Thayer Academy's traditional Last Chapel ceremonies were slightly less traditional this year — taking place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing — but they still conveyed gratitude for the excellence, loyalty, and sense of community demonstrated by both students and faculty.
"And what a school year this has been," noted Upper School Director Highley Thompson P '20, '23 at one point during his opening remarks. "In September, who would have thought that our last day on campus together would have been Thursday, March 12?"
Thompson thanked students, parents, faculty, and staff for pulling together to make the spring a positive experience despite the pandemic.
"I'm so grateful to every member of the Thayer community for being your best during these challenging times," he said.
Thompson also addressed what he called the nation's "tension and turmoil" in recent weeks following the senseless killing of Black citizens, including George Floyd of Minneapolis. He noted that the Academy's students of color are experiencing a range of emotions right now, as would be expected.
"I want you to know that you are valued, you are appreciated, you are respected, and you are loved," he told those students and their families. "We stand with you, and we support you."
Held June 5, Last Chapel also included recognition for five retiring faculty members who have provided a collective 155 years of service to the Academy: US Arts Faculty (and longtime MS Arts Faculty) Dena Gwin (41 years); US English Faculty Jim King P '01, '04, '06 (40 years); US Science Faculty Fari Khalili P '99, '07, '11 (34 years); US English Faculty Melinda Reuter (24 years); and Benelli Writing Center Director (and Southworth Library Assistant) Janet Langer (16 years).
"Congratulations on your retirement, thank you, and good luck to all of you in the real world," said Thompson.
Several other faculty members were recognized during the June 5 ceremony with Faculty Service Awards:
For 20 years: US Math Faculty Dan Forrest, US Dean of Students & History Faculty Kristan Gately, US English Faculty Kate Hayman, Admissions Office Manager Barb Kenslea, and Health and Wellness Faculty & Camp Thayer Director Cathy Turpel.
For 25 years: US Math Faculty Deb Siegel P '22.
For 30 years: US Science Faculty Don Donovan P '10, '13.
For 40 years: US English Faculty Jim King P '01, '04, '06.
Thompson then proceeded to read the names of seniors who had earned Last Chapel prizes. Of note: because of the current need for physical distancing, the Academy is planning a separate celebration in the fall to recognize these retiring faculty. It is also planning a separate ceremony to celebrate underclassmen who earned Last Chapel awards.
The ceremony ended with US History Faculty and Archivist Larry Carlson P '02, '05, '10 singing the traditional "Thayer, Thayer, Forever" as a list of award winners was presented.
Senior Last Chapel award winners are:
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Pottery): Henry Richard
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Film): Joshua Rothman
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Theater): Olivia O'Connor
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Photography): Michael Nessralla
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Dance): Kadyn Darrow
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Instrumental Music): Matthew Scapicchio
The Bill Holbrook Memorial Art Prize (Vocal Music): Jackson Humphreys
The Richard R. Downey Jr. Memorial Prize for Excellence in Foreign Language: Yijiao "Sananca" Shen
The Fernand LaChance Award: Austin Bennett
The Matthew Callahan Healey '09 Memorial Prize: Bradford Campbell
The Patrick C. Walsh Memorial Award: Henry Richard
The Independent School League Award of Excellence: Gabriella Grattan and Thomas Gaffey Jr.
Thayer Academy Parent Association Community Service Awards: Noah Downing, Madeleine Farrell, Gabriella Grattan, and Griffin Lincoln.
The Reuben and Lizzie Grossman Awards: Mary Clare Boselli and Jackson Humphreys
To watch a video of Last Chapel, please click here.
Upper School Director Highley Thompson P '20, '23 addresses the Academy's virtual Last Chapel held June 5.