There was joy on the hilltop as Canterbury School celebrated its 105th Commencement Exercises for the 105 members of the Class of 2022 on Friday, May 27. Held on Sheehan lawn, the ceremony was attended by faculty, staff, family, and friends. Throughout the warm, overcast day, the graduating class shared memories, tears, and smiles as they put the finishing touches on their time as Canterbury students.
In addressing the Class of 2022, Head of School Rachel Stone P ’23, ’24 spoke about the many challenges they faced over the course of their time at Canterbury, including navigating through the pandemic. “Four years ago, none of us could have imagined nor would have believed what we would soon face as a community, country, and world,” she said. “Yet, despite the backdrop of disruption and challenge, the Class of 2022 just kept moving forward, testing the waters, seizing new opportunities, and adding so many new layers that what you have built together now leaves an indelible mark on our beloved school. What your class has imagined, created, and given to this community is overwhelmingly positive and impactful.”
Rachel also reflected on the amazing memories from the past year as seniors made it through to the other side of COVID: “Spring teams traveled to Florida once again. The Saints won the Sheehan Trophy back from Berkshire and the Gunnery Cup back from FGS (The Frederick Gunn School). Father Steve—Canterbury class of 2003—inspired you with resonant homilies. The Sixth Form Council brought you a Homecoming Dance, while the SEC (Special Events Committee) inspired a winter SnowBall. And let’s not forget the Head’s Holiday disguised as Field Day! Meanwhile, Hanyan filmed it all. Indeed, I would say life at Canterbury after COVID is trending in an incredibly positive direction.”
She concluded: “When you tell the story of the Class of 2022, I hope you will join me in sharing all that this group of graduating seniors gave to one another rather than what you gave up. Your story is one of stretching, fortifying, loving, and empowering the Saints community. It is quite remarkable, really. And for that, we are grateful.”
Delivering the student keynote address, class valedictorian Hanyan Cai shared his thoughts on the hilltop experience. “What makes Canterbury special is its people,” he said. “Overwhelming support and encouragement from this community empowered me with confidence and motivation. Faculty members offer us support and advice throughout our academic, athletic, and extracurricular lives, while many students energize our community with kindness and positivity.”
Hanyan left his classmates with joyful, inspiring words: “As we say goodbye to Canterbury, I hope you all know how wonderful you are and how lucky I am to be a part of this group of people. But today is not a celebration of our departure but our commencement into the next stage of our lives. Let us maintain and treasure our friendships, stand firm for what we believe in, and seize the day!”
The morning also included the presentation of well-earned awards for faculty members and the graduating class. First, Director of International Travel Programs, Language Teacher, and Form Dean Julio Omaña P ’19, ’20 was granted an honorary diploma for his 30 years of exceptional teaching and service to Canterbury.
Next, Mathematics Teacher William Prescott Hagen received the J.P. Mandler Teaching Award, named for the former faculty member who served Canterbury for 46 years as English Department Chair, Director of Studies, Dean of Faculty, Director of Technology, Dean of the School, and Senior Master. The award is presented each year to that faculty member who reflects the fundamental commitment to excellence in classroom teaching. Associate Head of School for Academics Suzanne Roberts P ’24 presented the award to Pres. “The warmth and enthusiasm that this year’s recipient exudes helps to generate every opportunity for success while providing a safe environment for students to take risks,” Sue said. “He exhibits a clear understanding and respect for students as individuals. Whether you need help finding the derivative, wish to challenge your analysis of functions, or simply need someone to partner with as you tackle the cross country course one more time, this year’s award recipient will be there to support you in your endeavors.”
A number of Commencement Awards were also presented to the class of 2022. Ian Fernandes received the Robert M. Steele ’72 Boys’ Scholar-Athlete Trophy in memory of Robert M. Steele, a model scholar and athlete, for academic and athletic achievements. Lindsey Grandolfo was awarded the Charles R. Huntington Girls’ Scholar-Athlete Trophy for academic and athletic achievement in memory of Mr. Huntington, a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director from 1969–1999. Giovanna “Gigi” Esposito was presented with the Elizabeth (Betty) Burke Award for the Sixth Form student whose time at Canterbury has been marked by cheerful determination to serve God and others. David Salazar was named the Class of 1987 Citizenship Award recipient for his role as the Sixth Former who, in the judgment of his peers, has best fulfilled obligations to the School, fellow students, and self.
The Richard L. and Mary Catharine Farrelly Award was presented to Qixiu “Neil” Yao for his quiet but thorough leadership. Six students received the Philip H. Brodie Award for exceptional achievement and all-around service to the School: Hanyan Cai, Giovanna “Gigi” Esposito, Matthew “Cullen” Mulhern, Kathryn “Kaly” Naughton, Logan Sanford, and Sarina Sheth.
The presentation of awards concluded with the naming of the Dr. Nelson Hume Award recipients. Isabella Carioscia and David Salazar earned the esteemed award as the Sixth Form students whose leadership, character, and achievements have been of the highest order and whose performance embodies the ideals of the founding headmaster.
The week leading up to Commencement was filled with special events and activities celebrating the graduating class, including final concerts; the end-of-year carnival, complete with inflatable slides, food trucks, lawn games, and a dunk tank; the Prom held in the Steers Center; the Die-Hard Hike at Lover’s Leap State Park for four-year students; Class of 2022 tree-planting; the Sixth Form Retreat, where students read notes they wrote to themselves at the beginning of the year; the Sixth Form Awards Assembly and Dinner; and the Baccalaureate Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady, presided over by Fr. Mark Connell.
Following a busy week and the Commencement ceremony, Sixth Form students and their families enjoyed final on-campus moments with friends and faculty before departing as newly anointed members of Canterbury’s Society of Alumni.