A beautiful day in New Hampshire for Cardigan Mountain School’s 77th Commencement
The morning of Cardigan’s 77th Commencement dawned clear and blue, with the reassuring embrace of warm sunshine––a most welcome reward for the Cardigan Class of 2023 and their families. In a new tradition installed just last year, the day’s program began with the Boutonnière Pinning on Ryhmer Patio, with moms and dads encouraged to pin flowers on their graduates before posing for family photographs.
After the boutonnières were secured in place, the crowd migrated to the rear of Clark-Morgan Hall for the Alumni Tie Ceremony. Assistant School Leader Sunghoon “Willy” Park ’23 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 into the tent and took their seats on either side of the stage, aided by rousing applause from families of the Class of 2023. Then, led by bagpiper Mr. Terry Ranney, the Cardigan Class of 2023 processed 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 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 loved them through some of the toughest times in their youthful lives. And although the sunset is approaching, we can take comfort in recognizing that the golden light of a setting sun continues to glow long after the burnished ball drops below the horizon. We can be confident that their influence will long remain in us, as ours will in them.”
Following Ms. Borek’s Invocation, Head of School Chris Day P’12,’13 stepped up to the podium to welcome the family members and guests assembled, both those under the tent as well as those watching the live stream video.
Framing his remarks in our School’s history and Core Values, Mr. Day spent several moments acknowledging the impact of Cardigan’s faculty on the graduates, assuring the boys that “they will be with you the rest of your lives.” Mr. Day concluded by reminding the Class of 2023 to take the bonds they’ve developed at Cardigan––and the process by which they’ve developed them––out into the world:
“The brotherhood they share is perhaps the most valuable takeaway from the Cardigan experience. Love is an antidote for the far-too-frequent reminders of the division, and fear, existent in our communities—at home and abroad—and these guys have gobs of it right now—you’ve given it to them—we’ve given it to them—they’ve given it to each other. The world desperately needs more Cardigan boys—young men who have a compass whose heading is true.”
Next, Mr. Day invited Board Chair Mr. David Gregory P’18 to the podium, and his remarks echoed themes of gratitude for Cardigan’s faculty, thanking the “adults in this community who know you and love you.” Mr. Gregory closed by reminding the graduates of a message hung prominently on the walls in Wallach:
“Men, I'm going to borrow some advice that is hanging up on a poster in the Wallach building. A few things that require no talent: effort, energy, and attitude. There is a lot in life you cannot control, but you can control those things. Give your best effort, share great energy, and have your best attitude.”
Returning to the podium, Mr. Day continued with announcing the recipients of the 2023 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––Mike and Liz Santini, parents of Alexis ’23 and Julian ’24, and Mrs. Selina Huang and her husband Mr. Chen, parents of Kenny ’20 and Stephen ’23––with the Gilbert Family Service Award for leadership in exemplary service to Cardigan.
It was then time for Cardigan’s School Leader to share a reflection with his classmates. After expressing his gratitude to the teachers, advisors, coaches, mentors, and families for their sacrifice and support, Nate Watson ’23 shared some advice for his classmates as they head to 36 new schools next fall:
“First, try new things…A lot of us have experienced something new that we’ve discovered at Cardigan. Some of [your] schools offer programs that you might never be able to do again. Secondly, make connections…Helping the other fella is the best way to create relationships within a community. Third, never give up…You will be facing multiple challenging moments throughout high school. The best way you can face those challenges is by staying focused, working hard, and using the resources you are given.”
Mr. Day then introduced 2023 Commencement Speaker Ms. Yulia Gerbut. Ms. Gerbut and her sons Max ’24 and Nikita ’25, are from Kyiv, Ukraine, but were forced to flee their home country when Russian forces invaded in February 2022. After arriving in the United States, a series of fortunate events led to her sons enrolling at Cardigan while Ms. Gerbut enrolled in a master's program at Columbia University.
Reflecting on her own educational experience as a child, Ms. Gerbut emphasized the importance of quality education. “Life is full of ups and downs,” she began. “How you respond to change is what matters most…You will be able to use your education to respond intelligently to circumstances that are out of your control.”
In 2014, Ms. Gerbut gave birth to her third son, Martin, but just two years later he was diagnosed with cancer. Though Martin succumbed to his cancer a few years later, Ms. Gerbut describes this experience as a gift because “[Martin] provided me with a lesson that I hold dearly to this day. His reaction to the unpredictable circumstances was an inspiration for us all.”
A few years later, on the evening of February 23, 2022, Ms. Gerbut celebrated her birthday with Max and Nikita by having pizza at a restaurant in Kyiv. Arriving home late, the family decided to save her birthday cake and enjoy it the following day, but they never got the chance. She awoke to a strange sound; one she would soon realize was the sounds of bombs exploding in her neighborhood. After spending most of the day sheltering with her boys in the house’s sauna, she made the decision to quickly pack a few belongings and set out in the cold for the long drive to Poland––a journey that would ultimately bring them to the United States.
With her family’s story as a backdrop, Ms. Gerbut told the Class 2023 not to wait to set about accomplishing a goal because there is rarely a perfect time to do something:
“After the long trip through Europe, we made our way to the USA where I am once again building a new life for myself and my family. I am graduating from Columbia University with a master's degree and I am searching for a career in a beautiful new country. A country that already has provided us with so many new relationships and friends and for this we are eternally thankful.
It took me a long time to recognize my life was not going to be perfect. Now I understand that there is no perfect time to do something. There is no such thing as perfect circumstances. I realize that the perfect time is NOW.”
Ms. Gerbut concluded by inspiring the Class of 2023 to embrace change:
“I encourage you all to be open to change. You will not do everything perfectly, I promise. I know it! You will make mistakes. You will not make everything you planned for. There will be a change in well-made plans. Don’t beat yourself up if they do not come true. Understand that it is a work in progress. Trust the timing of your life. I encourage you all to be ready for change, for challenges, and for adventures.”
After enthusiastic applause for Ms. Gerbut, Mr. Day presided over the main event––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 graduates and guests in singing the Cardigan Hymn. The ceremony concluded with the mystical 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.
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.
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.”
Donald Edward Andrews
The Pannaci Memorial Award is awarded annually by the Class of 1959 as a memorial to Karl J. Pannaci ‘59, 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.
Jaden Samuel Ficek
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.
Asher Coldiron Frankel
HoJoong “Patrick” Kim
The William Knapp Morrison Award is presented to the senior who, in the opinion of the students, best exemplifies the spirit of Willie Morrison ‘82 in academics, athletics, and as a campus citizen.
Darius DaMorris Yarborough
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.
Joonseong “Jake” Lim
Artemio Costa Zaragoza