As we soared over The Point toward Canaan Street Lake, we could faintly hear the bells from the Chapel as it passed beneath us. Descending over Marrion Field and coming to rest before the scoreboard, we could clearly see the display showing the time remaining: 20:20.
We then heard the sound of bagpipes as Mr. Terry Ranney, dressed in full Scottish dress, provided the unmistakable signal that the ceremony was about to begin. However, this year Mr. Ranney was in his living room and not in front of Clark Morgan Hall, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced Cardigan’s 74th Commencement Exercises to be a shared virtual experience on screens and in living rooms all over the world.
While the bagpipes played, we watched a montage of Cardigan boys—with the assistance of proud moms and dads—adjusting boutonnieres and alumni ties. As the music faded, Assistant School Leader Heewoo Jung ’20 appeared on the screen, wearing the customary white sport jacket, with the bright lights of Seoul, South Korea, behind him.
“Today’s Ceremony will be unique in Cardigan’s history. Despite the fact that we cannot experience this moment physically side by side, we are virtually side by side, seeing, hearing, and feeling the same things, at the same time, literally all around the world…My brothers at Cardigan will look out for me, and I will always look out for them. We will care for each other like family, because we are a family.”
Following a beautiful Invocation from Director of Spiritual Life Cheryl Borek P’10,’12,’15, Head of School Christopher D. Day P’12,’13 welcomed everyone and shared remarks that set the tone for the ceremony.
“But if we at Cardigan have learned anything together it is that every challenge must be viewed and embraced as an opportunity. You gentlemen, you are the generation who will sort out what the opportunities will be and where the path leads. In the big picture, we adults will follow your lead. What I, and everyone in virtual attendance knows, is that lead you will--lead you must--perhaps sooner than you had planned… I am optimistic that you will lead with empathy, with defined and calculated risk, boldness, inclusivity, and, I hope, humility.”
After concluding his address, Mr. Day then introduced Board Chair Jeremy Crigler ’79, who provided some brief, though poignant remarks from beside a crackling fire in his living room.
“Despite the changed world in which you find yourself today, you have achieved success, you are a member of the graduating Class of 2020…but today is also a day to give thanks to the many people that made this journey so worthwhile.”
The next item on the program was the Awarding of Prizes. Cardigan Mountain School awards eight formal prizes to ninth graders that demonstrate leadership in various areas of academic, athletic, and residential life. See a complete list of this year’s recipients below.
Mr. Day then introduced School Leader Bryce Terry ’20, who gave one of the more memorable and inspiring student leader reflections in recent memory:
“Live without the negativity or haters in life fueling your fire. Your purpose is your fire. Your dreams are your fire. Your goals are your fire. Cardigan sparked and lit a fire underneath every one of us. Sacrifice now, enjoy later. Push hard now, relax later. Don't use an alarm clock. Have your goals wake you. Have your desire wake you. Have your purpose wake you. Have your fire wake you. Live your life with no limits, no boundaries, and no doubts.”
Following Bryce’s remarks, it was time for the Commencement Address, delivered this year by Mario Zambrano, a member of the Cardigan Class of 1995. Speaking from a podium fashioned from a tree trunk in a pecan orchard on his ranch in Coahuila, Mexico, Mr. Zambrano began with a message of hope for a world in the grip of the pandemic: “We are sitting in a continental human divide, where we either start flowing north or south. For the first time, we see the entire world united in a solution of peace against an invisible enemy.”
Mr. Zambrano settled into his address and spoke of four components that have shaped his life: life value, education, love, and change. As the Mexican breeze rustled the pecan leaves behind him, Mr. Zambrano shared stories of his grandmother Camille, his father David, his wife Maria, and his children Micaela and Lucas. In weaving the common threads of each story together, he reminded the audience of the value of moments.
“In life, you will have moments that will craft who you are. Some you will notice immediately. Some take time to learn. Always stay present and not only wait for them to come, but go out there and find them.”
Following Mr. Zambrano, it was time for the virtual awarding of diplomas. As Assistant Head of School Josh LeRoy P’23 read their names, each member of the Class of 2020 had their moment on-screen with a series of photos from a baby picture through their Cardigan commencement photo.
After the names were read, the celebration began with Mr. Day, now joined by his wife Cynthia, ringing the bell outside Clark-Morgan Hall. The Cardigan Hymn began to play, and along with it a photo montage of Cardigan boys jumping from their own “chapel steps” all over the world–a global demonstration of joy and accomplishment.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!
Class of 2020 Prizes
The Caldwell Prize: Heewoo Jung
The Dewar Prize: Diego Escalante
The Hinman Prize: Bryce Terry
The Norman & Beverly Wakely Prize: Will Rassier
The Founder’s Prize: Diego Escalante
The Panacci Memorial Award: Nate Johnson
The Skibiski Memorial Award: Jason Jiang
The William Knapp Morrison Award: Bill Ke
Faculty Prizes: Michael Brannan, Franklin Chow, Connor Pollard