On Friday, May 26, 108 graduates and their families, classmates, faculty, trustees, and alumni gathered for New Hampton School’s 202nd Commencement. This honored tradition has seen generations of students graduate on the lawn in front of Meservey Hall and many more generations to come.
New Hampton School’s 202nd Commencement Ceremony
Head of School Joe Williams welcomed the graduates, trustees, speakers, faculty, students, and families and shared how the class has been charged with the purpose. From taking initiative in their studies to being open to meeting new people of differing cultures, they have succeeded and also prepared themselves to join new communities this fall and to pursue valuable life choices. Williams then introduced speakers, including the Ben Cecil Welcome Speaker, Walker Northrup, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Karl Kimball ’74, and Student Body Co-Presidents Nina Morel ’23 and Joe Bourbeau ’23, who had the honor of sharing opening and closing remarks before the presentation of diplomas.
Northrup skillfully drew on the story of Sisyphus and philosopher Albert Camus to express the feeling of challenge and doubt. He shared, “it is easy to question the purpose of our efforts, to wonder if they are all in vain. But Camus didn’t see futility as a reason for despair. Instead, he offered a powerful perspective. He urged us to embrace the absurdity of life, to find meaning in the face of an indifferent universe. Just as Sisyphus found purpose in his repetitive task, we too can create our own meaning.”
Morel began her speech with an extension of gratitude to the people of the community who have provided an impactful experience as each graduate grew in their time here, as well as the parents and families who made the opportunity a possibility for so many. She also reflected on the importance of positivity and making sure to “not take everything so seriously.” While each student will go through ups and downs, “in the end, we all have each other to lean on.”
Next, Anna Wolf ’23 introduced our distinguished speaker for this year’s ceremony—her grandfather, Dan Coats GP’20, ’23.
Commencement Speaker: Dan Coats GP’20, ’23
Dan Coats GP’20, ’23 held the distinguished honor of being this year’s Commencement Speaker. As a proud grandfather and believer in the strength of family, he addressed not only the graduates but the families as well, noting that this achievement was also for them, and implored each person to “enjoy this moment, this day, this shared achievement.”
Coats chose to focus on three main messages as the students prepared to graduate and move on to the next chapter. And while he noted that the next steps would be more challenging, he emphasized abiding by truth, living “a life of character”, and practicing gratitude each day would support them and strengthen them in the years to follow.
For truth, Coats discussed an important fact.
But here’s the truth about truth: Truth is not subjective or situational. The truth matters—whether you’re in the classroom or the lab, at home, or at work. And the truth is critical to your future and to our nation’s future.
Drawing together purposeful examples from his work as the former Director of National Intelligence, Coats expressed the importance of truth from more than just the intelligence community. He provided insight into why we should challenge ourselves to be truth seekers. ‘Truth is always based on facts—not on what a person feels or wants.”
In approaching character, Coats began by defining the word, which traces its origins to “an Ancient Greek word that was defined as ‘an engraved mark, a distinctive quality, a symbol or imprint of the soul.'” By acknowledging that everyone possesses character, and the essence of our being, it stands to follow that “character is everything.” Coats quoted a friend, John Bowling, in supporting the importance of living a life of character.
“Having a good character involves integrity, honesty, patience, courage, kindness, generosity, and a strong sense of personal responsibility. Without building a good character, it’s impossible to build a successful life.”
Most importantly, perhaps, Coats defined the true test of character as what someone will do when no one is watching. “Tonight, tomorrow, next month, next year—will you do what’s right or what’s wrong when no one is watching?” He affirms that all corners of the world, in every career and industry, need people of character.
Lastly, Coats expressed the importance of gratitude and how if there is one thing to remember from his words, it is to be grateful every day. From life and health to friends and family, the opportunities each person has available to them are something to be grateful for.
We are blessed because we are free. You are free to choose your path, your vocation. You are free to speak up or stay silent. Be grateful for those blessings. Count your blessings. Be grateful for the people who helped get you to this moment. […] I hope you use the blessings of freedom to shine a light in the darkness, to speak truth, to build, to protect, to heal, to help.
In closing, Coats reflected on the importance of gathering for Commencement just days before Memorial Day and our opportunity to remember those who sacrificed everything. “Others had the character to defend what is right and what is true. And they deserve our gratitude.”
2023 Cum Laude Speaker
New Hampton School began a new tradition in 2019 to recognize academic excellence and to promote a scholarly perspective at Commencement. Selected by the members of the Cum Laude Society, this year Isabelle Healey ’23 held the honor of representing the very best of the academic minds on campus. Following the presentation of faculty citations and Commencement medals, as well as the performance of our alma mater, Healey shared her address with the class of 2023 and guests.
Healey began by sharing the importance of taking a deeper look at academics and life, to not accept things without question. She notes this goes beyond the classroom experience for her.
“I have learned to challenge opinions and beliefs, both ones that I held, as well as those of others. Through this, I have gained a deeper understanding of myself, as well as the world around me. I encourage you all to consider how often you challenge the ideas around you. In addition to challenging ideas, I encourage you to challenge yourself.”
Another highlighted factor was defining one’s “why.” Knowing your why helps provide meaningful purpose to each day, and reasons to “chase” desires. Lastly, Healey explained the lesson of taking risks. This is a common phrase at New Hampton School—to take healthy risks.
As you enjoy this moment with classmates, friends, and family, I urge you all to take a moment to reflect on what you wish to accomplish in the next phase of your life. No matter how big or small, don’t let four more years go by without going after your goals. Audition for a play, learn to paint, start a new sport, or make a new friend. It all goes by so far, and I don’t think time is slowing down, so at the risk of sounding like a Nike commercial—just do it.
Student Body Co-President Joe Bourbeau ’23 took to the lectern to present final remarks to the Class of 2023 and the families and friends gathered. Joe gratefully reflected on their experience as a class in being supported on their journeys, both by family and by community. He also shared the importance on being in this moment and knowing that “being in this position today signifies that we did not succumb to the pressures we face, and instead found ways to overcome.”
From this growth, we are presented with futures that may seem daunting, but, in my opinion, this is a much better problem to have than a future absent of opportunity. The life that lies ahead of us will be fulfilling so long as we follow our heart and intuition. Trust your gut if you believe in your purpose, and somehow, someway, the dots will connect in your future.
Bourbeau recognized that as their journey as New Hampton School students ends, the process of learning does not end. He shared that new opportunities are always on the horizon, and that it will be paramount to their path to combine “the desire to succeed with an adventurous attitude to bring dreams to fruition.” He closed with a quote from Steve Jobs, evoking a final plea to his classmates: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
Congratulations to the following graduates who received distinguished awards for their contributions to the school and their class at Commencement.
Photos are available on Flickr with additional photos available next week.
2023 Commencement Recognitions
Cum Laude Speaker: Isabelle Healey
Faculty Award: Ryan LeBrun
Faculty Award: Nina Morel
Faculty Award: Josh Sacco
New Hampton School Commencement Medals
Academic & Personal Growth: Walker Northrup
Intellectual Curiosity: Averi Curran
Citizenship Medal: Julia Pellerin
Meservey Medal: Isabelle Healey
Please join us in congratulating the New Hampton School Class of 2023.