What a difference a year can make. The classes of 2021, 2020 and 2019 all have unique places in the history books of Noble and Greenough School: 1) The Class of 2021 graduated in person as Covid-19 restrictions lifted; 2) The Class of 2020 graduated virtually and showed remarkable persistence; and 3) The Class of 2019 was the last class to graduate from Nobles before this global moment interrupted lives throughout the world.
But it was today, June 4, that Noble and Greenough School graduated 131 members of the mighty Class of 2021. The final morning assembly—which seniors attended in person and that other students, faculty and staff enjoyed via livestream—included an original song by Henry Patterson, a signature Justin Qi dance, a reprise of Adele’s “One and Only” by Caroline Fai and Angie Gabeau that they had performed as Sixies, epic guitar solo performances by Charlie Moore and Ben Clifford and more. The Class of ’98 Award, given by the graduating class, was presented to School Life Council Co-President Catie Asnis by her co-president, a moved Griffin Callaghan. Following tradition, the assembly culminated in a slideshow of special moments the class has shared.
Asnis and Callaghan were among the first to address the audience, welcoming and thanking all who came in person and virtually. They recalled the day—March 11, 2020—when as juniors, they were sent home for what most thought was just an extra day of spring break. “And then Holy Covid, Batman, we became virtual seniors,” Callaghan quipped. “We couldn’t be more excited and proud to be under this tent with our fellow classmates,” Asnis said. They also noted the return of athletic contests, arts events and this spring’s ubiquitous Spikeball tournaments as moments to savor.
In addressing the Class of 2021, Hall, whose appointment as head of school coincides with the Class IV year of the Class of 2021, told the audience that the class would always be special as so many of them began at Nobles when she did.
“I’ve grown so fond of this class as a group and of each of you individually—your wonderfully diverse and extraordinary talents abound in kindness and ability to find joy and light. Despite the adversity of this past year, you leave a legacy for others at Nobles to follow for decades to come,” said Hall.
Hall spoke of the irony of the need, pre-pandemic, to use a tent for assembly when Lawrence Auditorium was recently under construction, thinking of it then as a challenge. That tent, dubbed the Tent of Miracles by Provost Bill Bussey, has already become the stuff of Nobles legend. In the year that followed, Nobles gathered under many more tents, many more times in an effort to continue teaching and learning on campus in fall 2020.
Hall also acknowledged the complexity of the current national and global environment, beyond the challenges of the health crisis. With a growing need for and focus on issues around diversity, equity and inclusion, she stressed the need for both listening to those who disagree but also for always, always standing up against hate. (Read the full remarks of Hall and other graduation speakers here.)
Before introducing faculty speaker Oris Bryant, Hall presented the Vernon L. Greene Award for excellence in teaching to Alden Mauck. Mauck joined the faculty in 1995. He has taught in the English and history departments, coached hockey and served in myriad interim positions, including working with Upward Bound.
“A stalwart of our English department, he models on a daily basis what excellence in teaching can and should look like,” Hall said. “Alden’s kindness and tremendous generosity of spirit and time know no bounds. When he sees that he can be helpful, whether to a colleague or student, he simply steps in and does so with tremendous humility and care.”
History faculty member Oris Bryant was invited by the Class of 2021 to speak. Bryant spoke about the many unknowns confronting us today, from global health to systemic injustice and political turmoil. He relayed a class exercise in which he drops a book and asks students what happened as a starting point for exploring perspective and perception around shared experiences. Bryant described the climate he tries to achieve in his classroom: “mutual respect that garners and cultivates an environment that fosters shared discussion about many topics, and particularly challenging, difficult ones.” Encouraging students to find their passions and their voices so they can then “do for others,” he marveled at the myriad forms those passions take within the Class of 2021. From theatrical productions to athletic accomplishments and musical excellence, Bryant expressed his deep admiration for Nobles students, his reason for remaining.
Kamran Bina and Avery Miranda were selected by their classmates to speak on the dais. Bina spoke of the power of connections with his classmates and how the full return to on-campus learning this spring strengthened and expanded them. “I hope that my classmates have all found a second home here Nobles…whether it be through a screen or six feet apart.”
“We’ve all grown so much these past four years. But over the past 18 months, we’ve had to adapt more than most juniors and seniors were ever required to in recent history. One constant struggle that I’ve always circled back to throughout this year is the juxtaposition of recognizing all that we as seniors have lost, while also trying to keep some perspective. I try to take a step back and be grateful for what I have, rather than frustrated by what I don’t have… So let’s not focus on the loss today. Instead, let’s celebrate how our community adapted… how we made the most of a year that none of us expected… And I don’t think we could have asked for a better end to this year.”
Miranda shared an anecdote about how, since a young age, she was always fiercely independent: Her childhood catchphrase was, “All by myself.” She relayed when, at a preschool dance recital, she stepped in front of the other dancers to perform “what could only be described as a spontaneous, undesigned, solo piece,” much to the dismay of the other dancers’ parents..
But since coming to Nobles, Miranda says she learned from faculty and friends that asking for support was a sign of strength. “I found a way to do things on my own with the influence of others.” She emphasized the value of humility, “a learned trait just as any other, but one of the most important ones you can possess. It is humility that will allow us to ask for the help we will need from others in order to be truly successful.”
Miranda reminded classmates that as they pursue their passions, to “Find ways to add a little spice…and make sure that when you stand front and center, it is to the benefit of others… So keep dancing, Class of 2021. The world will be watching and learning from you just as you will be learning from the world.”
Head of School Cathy Hall announced the awards that were accepted by students the previous evening, among them the Head of School’s Prize to Nicholas Apostolicas and Hannah Epstein; the Russell B. Stearns Achievement Award to Theo Kyenkyenhene and Sidnie Kulik; the Trustees’ Prize for Scholarship to Griffin Callaghan and Julia O’Donnell; the Bond Prize for Improvement to Stephen Gaskill; the Miller Medal to Sydney Asnis and James O’Connor; and the Gleason Award for Academic Excellence to Justin Qin. The celebrations culminated with the granting of diplomas to the class—a group of students who began in the upper school in 2017, the same year that Dr. Catherine Hall became Nobles’ seventh head of school. After accepting their diplomas, the graduates thanked faculty members (still socially distanced but with plenty of air-hugs!).
Among the ceremony’s musical performances were the Class I String Ensemble’s “Levitating” and the Class I Ensemble’s performance of “Lean on Me,” which lifted the spirits of so many in attendance who were simply grateful to celebrate together, with a greater appreciation for seeing each others’ smiles.
If you missed the livestream events, you can watch the recording here. For full coverage of the day, click here.