The Class of 2024 Commencement, A Timeless Moment

Retiring English teacher Scott Stevens stood in the shade of the Commencement Tent on the morning of May 25 and surveyed the crowd of students, families and friends gathering for Westminster’s 136th graduation ceremony.
“It’s such a timeless moment,” he said. “The cycle continues. We have another great group of Sixth Formers who have had the Westminster experience and are about to be launched. It’s a pleasure and privilege to send them off,” said Stevens, who delivered this year’s commencement address.
The weather was idyllic. A cerulean blue sky greeted the 113 members of the Class of 2024 as they stepped onto Keyes Patio earlier that morning to receive their flower bouquets and corsages.
For Sixth Formers it was a day of mixed emotions. “I’m feeling bittersweet, but I’m happy that it’s graduation, " said Robert Yalda, Head Prefect, who posed for a photo outside Cushing Hall flanked by his brothers, Francis and Christian ’22.
During his year as Head Prefect, he said he learned to be a better leader and to be more reliable for others. “I am going to miss my classmates, and the faculty,” said Yalda, who will attend Boston College this fall.
His classmates expressed similar feelings. “I’m so excited for what’s to come,” said Maya Tavares, as she waited in a processional line with her classmates. “I will miss the people and the beautiful views we have up on the Hill,” added Mia Davis. “And the Dining Hall food, “chimed in Ally Reich.
Kicking off the ceremony in the Commencement Tent, Head of School Elaine White welcomed the class and parents, families, friends, trustees, faculty and staff members and fellow classmates.  She asked the Class of 2024 to recognize the many people who have helped them reach this milestone in their lives with their guidance, love and support.
Salutatorian Robert Yalda
In his salutary address, Head Prefect Robert Yalda reflected on this year’s theme of “Engagement” by recalling his arrival on the Hill as a Fourth Former.
“I was so uncertain and uncomfortable in my early days here. I didn’t know if I was going to have friends. I didn't know when to talk, what to join, or where to be. I felt so uncomfortable, but I sat in that discomfort and I engaged by finding avenues of where I could engage in clubs and activities,” he said.
In September, Yalda challenged the entire community to embrace discomfort rather than shy away from it. “And throughout the year, everyone met this goal, but most importantly the Class of 2024,” he said.
The Class of 2024 spearheaded initiatives to foster inclusivity, organized fundraisers for important causes, and led discussions on pressing issues, which had a meaningful impact on the community.
“Our journey as a class wasn’t just about individual achievements; it was about coming together to create positive change. We celebrated each other’s successes, supported each other through challenges and forged bonds that will last a lifetime,” he said.
“We commence the next part of our journey, and while that is quite frightening to hear that, the bonds we created with peers will keep us connected,” Yalda said. “Do what you feel passionate about in the spirit of discomfort. Life is inherently uncertain so take that leap of faith and embrace that discomfort before the opportunity is gone. I challenge the Class of 2024, to seek discomfort and live life to the fullest with grit, grace, gratitude and compassion.”
Outstanding Scholar Johnathan Li
In his address, Johnathan Li reflected on the innately human apprehension of the future within the context of his personal life. “We are not accustomed to thinking about endings,” he began. “When I was young, I was often petrified of the idea of leaving somewhere or something behind,” he said.
He recalled arguing with his mother when she asked him to clean his room during a summer break. At first, he protested saying, “I think it is important to preserve history.” Eventually though he acquiesced, and in the process of cleaning, he discovered piles of decaying notebook pages, defaced textbooks from middle school, and a heap of heap souvenirs all stacked haphazardly on top of each other.
All these mementos of his past led to a surge of anxiety and the realization that he needed to step forward into a new stage of his life. At the same time, he was angry that he was leaving his past behind, about losing the familiar and all that he held dear.
He told his classmates that they, too, must face the realization that they must move forward, leave behind the familiar and embrace the future that awaits them.
“Eventually, we will reach a day when we are able to look back upon today and to laugh at ourselves for being so apprehensive,” he said.
“We will want our future selves to dredge up the memories we have made here and remark upon the simplicity of our anxieties and to say jokingly to our present selves, ‘You’ve got nothing to worry about!’”
But to arrive there, he continued, “We must first step into the vast and eternal realm of the unknown. We must first confront the inevitable termination which accompanies standing at the frontier of life’s unfolding.
“For to be is to become,” he said. “We can shape our future in accordance to how we eventually wish to recall it.”

Stevens Scholarship Announced
Scott Stevens arrived on the campus of Westminster in 1983, to teach English, coach hockey and lacrosse, and live in the dormitory. His dedication and commitment to the school continued to flourish after he and his wife, Amy, (who retired in 2022) married and began a life together. They raised their three children on the Hill –– Nick ’07, Abby ’09 and Will ’12. During his tenure, he also served outside the classroom as director of development in what is now the advancement office. In addition to other duties, he coached several sports and started the girls’ Varsity golf team in 2015.
“For 41 years, Scott has brought magic to all our lives on this campus through eternal optimism, which graces his work,” said Head of School White.
“There are people whom we never want to “graduate” so to speak from this unique world of boarding schools. Scott and Amy Stevens are two of those people,” said White prior to announcing a new scholarship that will carry the Stevens family name. Established in 2024 by former trustee Doug Londal and Kristin Londal, parents of Alex ’17, Nate ’19 and Chris ’21, the scholarship honors Scott and Amy and will carry their name. It will be awarded to a deserving student who offers academic promise for the future and represents Westminster’s core values of character, community, balance and involvement.
Keynote Speaker: Scott Stevens P’07, ’09, ’12
Stevens began his address by describing what the campus looked like when he arrived on the Hill in 1983. It had a less grandiose entranceway, 1950’s style intuitional dormitories and, of course, the infamous black water tower that loomed over campus. Over the decades that followed, living and learning on the Hill changed drastically and so, too, did the stories students carried with them upon graduating.
“If you arrived in the early 1980,  it was a time when you would have had to wear black ties and yellow ribbons 24/7 as part of a ritualized initiation, a time when everyone rolled up their sleeves for dish room duty, a time when the student gradus list was publicly posted and included two lower level statuses that no longer exist, Infernus and Imus, indicating which students were failing. You would partake in Sixth Form Coffee after dinner with faculty to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and pipes together and review the day. It was a different time to be sure.”
“You, the Class of 2024, arrived during the full force of a pandemic, a crucible of sorts as you began your own remarkable and storied Westminster careers.
“Your journey began, as you know first-hand, with your own painful rite of passage into Westminster life — the awkwardness, the restrictions, the isolation, the loneliness, the mental health struggles, the world of Zoom, and of the collective uncertainty and an underlying fear.”
But in true Westminster fashion, the Class of 2024, came together, Stevens said,
touching upon the unifying tradition of storytelling in Andrews Memorial Hall. The chapel talks included individual struggles in the first year on campus during the pandemic.  “Nobody is born with grit, but the collective nature of the Class of 2024’s chapel reflections were inspiring to witness in their honesty, courage and wisdom,” he said.
“I have had the wonderful good fortune of a life immersed in stories,” he continued.
“Both in real life on the Hill and in the classroom with many of you.”
He noted that Westminster has become a more complicated place in which to lead, teach, learn and grow. “With access and exposure to virtually anything just clicks away in the world, our community is bombarded with weighty world topics to learn about and also to consider beyond the familiar curriculum. It’s a world that constantly challenges everyone’s ethical, moral, and emotional ecology.  The class of 2024 has demonstrated an amazing ability to be curious, interested and sometimes moved by these topics.”
Despite those challenges, the rewards of teaching remain the same, particularly what he called “lift off” moments in the classroom when everything just clicks. As he described, “there is suddenly collective curiosity, provocative questions and collaborative learning, one pulse in rhythm together. A unique chemistry arising out of a shared student experience and an unwavering respect for one another, teachers and students alike. Moments of wonder and bliss.”
 “It is my hope that the class of 2024 has enjoyed many of these moments,” he said.  “I know I have.”

Student Awards
The Butler Bowl awarded to a Third former who demonstrates the traits of character and leadership: Melody El-Amin Stewart
The Adams Bowl presented to a Fourth Former who best embodies the qualities of Richard and Barbara Adams, who devoted more than 40 years of service to the school. Barbara served on the faculty from 1995-2011, and Dick served on the faculty from 1970-2013: Hannah Maltby
The Wilbraham Bowl given to a Fifth Former who best embodies the qualities of Geoffrey Wilbraham, who gave distinguished service to Westminster from 1958-1994: Sophie Grace Peterson
Richard K. LeBlond, II Honor Award given to a Sixth former who exemplifies dedication to academics and loyalty to the school: Kimi Weng
Paul Winship Alumni Book Prize awarded to the Sixth Former who has made an unusual commitment in breadth and depth to school programs and activities: Margee Mahoney and Taylor Schuster
Keyes Bowl, recognized as the school’s most prestigious commencement award, presented a Sixth Former who displays loyalty, courage, leadership and humility: Wills Erda
Faculty Prizes
The newly established Simpson Family Chair for Teaching and Learning, endowed by Sandi and Gary Simpson P’ 24, lays a foundation for a future Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. The chair recognizes a faculty member that supports the academic needs and growth of all students: Kelly Curtis, director of learning services.
The Swayze Prize is given to a member of the faculty for outstanding contributions to the life of the school: Andrea Thomas, associate director of admissions; co-director of student activities
The O’Brien Prize recognizes a faculty member who has been selfless and generous with time and care in the nurture and support of students: Kelly Wosleger, math teacher, coach, form dean and program director of Horizons.
Awarding of Diplomas and Diploma Passing
Head of School White and Chair of the Board of Trustees Renée Lynch Carrel ’84, P’19, ’21, presented diplomas. White then congratulated the Class of 2024 and offered them the same parting gift, as she has given past graduating Martlets.

“It’s called Saturday. Part of your experience on the Hill has been to learn its value, and next year you are going to be able to enjoy it as you see fit. Use it well,” she said.
Following the ceremony, the graduates participated in the Westminster tradition of passing their diplomas on the Sixth Form Lawn. They formed a circle and passed the random diplomas they received during the commencement ceremony until they received their own diploma. They then stepped out of the circle, signifying their graduation.
You can view and download photos here.
Watch a recording here.

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