficult, there is no question about it,” he said.
He shared how members of the class persevered and never sacrificed their commitment to each other or their school. “We found value in the little things, the relationships we’ve built with each other, with the students who can’t be here today and with faculty members,” he said. “We put ourselves in the shoes of others who have sacrificed for the school, classes that have graduated through turbulent times and difficult circumstances.”
Looking ahead, he told his classmates: “Undoubtedly, we will face times in college and in life where we get knocked down. We will come eye to eye with challenges even greater that the ones we have faced this year. And when we approach them, we will feel the confidence to know that nothing life throws at us will stop us from being who we are — from being problem solvers and knowledge seekers, from being curious and inquisitive, from being positive forces of good for those around us — but most importantly, from being the great men and women that our time at Westminster has prepared us to become.”
Outstanding Scholar Address
In his Outstanding Scholar Address, Jean-Claude Lane ’21 talked about his early education journey that focused on success in academics over other opportunities, even to the detriment of himself and others. He explained that when he arrived at Westminster he was surprised by the breadth of activities in which students were involved. “I found people who all seemed to radiate an aura of warmth and friendliness and were each eager to play key roles in the wider school community,” he said. “Over the next four years, I was continually surprised by the amazing things that my friends had to offer. I realized that I had something to offer here that was appreciated, too, and it is the time I have spent with these amazing people that allowed me to grow and develop into the person I am today.”
He concluded by telling his classmates: “It has been a great privilege to have spent the last four years with each and everyone one of you. All of us and the experiences that we have created for each other are what make this school unique and memorable.”
The keynote speaker was Jeff Artis ’72, president and CEO of the nonprofit Genesys Works, who spoke about chapters on his life journey including his arrival at Westminster when he was surrounded by people and an environment unlike the one he had left hours before. He described how a school tradition helped create a common sense of belonging and an inclusive group, pointing out, “Inclusion is the difference between being let in and being brought in and traditions can play a role here by either lowering or raising barriers, as I quickly learned.” He added, “It was comfortable being a member of this inclusive group and easy to forget those original feelings of aloneness and our obligation as members of the majority to offer inclusion to those on the outside, especially if they are different.”
He went on to talk about the lone female Sixth Former entering Westminster in 1971 and the challenges she and other female students faced in the early days of coeducation at the school. He clarified the difference between equality and equity, saying, “I am not sure any of us — students, faculty or staff — truly understood what achieving equity and inclusion for these young women really meant at the time. … Being inclusive isn’t very difficult, it just requires making a choice.”
He also shared some things he has come to better appreciate along his journey. “It’s all about making choices,” he said. “Your chapter stories will be made up of the things you choose to do; not by the things you chose not to do, for even this is a choice. Every choice you make will lead you on a different journey — to different experiences and challenges. I have had an amazing journey sparked in large part by my choice to attend Westminster. It has led to numerous opportunities and adventures I otherwise would never have experienced.”
He urged the graduates to write their own journey, to enjoy the journey, to get of their comfort zone, at least occasionally, and to make a difference in someone else’s life. “I encourage you to always be aware that you benefited from the sacrifices of and stand on the shoulders of those who came before or helped you along the way and suggest that you pay it forward, backward or sideways in your own manner,” he said.
The following Sixth Form prizes were awarded:
Excellence in Science
Ji Woong Park ’21
Excellence in Physics
Allison Masthay ’21
Excellence in Chemistry
Cooper Organ ’21
Joyce Wilson Prize for Excellence in Mathematics
Ji Woong Park ’21 and Jiefei Wu ’21
Gretchen Hupfel ’82 Art Purchase Prize
Choong Yoon Lee ’21 and Alisa Toner ’21
Cowing Art Award
Yoo Jung Ha ’21 and India Lalor ’21
Lewis J. Powers Photography Award
SoJung Kwon ’21 and Jiefei Wu ’21
Excellence in Dance
Olivia Goldstuck ’21
Edward Scull Jr. ’71 Award for Excellence in Architecture
Hudson Stedman ’21
Peter Briggs Prize for Excellence in Economics
Hudson Stedman ’21
Class of 1941 Peter Mars Memorial History Prize
Anne Brewer ’21
Dramatic Award for Service and Leadership in Theater
Jane Burke ’21 and Elena McGuigan ’21
J. Lawrence Gilman Award for Achievement in Music and Participation in Musical Activities
Anne Brewer ’21 and Eva Pfeiffer ’21
Gordon McKinley Award for Excellence in English
Allison Masthay ’21 and Hudson Stedman ’21
Critchell Rimington Creative Writing Award
Nathalie Charles ’21
Burdett Prize for Excellence in the Study of French
Simmone Ponce ’21
Moncada Prize for Excellence in Spanish
David Harris ’21
Brian T. Bruyette ’77 Senior Athletic Award
This award is given annually to the Sixth Form boy and girl who best exemplify excellence in athletics and who contributed to the character of the team. It is given in memory of Brian T. Bruyette ’77, who in his enthusiasm, sportsmanship, effort and skills, represented all that is best in this school.
Samantha DeLeo ’21 and Bennett Ostern ’21
Richard K. LeBlond II Honor Award
This award is given annually to a member of the Sixth Form who exemplifies dedication to academics and loyalty to the school.
Allison Masthay ’21
Paul Winship ’35 Alumni Book Prize
This book prize is awarded to a Sixth Former who has made an unusual commitment in both breadth and depth to the school’s programs and activities.
Isabel Bailey ’21
Outstanding Scholar Award
This award is presented to the Sixth Former who, in the opinion of the faculty, is the outstanding scholar of the class. The award is not necessarily determined by rank in class but is based, rather, on the attributes of the true scholar: curiosity, imagination, power to associate new observations with prior experience, thoroughness, appetite for ideas rather than for grades as an end in themselves and the ability to move easily in the realm of concepts.
Jean-Claude Lane ’21
Established by the Class of 1966 and recognized as the school’s most prestigious commencement award, the Keyes Bowl is presented annually to a member of the Sixth Form and recognizes the qualities of loyalty, courage, leadership and humility.
Olatunji Osho-Williams ’21
Awarding of Diplomas
Following the awarding of student prizes, Head of School Philip and Chair of the Board of Trustees Brad Raymond ’85, P’19, ’20, ’24, ’24 presented diplomas to members of the class.
In his closing remarks, Head of School Philip congratulated the Class of 2021, saying: “What a year we have experienced together! Despite so many challenges, we sustained our defining programs and student experiences, whether in the performing and visual arts, athletics, classrooms or extracurricular activities, not to mention by hosting this morning’s in-person Commencement Ceremony. Even more than is usually the case, this year we were all emphatically reminded that it is the people who comprise our community who are Westminster School’s most precious attribute.”