Cardigan’s Core Value of Compassion Echoes Through School’s 76th Commencement
The day dawned clear and blue with the reassuring embrace of warm sunshine––a most welcome reward for a class of young men that has risen to meet the challenges of the last two years. They have endured masks, remote learning, testing protocols, last-minute changes to the school calendar, and a disruption to interscholastic athletics. Through it all they have modeled our School’s Core Values to arrive at this moment––Cardigan Mountain School’s 76th Commencement.
The Commencement Day program began with a slight variation from years past. Instead of taking place in the Chapel before families arrived on The Point, Boutonnière Pinning was a public event held outdoors on Ryhmer Patio, with family members encouraged to pin a flower on their graduate before posing for a family photograph. Several faculty and staff members stood by ready to assist graduates whose families were unable to attend due to travel restrictions.
After the boutonnières were securely in place, the crowd migrated to the rear of Clark-Morgan Hall for the Alumni Tie Ceremony. Assistant School Leader Gustavo Struck shared a brief reflection with his classmates and assembled families before Director of Alumni Relations Jeremiah Shipman ’00 explained the significance of the Cardigan Alumni family and the symbolism of our traditional tie.
The Commencement Ceremony began as the faculty processed in and took their seats on either side of the stage, aided by rousing applause from families of the Class of 2022. Then, led by bagpiper Mr. Terry Ranney, the Cardigan Class of 2022 processed on the path past Clark-Morgan Hall and underneath the row of trees by Hinman Hall and into the tent, where the boys would take their seats in the first three rows.
First to speak at the podium was Director of Spiritual Life Cheryl Borek P’10,’12,’15, who delivered the day’s invocation:
“You, their families, and we, their Cardigan adults, have come to the end of a wonderful collaboration. You lent us your boys: rough-hewn, perhaps, but sturdy and willing to be sculpted and burnished into vessels of integrity, courage, compassion, and respect. Having grown to love and appreciate the unique temperament of each, we now stand ready to release them back into your care as young men.”
Following Ms. Borek’s invocation, Head of School Chris Day P’12,’13 stepped to the podium to welcome the family members and guests assembled, both those under the tent as well as those around the world watching the livestream.
Mr. Day then spent several moments congratulating the graduates on their development as athletes, artists, and “big brothers” to Cardigan’s underclassmen, all in the face of the global pandemic. Mr. Day concluded by reminding the Class of 2022 that the connection to Cardigan and the lessons taught here will never leave them, and may in fact become more significant over time:
“Today you will leave this place, but this community—this family—will always be inside of you. For some of you, it will take time to realize and fully appreciate the significance of your experience at Cardigan. You may never again live in a community in which so many know and love you for who you are—warts and all––as much as we have on The Point.”
Next, Mr. Day invited Board Chair Mr. David Gregory P’18 to the podium, and his remarks echoed the themes of the strength and resiliency displayed by the Class of 2022 over the course of this unusual year. Nearing his conclusion, Mr. Gregory asked the graduates, and their families, to stay connected to Cardigan:
“And so I urge you, and, you parents as well, stay connected. Help us stay strong. Stick with us as we grow and evolve up our game and work every day to retain what makes this place special. I am an unabashed cheerleader for Cardigan because I know it changes lives, because I don’t think there is another place like it, and because we need what Cardigan delivers now more than ever.”
Returning to the podium, Mr. Day continued with announcing the recipients of the 2022 Commencement Prizes. Eleven different boys were awarded Cardigan’s traditional prizes. (Please see the complete list of Commencement Prizes and winners below.) Following the awarding of student prizes, Mr. Day then recognized two families––Chandra and George Davis P’22, parents of Carter Davis, and Mrs. Linda He and Mr. Yubing Cheng P’19,’22, parents of Tony He and Jeff Cheng – with the Gilbert Family Service Award for leadership in exemplary service to Cardigan.
It was then time for Cardigan’s School Leader to address his classmates. After expressing his gratitude to the teachers, advisors, coaches, mentors and families for their sacrifice and support, Preston Merrick shared his journey to––and through––Cardigan before concluding with a call to action for his classmates in the Class of 2022:
“My Cardigan brothers, we have a tremendous amount to be thankful for. So, as we take the next step towards becoming men, I implore you to not just become ordinary men, but CONSCIOUS, COURAGEOUS, COMPASSIONATE men of integrity and action to be the change that this world needs. Focus on the future. Our world is forever changed. The COVID-19 virus has claimed over 1 million precious lives in the US alone and more than 6 million worldwide. We have seen more and more racially motivated and increasingly vicious violence towards minority groups & innocent children. So I ask you—what will we do with the lessons we have learned here at CMS?”
Mr. Day then introduced the Commencement Speaker, Mr. Yifu Mu, a member of the Cardigan Class of 2014 and recent graduate from Georgetown University where he was a double major in linguistics and computer science. He has already begun earning his master’s degree in computational linguistics at Georgetown. While Mr. Mu’s academic achievements are impressive, it is his commitment to service that Mr. Day hopes the Cardigan Class of 2022 will emulate.
In 2012, two years before he would graduate from Cardigan, then 12-year old Yifu Mu helped organize a service trip to far-reaching villages of Cambodia, where the local residents lack simple necessities, including stable electricity. Working with his father and other Cardigan families, Yifu helped install solar-powered LED lighting in several local homes. The project has grown to include almost 40 participants and they return every summer to continue their work. To date, Yifu’s project has installed solar panels, LED lights, and fans in more than 300 Cambodian villages.
“I first arrived at Cardigan in August 2011,” Mr. Mu began. “I had come with my parents, inaccurate preconceptions of the United States, and bad English. As we ascended the flight of stairs for Hayward 2, and as we turned the corner, we were greeted by the warmest voice I had ever heard. That particular voice had a distinct sound and rhythm, that I would eventually understand to be a Spanish accent. I think I felt about 4 feet tall, and as I looked up at Mr. Rocha’s giant stature, he belts out from his diaphragm, “My name is Pablo Rocha, welcome to Cardigan!”
After sharing a brief glimpse of his own Cardigan experience, Mr. Mu shared two stories from his life since Cardigan. The first was about a year living and studying in Italy and a boy from the Ivory Coast that he met there––a young man who had risked everything and endured significant hardship in the pursuit of a better life. The second story was about his service work in Cambodia, which he described as his first experience with true poverty:
“People were living in floating boat villages, with just a few dollars of income a day from fishing. Our work primarily involved installing solar-powered LED lights for these people who have no access to electricity…After an hour of work in the grueling 100-degree humid day, we were really happy to see the lightbulb illuminate. The mother was smiling so much. She put her hands in front of her chest in a gesture of prayer, and said something. Our guide relayed the message, ‘She’s so happy because her children can now read at night.'”
As his remarks drew to a close, Mr. Mu reminded the Class of 2022 about Cardigan’s Core Value of Compassion:
“It is now up to you to spread love and compassion to the others in your world. I hope you take inspiration from the environment of coexistence at Cardigan, and do your part to bring this energy to the next chapters of your life. It shouldn’t require so much effort, but I again urge you to notice the beauty in our differences, and realize that your outreach of kindness could have a profound impact on others’ lives. Go out there and be somebody else’s Mr. Rocha. Make someone feel welcome! Be someone’s hero!”
After the enthusiastic applause for Mr. Mu, there was only one piece of business left––the Awarding of Diplomas. The graduates walked across the stage, received their diplomas and posed for photographs with Mr. Day as their names were read by Assistant Head of School Josh LeRoy P’23.
After the Benediction from Ms. Borek, Director of Music Mr. Kevin Franco led the crowd in singing the Cardigan Hymn, with the Class of 2022 singing arm-in-arm. The ceremony concluded with the soothing sounds of Mr. Ranney’s bagpipes leading the graduates out of the tent to the applause of the gathered community.
The Caldwell Prize is awarded to the senior who has shown outstanding athletic achievement and sportsmanship.
Jackson Dean Davies
The Dewar Prize is awarded annually in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Cameron K. Dewar to the member of the senior class with the highest academic standing.
Jason Jung Lee
The Hinman Prize is given annually in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Harold P. Hinman to the senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, by industrious application to his studies, through his attitude on the playing field, and by his behavior and integrity, most nearly approaches the ideals of manhood as conceived in the minds of the founders of Cardigan Mountain School.
The Founders Prize is awarded to the senior who has the will to complete any project, regardless of the difficulties encountered, without thought of personal gain, and whose objective is a job well done in the same approach that characterized the life of Harold P. Hinman, one of the founders of Cardigan Mountain School.
The Norman and Beverly Wakely Prize is awarded by the Class of 1989 to the senior who, in the opinion of his classmates, best upholds the tradition, spirit, and pride of Cardigan Mountain School, thus making every day “a beautiful day in New Hampshire.”
Diego Belden de la Vega
The Pannaci Memorial Award is awarded annually by the Class of 1959 as a memorial to Karl J. Pannaci, to that member of the senior class who, in the eyes of his fellow students, has achieved the best attained ideals of honesty, integrity, leadership, and general social and spiritual adjustment.
Rodrigo Carrandi Garza
The Skibiski Memorial Award is given as a memorial to Michael R. Skibiski to that member of the senior class who has shown the greatest progress during his Cardigan Mountain School years.
Jaeson David Cabrera
The William Knapp Morrison Award is presented to the senior who, in the opinion of the students, best exemplifies the spirit of Willie Morrison, Class of 1982, in academics, athletics, and as a campus citizen.
Sanders Arthur Morris
In addition to our formal awards, this year we have four students who will be receiving the Faculty Prize; awarded to the seniors who, in the opinion of the faculty, have made special contributions to Cardigan Mountain School.
Jackson Dean Davies
Gustavo Struck Ramirez