199th Commencement Celebrated at New Hampton School

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On Saturday, May 23, 2020, New Hampton School’s Class of 2020 celebrated 105 graduates with classmates, families, faculty, and staff at our 199th Commencement.
Head of School Joe Williams virtually welcomed graduates, faculty, students, and families from all over the world. Acknowledging the interruption the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community, Williams expressed compassion and empathy among the many emotions we have felt these past weeks. From feelings of disbelief and loss to moments of unexpected joy, our individual journeys have been unique. He next introduced Student Body Co-President and four-year senior Zola Braswell ’20 to open the day’s ceremony.

The 199th Commencement was held virtually this year, but usually takes place here on the lawn in front of Meservey Hall.

Opening remarks

Braswell took us on a journey of her class’s final year at New Hampton School. The excitement of August, seeing friends after a summer apart, and the thrill of winning the Powder Keg games in the fall. Ultimately, she focused on the feelings and smaller memories that she and her class would continue to hold on to.

“It’s the small occurrences that we will miss the most and remember forever and that have made our time at New Hampton the best of our lives. For me, I will remember walking in the café, and seeing the faces of faculty children who brought a smile to my face. I’ll remember living in a dorm with my best friends. I’ll remember sitting on Fay’s kitchen counter with my girls in Lindsay house, talking about who knows what after making cookies. I’ll remember entering the classroom to the hello of my teachers and knowing that no matter whose class I was in, I was able to completely be myself, and say what I feel is right, even if that includes a song about a wasp. Sorry, Cramer.

I’ll remember walking into my room every day for four years to find Sally studying, and disrupting her by singing her name. And, every time, by surprise, she sang my name back.

There’s also something about New Hampton sunsets. I don’t know exactly what it is. but those sunsets have the ability to make someone feel happy, whether you’re walking out of musical rehearsal, playing can jam, or stealing chairs from the DP and putting them by the flagpole and just sitting and watching it, the sunset just makes you happy.

Between reflections on student life, inclusivity, and what makes this school a community, Braswell offered gratitude for many of the people of the community: the teachers, coaches, advisors, and the parents. “The people that we have grown to love at New Hampton are going to be in our lives forever. And because of this, we know that the power in New Hampton’s community grows as every class graduates, and the Class of 2020 is no exception.”

Welcoming the Class of 2020

Mr. Williams then addressed the Class of 2020. He reflected on the senior dinners that he and Mrs. Williams began this past fall. Each dinner brought with it new stories and insight into the relationships and bonds of this class. Reflecting on the spring, Williams shared his thoughts on lessons we have learned.

This global pandemic that has undermined your senior spring is also bringing to the forefront both raw emotion and real fear for some, while others take things in stride. It is in these times of volatility that it is increasingly important for you to get to know people, to be aware, and be involved. Be aware of your environment, your impact on those around you, how to keep yourself and those you care for safe, and how you can apply the skills learned at New Hampton to participate in positive change.  

Whatever community you find yourself in next year, get to know the people around you, recognizing that we all now play a more vital role in our shared efforts to return to a more normal life—one filled with health, happiness, and personal interaction.”

He further compelled the class to make service to others a regular part of their lives. To join organizations that matter to them, to volunteer, and consider the possibilities of their future with open eyes. To learn from others, and in return, learn more about themselves and what really matters.

Williams further welcomed Chairman of the Board of Trustees Karl Kimball ’74 to speak, as well as the Ben Cecil Commencement Speaker Ian Boisvert ’20. Both shared thoughts on staying connected, and the importance of remembering that New Hampton School is still your home. Boisvert closed by sharing, “I was asked to give my fellow classmates some words of advice. It’s okay to run, but occasionally look over your shoulder, and no matter how far or near you go, 70 Main Street will be right behind you. Always.”

Due to the pandemic, diplomas for our 199th Commencement were mailed in advance to each of our graduates along with caps, tassels, and other gifts from New Hampton School.

2020 Cum Laude Speaker

Last year, New Hampton School began a new tradition to recognize academic excellence and to promote a scholarly perspective at the 199th Commencement. Selected by the members of the Cum Laude Society, this year Xinying “Sally” Wang ’20 had the honor of representing the very best of the academic minds on campus.

As a four-year student at New Hampton School, Wang’s personal speech reflected on her experiences with individual growth, overcoming the cultural and language gap, and learning to embrace experiences.

“My teachers ignited my interests in various subjects, and my peers have shown me how to be a leader as well as what ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ mean. I have become a better person, a person who is more open-minded and capable of taking on responsibilities, and who is much more mature and confident when encountering challenges and failures, yet I recognize I still need to improve.   

I want to give one piece of advice: try new things and embrace new challenges. I never thought I could be a student leader, but I became one; I never thought I would be able to deliver a speech during my graduation, but I am giving one.”

Wang cited several teachers, offering humble gratitude for their inspiration, support, and for evoking her curiosity, and to her roommate Zola for their four-years together.

“I am fortunate that I have been able to meet so many people who are outstanding and truly caring for one another, who patiently helped me to grow from a timid and quiet international student to who I am now.

The pandemic of COVID-19 is an unique experience for our class, and we are learning to be resilient and strong because of it. Even though the future is uncertain, our community has prepared us well to face the challenge and continue to develop under the pressure. I believe every member of the class of 2020 will all grow to be the best versions of themselves and will walk into a bright future. 

Above: The Class of 2020 gathered in February for their 100 Days Dinner. This celebration marked the start of their final 100 days, leading to graduation.

Closing Remarks

Following the conferring of diplomas, Mr. Williams welcomed Student Body Co-President and four-year senior Tulio Tagliaferri ’20 to close the ceremony. Tagliaferri touched on lessons from his IB Theory of Knowledge class—a popular core requirement class in the International Baccalaureate program that focuses on the nature of knowledge and how we know what we claim to know. He drew lessons from the class into stories of what he has learned as part of his New Hampton School experience, such as “everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay. The only true mistake is not learning from them.” Injected his speech with passion, humor, and gratitude, he closed with these heartfelt words for his classmates:

“Serving as one of your leaders has been the best experience of my life. We were separated too soon but, ironically, I believe that it makes us realize how much of our heart is green. To New Hampton School, I will love you forever. You were there for the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. Thank you for turning a disgruntled boy into the man you see today. This global pandemic should serve as a reminder of why we are so lucky. We are truly blessed to be in the positions that we are today. Once again, congratulations to my fellow seniors. New Hampton, fair New Hampton, thy fame forever ring in my heart.”

199th Commencement included our traditional awards such as the Meservey Medal.

Congratulations to the following graduates who received distinguished awards for their contributions to the school and their class at the 199th New Hampton School Commencement.

199th Commencement Recognitions

Ben Cecil Commencement Speaker: Ian Boisvert
Faculty Award: Noah Bolduc
Faculty Award: Hannah Hibbert
Faculty Award: Taze Thompson

199th Commencement Medals

Academic & Personal Growth: Ian Boisvert
Intellectual Curiosity: Tristan MacDonald
Intellectual Curiosity: Xinying “Sally” Wang
Citizenship Medal: Zola Braswell
Meservey Medal: William Wood

The ceremony and program for this event will be available on the Commencement 2020 page of our website.

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