Congratulations, Class of 2016! Nobles Celebrates 150th Graduation

On June 3, Noble and Greenough School graduated 124 members of the Class of 2016 under hazy skies. At the final morning assembly for the Class of 2016, members of the class performed Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” with its memorable chorus of  “Do You Remember?”—an apt refrain for the school’s 150th graduating class during its sesquicentennial celebration.

The morning celebrations continued with awards and the granting of diplomas to a class characterized by its intensity, affability and resilience. Speakers shared thoughts on the future, on finding their way, on the merits of close connections with faculty and on discovering self-confidence.

Student Life Council co-presidents Katherine Paglione and Will Clarke were among the first to address the audience. Paglione reflected on her experience as a coxswain for the crew team. As her classmates practiced more together and neared their final year, they improved their strokes like rowers in sync.

“We are all over the initial shock of pace and pressure,” Paglione said. “The race could go any way we wanted it to. As we pursued excellence, we found our swing and our rhythm. We started to move the boat together. At the end of the drive, we realized who our coxswains were. They were the fearless leaders that had our back at every bend and turn, guiding us and encouraging us. Our parents, siblings, and grandparents, our teachers, college counselors and coaches.” 

She and her classmates have now reached recovery, she said. “We are synchronized and building off of each other's strength. Catch, drive, finish, recover. The boat keeps moving, swinging into time and space…As we leave the water we have known for so long, remember that we leave behind a wake—one that will not soon be forgotten.”

Clarke talked about his gratitude for his Nobles experience and what he will miss: soaking in the sun on the “beach,” bake sales and more. “But the thing that I will miss the most is the relationships I’ve developed with my teachers, and I know my classmates agree with me.”

Clarke explained how several of his teachers—even notoriously nice ones—disabused him of the notion that they are his friends. Instead, Clarke explained, he learned about their relentless care. “What makes this school so great is how teachers here hold us to the highest standards in every area of school life without compromising their ability to connect with each and every one of us. They exceed everyone’s expectations and hope that we, the students, do as well…The adults here help us build upon the best parts of ourselves.”

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 2016, Henderson cited George Lee ’84, who works in technological development and investment in Silicon Valley and who spoke at Nobles in February. “In his talk he described some of the innovations that are poised to disrupt and transform civilization in the years ahead,” Henderson said. “He argued that we should try to study the future as avidly as we dissect the past.”

Henderson acknowledged some of the practical difficulties in Lee’s suggestion—for one, it’s tough to study something that hasn’t happened. He also noted a shift from rote memorization to more fluid competencies that allow for collaboration and adaptation.
“I hope students take away from Nobles two critical capacities that I believe are the timeless gifts of a Nobles education. I believe these things will serve them unerringly well as they traverse into their future lives and a world that is as yet indistinct and unknowable. These are, first, the ability to think clearly and ethically; and the second is the capacity to empathize with the experiences and perspectives of others. I believe these skills are essential to find the path to the life well and happily led,” Henderson said. You can read Henderson’s full remarks here.

Before introducing faculty speaker, Kate Ramsdell, Henderson also bestowed the Vernon Greene Award for excellence in teaching to theatre faculty member and chair of the performing arts department Dan Halperin, who joined the Nobles faculty 17 years ago as a one-year sabbatical replacement. “Dan has been daring, original and inspired,” Henderson said of Halperin’s tendency to take on difficult material and challenge his actors and audience.

“He is jolly yet, at the same time, demanding; he sustains exceptionally high expectations while projecting genuine empathy; and he upholds high personal and intellectual principles even as he invites discourse and difference from others.”

Faculty speaker Ramsdell, director of college counseling and a member of the English department, asked students to consider what they don’t know—and the richness and opportunity of opting to grapple with assignments, experiences and people who are not immediately knowable. She referenced the artistry of photographer Diane Arbus who insisted on engaging with her subjects—looking them in the eye.

“When you let someone look you in the eye, you become vulnerable… if even only for that moment. I have watched you all, in your own ways, allow us all to look you in the eye during the past few weeks. In these moments, I was reminded that Nobles is an astonishing community.” (Read Ramsdell’s full remarks here.)

David Henderson and Nairi Brown were selected by their classmates to speak on the dais. They both spoke of discomfort and lack of self-confidence early in their Nobles experience and how NED Talks (Nobles’ version of TED Talks) helped each of them find their place.

Henderson shared his odyssey with tales of himself as a somewhat unlikely hero. “The closing of my odyssey is this: You are going have obstacles in your life, everyone has them, but don’t let those obstacles become excuses. Don't let them block you from who you are and what you want to do,” Henderson said.

Brown told of her journey from public school and her realization that everything she thought she was good at, another Nobles student seemed to be better. In her NED talk, Brown revealed to classmates that she has Type I diabetes.

“I was proud of the courage I had to speak in front of the whole school, and I was relieved that people laughed. But, what that talk did for me was so much more than give people some information or a few laughs,” Brown said. “It changed how people saw me. But, it also changed how I saw Nobles.

“The reaction from this community astounded me. People, whether I knew them or not, reached out to me, and congratulated me for what I had done…I started to realize just how special this place is, and how much I needed to appreciate my time here.”

The ceremony included additional awards such as the Head of School Prize, Miller Medal and Gleason Award, which went to new graduates Rachel Janfaza, and Lucinda Quigley and William Wang, respectively.

After accepting their diplomas, the graduates greeted and thanked faculty and family members. Among the final musical performances, after a week filled with many memorable performances, was the First Class Ensemble with “Noble and Strong” by faculty member Michael Turner with lyrics by Sam Forman ’95. The pair wrote the song in honor of Nobles’ sesquicentennial.

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Congratulations, Class of 2016!