Recognition Day 2022 saw 68 eighth graders receive graduation certificates as they bid farewell to Thayer Academy Middle School but not to the memories made there.
Calling it a day “to congratulate and celebrate,” Middle School Director Galen Hamann welcomed students, families, faculty, and staff to the June 9 event held in the CFA’s Hale Theater. Cassidy Mullin ‘26 then offered the invocation, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Nate Shatzkamer ‘26.
Mullin acknowledged the challenges she and her classmates faced, many of them related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but praised the class for its resilience and sense of connection.
“I’ll always cherish my days in the Middle School, as I’m sure you will,” Mullin told her classmates.
Shaanveer Gupta ‘26 offered the day’s welcome address. He, too, acknowledged the difficulties caused by the pandemic — “We were all thrown into the deep end, the very deep deep end,” he said — but offered the experience as a life lesson in gratitude. He urged his classmates to follow four pieces of advice: don’t be afraid to try new things (and fail at them, too); take advantage of any opportunity you might have the slightest interest in; be yourself; and listen carefully.
Following his address, Gupta accompanied the Middle School Choir on guitar as they performed “Go Tell Everyone You Know” led by Choir Director and Middle School Music Faculty Jeff King ‘04; Matt Spitz ‘04 also accompanied the group on piano.
As the top scholar of the class, Tessa Harper ‘26 delivered the farewell address. Mixing in just the right amounts of humor and humility, Harper described in rapid-fire succession the hardships her class had faced, from spitting into test vials to “hooting owls of a robotic nature” to taking tests immersed in the sound of funereal bagpipes thanks to the Middle School’s temporary 2021-22 location at the former St. Francis of Assisi School.
But the Class of 2026, Harper said, refused to give in to the “doom and gloom” of the time; instead, they learned an important lesson. “We must adapt and connect,” said Harper, who received a standing ovation for her oratory efforts.
This year’s faculty speaker was Middle School History Faculty Dan Liebsch, who recalled his own 8th grade graduation in Philadelphia in 1990 as a time of “non-ironic mullets” and the Bette Middler classic “Wind Beneath My Wings,” at least as his school’s faculty were concerned. That said, Liebsch also recalled the tremendous neighborhood pride so evident in Philadelphia and wondered why the Middle School, so different in so many ways and hailing from a myriad of different cities and towns, had that same feel.
“I believe the answer is found in the young people you see before you,” he told the audience.
Wishing that “neighborhood” well on its journey to high school, Liebsch encouraged students to go to that big game, go to that dance, or sign up for that play, adding that the high school experience “is built around pride and spirit.”
Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 congratulated the eighth graders and also wished them well as they crossed the street to Main Campus.
“We want to know you,” Fortunato said of the faculty and staff ready to welcome the rising ninth graders in the fall. “We want to be a part of your lives.”
Fortunato took time to recognize Middle School Faculty Sarah Corey P ‘15, ‘18, who is retiring after 18 years of service. He also recognized Middle School Faculty Jeff Toussaint for his 25 years of service to the Academy.
Hamann also introduced the “We Are Tigers” recognition, which will be given out weekly next school year. The awards recognize those who have lived true to the best spirit of the Middle School community. The inaugural certificates went to Ella Aiello ‘26 and Karen Bosworth, the assistant to the Middle School director, who is departing Thayer after 11 years of service.
After the choir’s singing of the Thayer Academy Alma Mater, Aiello offered the benediction.
“Always be true to you,” Aiello told the crowd.
The tone of the event was one of justified pride in accomplishment and a sense of optimism for the future — or, as Harper put it in her remarks: “Congratulations to us (the Class of 2026). We just survived a pandemic. How hard can high school and college be?”
Eighth graders receiving awards at Recognition Day 2022 were:
Michael Patrick Shea III Writing Award: Tessa Harper
The English Award: Cassidy Mullin
The Math Award for Excellence: Shaanveer Gupta
The Science Award: Gabriella Monteiro
The History Prize for Excellence: Shaanveer Gupta
The World Language Prizes: Vidyuth Sathish (Spanish); Shaanveer Gupta (Latin); and Colby Goldstein (French)
The Marcia Read Arts Prizes: Paige Johnson and Tessa Harper (Visual Arts); Shaanveer Gupta and John Pompilio (Music); and Ella Aiello and Brian Pickel (Drama)
The Middle School Athletes Awards: Lucy Stearns (girls); and Andrew St. Pierre and Jake Varholak (boys)
The Thayer Academy Middle School Student Prize: Gabriella Monteiro
The Bradford Yaggy Jr. Prize: Emma Cox
The Patrick C. Walsh Memorial Award: Ryan Tucker
The Faculty Prize: Ryan Dowden
The Nutter Prize for Excellence: Paige Johnson
The Anna Boynton Thompson Prize: Tessa Harper