Collegiate School’s 104th Commencement took place this morning, with members of the Class of 2019 seated onstage in front of the 2,000-plus family member and friends who gathered to celebrate them.
With 132 graduates headed to colleges and universities in 24 states (including two foreign countries), today’s ceremony celebrated a time of transition – both for the graduates and for the School.
After welcoming everyone and saluting the seniors, Frank F. Mountcastle III ‘83, Chairman of the Collegiate Board of Trustees, paid homage to Steve Hickman, who is retiring after five years as Head of School, and Charlie Blair, Head of Middle School and legendary boys’ soccer coach, who is retiring after 41 years, for their outstanding service to the School.
When Mr. Hickman stepped up to the podium to deliver his opening remarks, he paused and looked out at the gathering before him.
“I’m going to soak this in for a minute,” he said. “I can’t imagine a more beautiful sight.”
Mr. Hickman, whose tenure as Head of School ends on June 30, referenced the words of Collegiate founder Helen Baker, when she addressed the first graduating class of Collegiate School.
“ … above everything else, I would have you live for humanity’s sake. I would have you good citizens in the widest sense.”
“I have read these words many, many times while I have been at Collegiate,” Mr. Hickman said. “In fact, they have served as my North Star in leading this school. I cannot think of a better way to say what Collegiate School students are called to do. Class of 2019, this is your task when you leave here…live for humanity’s sake and be good citizens in the widest sense.”
During today’s ceremony, Neely Markel ’96, President of the Alumni Association, announced recipients of the 2019 alumni awards.
E. Bryson Powell ‘69 received the Alex Smith Alumni Service Award. Mr. Powell has served as president of Midlothian Enterprises, Inc., a real estate development company, for 45 years. From 1979-1996, he served on Collegiate’s Board of Trustees, including a tenure as Chairman from 1993-94. In April, Collegiate’s Responsiblie Citizenship initiative was named in honor of his family – the Powell Institute for Responsible Citizenship.
Dr. Conway Fleming Saylor ‘73 received the Distinguished Alumni Award. A professor of psychology at The Citadel for the past 28 years, Dr. Saylor’s career has been devoted to teaching, research, clinical service and advocacy for children and families. In 2012, she was named The Citadel’s first Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement, and recognized as South Carolina’s Professor of the Year. Most recently, she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Also this morning, the Class of 2019 graduates listed below received special honors:
Greenbaum Award - Valedictorians: Virginia Kauders and Jensen Richardson
E. Angus Powell Award: Stephen Laming
Rosemary Medal: Annie Mahoney
Dr. Martha E. Kolbe Award: Matthew Barbieri
Louise Mattern Coleman Award: Emma Ahearn
Charles F. Wiltshire Citizenship Award: Jensen Richardson
Johnel Tate Poffenberger Award: Laura Fairlamb
Virginia Kauders, the first of the two valedictorians to speak, opened with a story.
“In the summer of 2006, Tucker Surgner, Lucy Johnson, Nathan West and I lay on our stomachs in the grass in front of the Lower School, posing for a picture for the Spark alumni magazine. We had a map of Collegiate spread out in front of us, and the caption read, ‘The View From Here: In Their 13 Years At Collegiate, These Kindergarteners Will See Many Changes.’"
Collegiate has seen many changes over the past 13 years, Virginia noted, while indicating that she realizes the most important changes were not something that could be outlined in budgets or architectural drawings. “The most important changes,” she said, “are the ones we have seen within ourselves and our classmates as we discovered who we are.”
Valedictorian Jensen Richardson followed Miss Kauders and offered words of encouragement to his classmates, reminding them that graduation is a commencement – a beginning, not an end, and that every beginning is a new opportunity to define your goals and reevaluate how you define success.
“Not everybody can chart a new course for the human race,” Jensen said. “The human race, is just that, a race. Even if we don’t finish first, we’ve all accomplished something amazing, powerful and courageous.”
He stressed the importance of finding balance between obligations and doing what you love. “I believe that success lies in this balance. We should strive to find that perfect niche that balances what we’re good at, what people need, and what brings us joy.”
On the eve of graduation, Mr. Blair, in one of his final official acts as Head of Middle School, shared words of wisdom with the seniors, during Baccalaureate.
“Love what you do,” Mr. Blair said, “and do it with fairness. Don’t settle for less than what you’re capable of. Take care of the people and things that really matter to you.”
– Aynsley Miller Fisher '93