Thayer Academy held its 144th Commencement exercises June 11 on the Teardrop of Main Campus, sending forth 119 graduates into a world that’s already tested their resilience.
“We made it,” valedictorian Charlie Solari ‘22 told his classmates, expressing not only a justified sense of accomplishment but perhaps a sense of relief on behalf of a class that’s weathered the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We earned our spots here today, and I am honored to represent the Class of 2022.”
Under unexpectedly sunny skies, Leo Breen ‘22 offered the invocation to begin that morning’s ceremony.
“In many ways, we live in a very different world than the one we started in four years ago,” said Breen, who congratulated their class on its perseverance in meeting the unique obstacles of the pandemic.
Breen’s comments were echoed by Cooper Mullen ‘22, that day’s class-elected senior speaker.
“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” said Mullen, offering an apt quote from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy.” He told the crowd that, while at times difficult, the pandemic taught the class to appreciate the little things along the way, including an in-person senior year.
“We learned to cherish all the things we took for granted,” he said.
For Solari, the proof was in the pudding as far as his classmates’ ambition, persistence, and camaraderie were concerned. He cited the grit of Ted Wilson ‘22, who underwent surgery to come back early for an important lacrosse game. He mentioned the dominance of the girls varsity track and field team, winners of both the ISL and New England championships, and the determination of the girls varsity basketball and lacrosse teams, who each made their respective championship games. He pointed out the creativity of musician Jarvis Adams Jr. ‘22, who has already made a name for himself in the world of hip hop, and artist Julia Pickel ‘22, who earned “Best in Show” honors at a recent multi-school competition.
Adding that there was no shortage of such tenacity in Thayer’s theater world, Solari cited the tremendous productions of Newsies and Noises Off. He added that the latter production tells the story of actors seeking to rise above the chaos because they know the show must go on.
“What a perfect metaphor for the last few years of high school,” Solari said.
Near the end of his remarks, Solari offered not the words of John Lennon but those of Bill Bradley, the former United States senator whose basketball exploits at Princeton University led to a successful NBA career and, later, a life of political service.
“Ambition is the path to success,” said Solari, quoting Bradley, “Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 welcomed those in attendance and urged graduates to continue to live lives consistent with their values, despite the attempts of others to judge. He also dispelled the “golden ticket theory” that Thayer or anywhere else, for that matter, held the magical key to a graduate’s success.
“It’s you,” he said. “You are the golden ticket. It has always been you.”
Award-winning historian, educator, and social activist Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Ph.D., served as this year’s Commencement speaker. The Harvard University professor — who this past academic year was Thayer’s inaugural Scholar-in-Residence for Leadership and Communication — urged students to heed the advice given by his own father, “Coach Mac,” a high school social studies teacher and basketball coach in Albany, New York, who reminded his players each year that they never knew which youthful eyes were looking at them as role models.
“To him, our character meant more than any championship ever did,” McCarthy said.
At one point McCarthy told the graduates to stand and applaud those friends and family in the audience, those people whose love and sacrifice had made such a special day possible.
“Stand up for your people — the people who stand up for you,” he said.
Thayer Academy Board of Trustees Chair Michael Joe P ‘17, ‘20 administered the conferral of diplomas assisted by Upper School Director Highley Thompson P ‘20, ‘23. In brief remarks, Thompson congratulated the 119 graduates but noted their everlasting bonds of friendship with Michael McHugh ‘22, a classmate who died of cancer in 2017 at age 13.
Ross Tejeda ‘22 capped off the event with the benediction. After thanking families, faculty, and staff on behalf of his fellow graduates, Tejeda advised the class to “fall forward” but captured the grateful but optimistic tone of the morning.
“While this might be the end of our high school journey,” Tejeda told classmates, it’s just the beginning of our lives.”
To read an article on Commencement which appeared in The Patriot Ledger (written by Hongyu Liu with photos by Tom Gorman), please click here.
Awards presented to seniors at this year’s Commencement were:
THE NANCY DINATALE TAYLOR AWARD (Outstanding senior girl athlete): Brooke McLoy.
THE THAYER ACADEMY OUTSTANDING MALE ATHLETE AWARD: Ted Wilson.
THE MAUREEN E. BUCKEN GIRLS ATHLETIC AWARD: Gianna Quatromoni.
THE THOMAS J. BERRY III AWARD: Ryan Chiari.
THE GILBERT A. BOOTH AWARDS: Arjun Sohur; and Elizabeth Gill.
THE WARD S. DONNER AWARDS: Caitlin Fitzgerald; and Ross Tejeda.
THE PHOEBE LEE HOSMER WORLD LANGUAGE PRIZES: Arjun Sohur, French; Jake Sannella, Latin; Anna Kester, Hispanic language and culture; and Gianna Quatromoni, Chinese language and culture.
THE LEIGHTON S. TOWER HISTORY PRIZE: Stella Chiari.
THE LOUISE E. SAUL AWARD FOR ENGLISH: Jake Brini, study of literature; and Julia Pickel, achievements in writing.
THE MAURICE R. SEYMOUR PRIZE FOR MATHEMATICS: Charlie Solari.
THE CHARLES R. MANGAT-RAI PRIZE FOR COMPUTER PROGRAMMING: Jake Brini; and Meg Dugan.
THE HELEN ALDEN BREEN DRAMATICS AWARDS: Ryker Gibson; and Gavin Pevarnek.
THE E. IONE LOCKWOOD MUSIC AWARD: Chloe Clifford; and Charlie Solari.
THE JOHN M. RODOCANACHI ART PRIZE: Julia Pickel.
THE NATHANIEL AUGUSTINE THAYER SCHOLARSHIP: Yaochen “Nicole” Li.
THE JOTHAM B. SEWALL PRIZE: Charlie Solari.
THE WALTER AND PRUDENCE ABELL DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARDS: Kyle Cedrone; and Anne Middleton.
THE HEAD OF SCHOOL AWARD: Stella Chiari; and Zach Gondelman.