On June 9, 2017 the 29th graduating class of The Wellington School gathered together with family, friends, and faculty, to celebrate the first great milestone in their educational career.
During his address to the graduates, Head of School Robert Brisk P ‘13 ‘15 spoke of Wellington’s dedication to ensuring students were not just intellectually stimulated in their academic pursuits but also excited and inspired by the experience. “It has been our conviction,” he said, “that if you are both challenged and you loved it, you would do your best work and be hungry for more. We hope you do, indeed, leave us hungry for more.”
Brisk encouraged the class to engage with their communities, thereby making them stronger, just as they had done at Wellington. He also emboldened them to engage in new ideas. “Explore areas of intellect unfamiliar to you,” he advised, “whether it be Beat poetry, Chinese philosophy, particle physics, remember your colleges and universities will challenge you to explore. You will be enriched if you engage in that challenge.”
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Class of 2017 included 12 Lifers, students who have attended Wellington since prekindergarten, kindergarten, or 1st grade. They were given blue honor cords at the Senior Dinner earlier in the week, and the Lifers along with their parents were invited to stand in recognition of their family’s enduring support of Wellington.
The class gift was presented by the president of the senior class, Neelu Paleti ‘17. “The Class of 2017 holds some of the most gifted and dedicated technicians at Wellington,” she said. “Their devotion to acting has not only given us many memorable productions, but also demonstrated the excellence of Wellington theatre time and time again.” On behalf of the Class of 2017, Paleti announced their contribution towards a new audio/visual system for the school theatre. “We hope that future student groups can use this equipment to continue developing the arts and theatre at Wellington and showcase the wide range of talents of every passionate Jaguar.”
Co-editors Margaret Meeks ‘17 and Clare Jusdanis ‘17 offered the dedication of the 32nd volume of the yearbook to Rose Marie Mierzejewski, retiring upper school Spanish teacher, and Lauren Spitzer, former upper school assistant for helping “to make the Wellington community truly feel like a family.” Meeks and Jusdanis also took a moment to honor Colette Granger, former middle school science teacher, who passed away in July 2016 after a battle with cancer. “She left a lasting impression on many students and faculty members within the community,” Meeks said. “She will never be forgotten. This year’s yearbook has been created in her memory.”
Class speaker and Lifer Sam Kim ‘17 spoke of the deep sense of community and familial love that permeated his entire time at Wellington. Reflecting on the last four years and his time in the upper school, he shared his belief that the Class of 2017 had found something special in Wellington “that will always be there for us. A home, a getaway, and a sanctuary.” Music Award winner Peter Schoellkopff ‘17 performed a rousing Elizabethan Love Song “Sleep” by Ivor Gurney.
Assistant Head of School and Upper School Head Dr. Jeff Terwin then provided his own bit of advice for the matriculating college students. To begin, he quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Referring to Wellington’s research on eudaimonic happiness, the state in which people find meaning and purpose in their lives, Terwin pointed out that material possessions and superficial interactions on social media mostly only bring fleeting moments of hedonic happiness. To have the more meaningful and lasting sense of happiness, he told graduates to put down their phones, spend time outside, and practice gratitude. “Taking a few moments to savor and be grateful for the good things in our lives, empowers and emboldens us to push through adversity and gain a great foothold in any situation,” he said. “Too often we get stuck in a rut, convincing ourselves that things are tragic and terrible. Resist that urge and, instead, find things to appreciate.”
Terwin then told the Class of 2017 how much he appreciated their individuality and personal confidence. To show his gratitude, taped under each senior’s chair, Terwin had written personal notes to each of them and also researched hiking locations near their colleges. “Always embrace who you are,” he said in closing, “be open to new and challenging ideas, and for goodness sake, put down the cell phone and head outside.”
Wellington Board Chair Ted Manley P ‘21 ‘24 congratulated the class and everyone sharing in their special day. “Today is the culmination of an 18-year-long collaboration between you fine young people and all those who have supported you,” he said. “Making it to this day was not easy, but it will make your lives immeasurably better, and you should be commended for your efforts.”
Manley told graduates they were all geniuses, explaining that he meant genius in the ancient Latin definition of a guardian spirit or inner voice that guides us through important life decisions. Referring to educational thought leader Sir Ken Robinson’s belief that every single life is completely unique because our lives are essentially created by the choices we make, Manley said, “Choices about what talents to cultivate, what grad school to attend, where to live, what career to pursue, and who to love. These are big decisions, decisions that will have a huge impact on the trajectory of your lives. If you listen, I believe that your genius will speak to you as you make each of them.”
On behalf of the Wellington Alumni Association, Catie Gross ‘11 and Patrick Kim ‘11 officially welcomed the Class of 2017 to the group. “Wellington provided me with a foundation and morale schematic to carry me through any obstacle in life,” Kim shared. “It’s now up to you to go out there and do the work. Good luck and congrats on becoming Wellington alumni.”
Head of School Robert Brisk closed the commencement exercises with his last words of wisdom to the Class of 2017. “We send you forth, with our affections, our pride in who you are, and our eager anticipation of the next steps in your journey.”
Indeed, much is expected of this distinguished group of scholars, athletes, artists, and humanitarians. Their remarkable contributions to our school community will now extend to the world beyond Wellington as they further explore individual interests and passions with their genius guiding them along the way.