Jaguars Forge Their Own Path

Jaguars Forge Their Own Path

Wellington’s 31st commencement exercises were held in the Gard Gym on Friday, May 31, 2019, as members of the Class of 2019, joined by family, friends, and faculty, celebrated a momentous milestone in their young lives. The vast accomplishments of this talented group included areas of scientific research, global travel, leadership, fine and performing arts, as well as athletics, including two state championship teams, and will be forever a part of the school’s history.

For Robert Brisk P ‘13 ‘15, presiding over his last graduation as head of school, it was a bittersweet occasion in which he reflected on his arrival at Wellington 12 years ago with the purpose of transforming education. Building upon the founding mission of the school, Brisk set out to foster a dynamic learning environment in which students were able to take the lead in designing highly-individualized paths of discovery. By bringing together world-class faculty and fully engaged young scholars, according to Brisk, Wellington provided the tools and room for the Class of 2019 to explore emerging technologies, excel at writing and passing legislation at the model United Nations and Youth in Government, and dive into cutting-edge scientific application of topics like neural networks and computational fluid dynamics.

“You must continue to direct more than be directed, to pursue the unexpected, and to grow the glory of the beautiful brains you have in your heads,” Brisk said. “The world depends on it, and I close with an invitation. I want to sit with each of you at your 50th Wellington reunion in 2069 and talk to you about how you’ve taken your incredible skills to build a meaningful life for yourself and others, how you’ve solved the world’s problems, and how you’ve created and appreciated beauty. If I seem not to understand what you are saying, it won’t be because I’m 110 years old, remember that even in 2019, you were way beyond me. Congratulations to the Class of 2019.”

Congratulations were also in order for Brisk himself, who was handed a honorary Wellington diploma by Catherine Zallanta ‘19 and Mac Hammett  ‘19 for his time and service as head of school. Also among those receiving special recognition in the class were 19 Lifers, students who have attended Wellington since prekindergarten, kindergarten, or 1st grade.

Senior Class President Soleil Tibbets-Barnes ‘19 presented the class gift, a memorial plaque in honor of classmate Courtney Roy, who passed away in 2014. “She was a smart, kind, and caring person who always saw the best in everyone else,” Tibbets-Barnes said. “We are forever better because of Courtney, and we hope that by leaving our mark on the school, Wellington will be forever better because of the Class of 2019.” A chair was placed in memory of Courtney Roy among the seniors at commencement as well.

Achala Kasarla ‘19 and Soleil Tibbets-Barnes ‘19, co-editors of the yearbook, offered the dedication of the 33rd volume of The Duke to Robert Brisk and Dr. Jeff Terwin for their exemplary mentorship and leadership.

Class speaker Allison Sheehan reminisced about the seminal moments of seniors’ shared opportunities and experiences, each one further strengthening the feeling that Wellington is unlike any other school and how fortunate they were to call it home. Sheehan ended not with advice for the new graduates, rather a hope that her classmates will be happy in the future no matter where their journey takes them. Music award winner Nathan Hay ‘19 performed the 1st movement of Paul Hindemith’s “Harp Sonata.”

Dr. Jeff Terwin, associate head of school and head of upper school, began his address thanking faculty for showing how much they care every day and also sharing his gratitude for the students’ joyful exploration. He went on to ask the new graduates to avoid the danger of a world in which technology has created such ease in life that any challenge may be perceived as something to avoid.

“We expect instant gratification and focus on the end; the thing, rather than the journey,” Terwin said. “When the world is trying to convince you to think less and provides you pre-packaged ideas; we need you to think more, work harder, and add your voice to the mix.”

He likened the idea of fostering young minds to that of cultivating master chefs in a world full of fast, microwavable food. We need to delight in the process of making or doing, Terwin explained, instead of taking the path of least of resistance. Naming a few examples of the seniors’ outstanding work as well as intellectual and personal growth, including their high level of research and collaboration with experts, founding clubs that exemplified their dedication to social justice and civic engagement, and rousing the senses through visual and performing arts.

“The message from the work of these seniors is clear: committed and interesting students, when given some inspiration and autonomy, can and will do amazing things. Don’t let that end here,” Terwin told the Class of 2019. “Stay in the kitchen, and keep creating. Our rapidly changing world presents new challenges that require new solutions. You can help! Find joy in the work. Jaguars do not take shortcuts, they forge their own path.”

Board Chair Ted Manley P '21 '24 provided his own encouraging words for seniors shortly before they were presented with their diplomas. “As you transition to the next phase of your studies, please know that your experience at Wellington has shaped you to play a meaningful role in the solutions to [the world’s problems] and to participate in the continued long arc of human flourishing.”

In his closing remarks, Terwin noted an important milestone of his own. The Class of 2019 would be his last as head of upper school before becoming Wellington’s next head of school this summer. After pausing for a moment to consider the joy he found in that role for the last seven years, Terwin went on to share the pride he felt for being a part of their unfolding story. “Lessons learned at Wellington should serve you well going forward. Our model has taught you to trust in yourself and to take on any challenges ahead. You are awesome. You are Jags. And you are ready. Now get cookin!”

As master chefs, designers, scientists, artists, athletes, and advocates, this inspiring group of young graduates will now use their skills and talents to make a positive impact on the world. They will face obstacles with conviction. They will explore the unknown with courage. They will reach for the stars with confidence. As Jaguars, now and forever, they are ready for their next leap.

View more photos from graduation here