An Especially Beautiful Day in New Hampshire
When preparations for Cardigan’s 75th Commencement began in January, there was one clear goal: host a traditional ceremony with our families in attendance. If successful, it would be the first event on campus in more than a year. As winter slipped into spring, the Cardigan community became increasingly optimistic that we may realize the goal to honor the Cardigan Class of 2021 in person on a picture-perfect spring day on The Point.
There were some necessary protocols for this ceremony, including pre-assigned, socially distanced seating in family groups, elbow-bumping in place of a congratulatory handshake, the wearing of masks even for photos, and livestreaming video for graduates, friends, and family unable to attend. In the words of Head of School Christopher D. Day P’12,’13, “We are committed to ending this year according to the same principles we started it with––focused on our community’s health and safety.”
The ceremony began in the customary way with the faculty marching in and taking their seats on either side of the stage. Then bagpiper Mr. Terry Ranney led the Cardigan Class of 2021 on the path past Clark-Morgan Hall and underneath the row of trees by Hinman Hall and into the tent, where the boys took their seats in the first two rows.
First to speak at the podium was Director of Spiritual Life Cheryl Borek P’10,’12,’15, who delivered the day’s invocation.
“We thank you for the gift of these young men who have remained true to themselves and upheld the honor of this community. They have inspired us and elevated us and given us all a reason to hope.”
Following Ms. Borek’s invocation, Mr. Day stepped to the podium to welcome the Cardigan community, both those in attendance and the hundreds watching the livestream, including ten remote members of the Class of 2021 and their families. Recognizing that Cardigan is a global community, Mr. Day began his remarks by asking for a moment of silence in honor of the over three million people that have lost their lives to the COVID pandemic.
Mr. Day then spent several moments congratulating the graduates on their development as athletes, artists, and campus citizens, all in the face of the global pandemic. Among the many successes and sacrifices of this class, Mr. Day made a specific point to share his pride in one area in particular––the example the Class of 2021 set for Cardigan’s underclassmen, their “little brothers.”
“Among the many things that I am proud of this year is the path you’ve shown your younger brothers…Through your incredible sense of empathy, sense of duty and responsibility, you have given the future leaders of this school an exemplar that will serve Cardigan well for years...This is a legacy that I am especially grateful for.”
Mr. Day concluded by asking all guests to stand and applaud the Class of 2021, and the crowd eagerly complied. Next, Mr. Day invited Board Chair Jeremy T. Crigler ’79 to the podium, and his remarks echoed the themes of the strength and resiliency displayed by the Class of 2021 over the course of this unusual year.
“What you have done is extraordinary and something I could hardly have imagined on my graduation day. You have achieved success despite a global pandemic or maybe because of it. You wore masks, you pivoted from in-person to online and back, you ate in shifts and lived in pods…By all accounts, you have more than succeeded, you have thrived…You have developed extraordinary resilience and fortitude. You have thrown your hat across the stream and met the challenge of retrieving it. Congratulations.”
Returning to the podium, Mr. Day continued with announcing the recipients of the 2021 Commencement Prizes. Ten different boys were awarded our traditional prizes.
The Caldwell Prize is awarded to the senior who has shown outstanding athletic achievement and sportsmanship: John Diemar
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: Cayden Hyatt Van Dolah
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: Conley Edward Bohan
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: Jack Williams Roberts
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:” Jack Dec
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: Cayden Hyatt Van Dolah
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: Jaeyoung Hong
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: Miles Kim
In addition to our formal awards, this year we have three 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: Heesung Jung
, Delin Liu,
Daniel Francis Valenti Jr.
It was then time for Cardigan’s School Leader to address his classmates. After expressing his gratitude to the faculty, staff, board, and the graduates’ families for their sacrifice, flexibility, perseverance, and support, Conley Bohan ’21, riffing on the question posed in poet Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day asked his classmates not “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” as Ms. Oliver does in the poem, but rather “Who do you want to be?”
“You will all do incredible things, but you will be remembered most for your character. And that is exactly what we have learned here at Cardigan. The four Core Values, modeled so greatly by those before us, are a foundation for us to build on. We must carry ourselves with compassion, respect, integrity, and courage.”
Mr. Day then introduced the Commencement Speaker, Mr. David Gregory P’18, political journalist, author, past parent, and Chair-Elect of Cardigan’s Board of Trustees. (Mr. Gregory will begin serving as board chair on July 1, 2021.)
“I love this place,” Mr. Gregory began, his voice cracking with emotion. “I'm so moved by what happens here, by what the people here do, how they care, and how they love you. I feel it, because I know it, and because I have seen it.”
Mr. Gregory spoke for just under thirty minutes—drawing laughter from the crowd several times—in what he described as “more of a sendoff than a speech.” Referencing the Core Values that are so fundamental to the Cardigan experience, Mr. Gregory encouraged the Class of 2021 to honor them by adding to them and building their own code, and he offered a few ideas of his own to get them started:
Find your voice: Resist what social media says you have to be and discover who you are.
Take responsibility for mistakes: No one expects you to be perfect; just be accountable.
Be present: Life happens fast. Make a good impression with your mind and your manners.
Be part of a team: It’s not all about you. It feels great to work with other people toward a goal.
Be grateful: You have a lot to be thankful for.
Mr. Gregory closed his speech with one simple thought––that Cardigan boys have felt what it is to be known and to be loved for being just the way they are. “That’s the whole thing,” he said, “Being known and loved…that’s the greatest gift in life. Enjoy it.”
After the enthusiastic applause for Mr. Gregory’s remarks faded, there was only one piece of business left:the awarding of Diplomas. Forty-nine graduates walked across the stage in person and video of the ten remote graduates was shown on stage 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 2021 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.