Under picture-perfect skies, members of the Class of 2020 gathered on Williams Hill June 4 for a long-awaited celebration honoring their graduation from Westminster.
In 2020, the on-campus commencement was canceled due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Instead, diplomas were mailed to Sixth Formers, and a video tribute was held virtually. Finally, more than two years later, more than half of the 102 members of the class who attended the celebration had an opportunity to experience some of the pomp and circumstance they had missed.
Proud parents, too, had a chance to join in the celebration and to snap keepsake photos of their children who are now young Westminster alumni.
As the class assembled on the Sixth Form Lawn, they exchanged hugs, handshakes and high fives. For many in the class, it was the first time they had seen one another since they departed campus in March 2020.
The virtual graduation was “personally really hard for me because when we left in March, I just thought we were going to be coming back to campus,” said Kyani Jemmotte, a sophomore at Lehigh University.
When she received the school email that on-campus graduation was canceled, she realized she missed an opportunity for final goodbyes.
Kyani’s mother, Kemba Jemmotte, noted the significance of the celebration for graduates. “It meant a lot emotionally for the students, for them to have some closure,” she said.
Following a Westminster commencement tradition, the class processed to Commencement Lawn and paraded through a gauntlet of cheering faculty and staff members before taking their seats in front of the stage. Head of School Elaine White welcomed them, saying that although she was not at Westminster during their tenure, she shared their pain as “Covid disrupted all of our lives in March of 2020.”
She added: “I know, too, the silver lining of those many challenging months, and I appreciate the way in which, even as we return to a more normal state of affairs, we cherish our moments with family and friends. Today is one of those moments.”
In his address, Grant Gritzmacher, the Class of 2020 Sixth Form Dean, praised the class for its tenacity through a difficult time. “You learned from each other, you respected each other and you helped each other when the going got rough, which it did in March 2020 when the rug was pulled out from under your senior spring and the world went into disarray, ” he said.
“Your vision of what you had worked for and waited for was suddenly clouded by an uncertain future,” he continued. “When the decision to close the school was announced on the Ides of the fateful March, we looked ahead to plan this very gathering for June 2020. Worst case August 2020. How naive we were. But here we are finally together again.”
He concluded by reminding members of the class that Westminster’s imprint on their lives and way of thinking will continue to reveal itself to them in the years ahead.
“Conversersely,” he said, “your imprint on Westminster is not completed. You are remembered and celebrated.”
Class of 2020 Head Prefect Megan Rittenhouse, a sophomore at Colby College, poignantly recalled her Westminster years. “To this day,” she said, “whenever anyone asks me what makes Westminster so special, my answer never changes. Simply put, the people are what make this place so special. My time at Westy was made great because of all of you. Having an abrupt ending didn’t make moving onto the next chapter of our lives easy, but when I look back at my time at Westy and beyond, I am so grateful for the wonderful people that I met along the way.”
Following the addresses, the name of each member of the Class of 2020 was read, and those present walked on stage to receive a medallion engraved with the school’s crest on the front and their name on the back. The class then recessed to the Sixth Form Lawn, where the traditional diplomas passing ceremony was recreated with the medallions.
Ryan Messina, currently a sophomore at Boston University, joined with other classmates in expressing gratitude for the celebration. “I am just so super grateful Westminster hosted this for us,” he said.