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Congratulations, Class of 2014!

Noble and Greenough School graduated 120 members of the Class of 2014 on May 30. Closing an academic year marked by the much-maligned polar vortex and a chilly spring, faculty members, the graduates and their guests savored sunshine and a light breeze.

The morning included awards and the granting of diplomas to a class characterized by its cohesiveness, intellectual force and palpable spirit. Speakers shared words of gratitude, stories of fortitude and ruminations of what skills and attitudes might allow young people to become leaders for the public good.

Student Life Council co-presidents Katherine Kirk and Ben Perelmuter were among the first to address the audience. Kirk reflected on her earliest Nobles days in the middle school. “Those were days full of joy and faces full of braces,” she said. “[Through my Nobles experience] I have learned to open up my heart center.

“I want to thank the faculty who believed in me more than I believed in myself.” And she encouraged classmates to be proud and confident as they embark on their next adventures.

For self-proclaimed nerd Perelmuter, a pivotal moment came when he made his first assembly announcement about the newly founded Diplomacy Club, with an initial membership of one (Perelmuter). “I experienced incredible communal support,” he said, adding that the moment fueled his confidence for other pursuits.

Head of School Bob Henderson announced the awards that were accepted by students the previous evening. He also recognized seniors who earned distinction, high distinction and highest distinction.

In addressing the Class of 2014, Henderson quoted a post by “Ruminations” blogger Aaron Karo: “Life progresses through a series of questions,” Karo wrote.  “‘Can I have some juice?’ becomes ‘Why is the sky blue?’ becomes ‘Why doesn’t she like me?’ becomes ‘How am I gonna pay the rent?’ becomes ‘Will you marry me?’… becomes ‘Did you notice all these gray hairs?’ becomes ‘Where are my teeth?’ And then, once again, ‘Can I have some juice?'  We are taught from an early age to question everything.”

Henderson also sited the hiring practices of Google—seeking cognitive ability and humility, for example—as worthy of consideration as students embark on college and subsequent careers. “My point,” said Henderson, “is not to say you should be prepared to obtain employment with Google.  Rather, I happen to believe that I seek precisely the same qualities in people to work at Nobles. And, indeed, I think Google has identified a rather timeless formula for what a great education should foster. I think it will be as relevant in 20 years as it is today.

“So I say goodbye to you today with great affection, accompanied by the hope that your years here have laid the foundation for a life characterized by the passion for learning, with the capacity for leadership and collaboration, with sincere humility along with the perspective to own fully, and learn from, both your successes and failures.”

Before introducing faculty speaker, Tim Carey, Henderson also bestowed the Vernon Greene Award for excellence in teaching to master teacher Sarah Snyder, who is retiring after 37 years in the classroom, 25 of those at Nobles. Henderson spoke of her conviction and commitment. “She loves words and delights in poetry,” he said. “She is truly a rare soul.”

Faculty speaker Tim Carey, who is also retiring after more than three decades on the faculty, began by quoting e.e.cummings, suggesting that the graduation—this day—is a moment of sadness and of rejoicing, he said:

“I thank you God for most this amazing day/for the leaping greenly spirits of trees/and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything/which is natural which is infinite which is yes!”

Carey shared the zig-zag of his journey of becoming a teacher. Over time he learned, he said, how to overcome fears and recognize how his ability to connect with people could help him to teach children with empathy, encouragement and kindness—in contrast to the harshness and mockery he had encountered as a young student.

“The essence of teaching involves relationships,” he said. “I had to accept that fear [of school] and make that fear work for me instead of against me.”

Class I members Mo Afdhal and Abbeygale Anderson also spoke to the Class of 2014. Afdhal wrote a letter of appreciation to the admission office at Belmont Hill for fortuitously placing him on the wait list, resulting in his remarkable experience at Nobles. Anderson told how she came from Jamaica, a traumatized young girl, and found her voice.

Witnessing an act of violence at age 7, she said, contributed to the stuttering with which she still struggles. She explained how when she entered the classroom of Head of School Bob Henderson with a confession of a speech impediment, he said “’And? So what?’

“I’ve been given the opportunity to be who I am without apologies,” she said.

The ceremony included additional awards such as the Head of School Prize, Miller Medal and Gleason Award, which went to new graduates Elizabeth Orscheln and Melody Weinsten, and Andrew Fai and Milan Chuttani, respectively.

After accepting their diplomas, the graduates greeted and thanked faculty and family members. The final musical performance, after a week filled with many memorable performances, was the First Class Ensemble with “Your Song” by Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin and arranged by faculty member Michael Turner.

 

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Congratulations, Class of 2014!