Seventy-two seniors graduated Thursday, June 8, in a magnificent midmorning commencement held in the Fenstermacher Athletic Center.
On a mild, sunny morning, the graduates filed into the athletic center behind Pipe Major Jonathan Hencken who played the traditional processional tune,"Earl of Mansfield." The girls in white dresses and the boys in navy blue jackets with blue and maroon striped ties paraded to their seats to the hearty applause of all the guests standing and smiling in joyous anticipation of a ceremony that would mark the end of high school for the graduates and the beginning of the next important chapter in their young lives.
Head of School William Knauer, giving the welcoming remarks at his first Harvey commencement, told the graduates that he felt "very fortunate" to have spent his first year at the school with them. He said, "You have earned the respect and admiration of your teachers and of your fellow students. You are talented, compassionate, inclusive, and genuine. You support each other, challenge each other, and balance each other. I stand here tonight as a representative of a community that feels very proud of all you have achieved and of the people you have become." The Head of School urged the graduates to maintain a sense of "joy and wonder" throughout their lives, appreciate the value of the journey they make while trying to obtain their goals, be guided by integrity in facing the world with courage and determination and recognize and thank people who help them along the way.
Darsie Alexander, Executive Director of the Katonah Museum of Art, delivered the keynote address. The nationally recognized curator, art historian and museum professional encouraged the graduates to work toward their goals but appreciate any "surprise moments" that crop up along the way. She said good things can come from experiences that seem to cause a deviation on the journey. "It’s important to be open to those meandering moments of exploration and to embrace getting sidetracked, especially at this time in your life. Your path can have a lot of twists and turns, stops and starts, and – of course -- surprises. Those are moments to savor," she said. Ms. Alexander, who took on the role of the Katonah art museum's executive director in 2014, told the graduates: "Not all of us are artists, but we are the architects of our own lives. Some of you may prefer to see life with a splash of paint or a dab of color there, while others may preferred a more controlled composition, sketched out in advance. Whatever your tendency, this is a time to experiment, and try new things. You may find in the process that you surprise yourself, and open the door to an unexpected journey."
Following the presentation of diplomas, the Class of 2017 heard from valedictorian Janice (Yutong) Cai, the senior class top scholar who was one of five international students graduating. Janice, who plans to attend Emory University this fall, thanked The Harvey School community for creating an environment which "welcomes a diverse student body." She said, "This tolerance, this appreciation to allow people to be who they are, is what has allowed 'outsiders' like me to take on challenges, to risk failure, in a new culture and one so different from my own. And for this I am grateful."
Janice told her classmates that, while facing the future might seem daunting, they should appreciate how their time at Harvey prepared them. She said, "I am as confused and anxious as you. But I know that all of us will take those Harvey experiences that mean the most to us, and use them as motivation to push on." In leaving her friends with her final words, Janice said: "I wish for all of you to go on–– live a purposeful life, a good life. And I’ll try to do the same, too."
Before the recessional, there was the traditional handing over of the Spirit Cup from Student Council President Oliver Little to his successor Benjamin Kabakow, signifying the changing of the guard of school leadership to the Class of 2018. As Piper Henken piped "The Minstrel Boy," the Class of 2017 completed their final act together, filing out of the athletic center to the quad to be joined in celebration by family, friends, and faculty.
The entire ceremony may be viewed at: https://livestream.com/accounts/1598834/events/7464436