Canterbury School celebrated its 104th Commencement Exercises for the 88 members of the Class of 2021 on Friday, May 28. The ceremony took place on Sheehan lawn, with remote Sixth Form students joining virtually, and was attended by faculty, staff, family, and friends. The overcast and cool May morning was marked with bittersweet moments of nostalgia as the class of 2021 said their final goodbyes as students within our hilltop community.
Head of School Rachel Stone addressed the Class of 2021 and spoke about the things they will “carry forward” with them in the weeks, months, and years ahead. “Of course, you will carry moments, memories, success stories, relationships, and Saints Pride with you. The Third Form Retreat. The Sixth Form Retreat. Victories over the Frederick Gunn School. The first time you stepped on the ice, court, stage, altar, or turf. Your first Steers Center smoothie or fries. The day you met a Canterbury student… who is now a best friend forever. A favorite cereal night, pep rally, Carnival, international affair, late-night dorm conversation, or advisor meeting story. And perhaps tears you shed over being homesick, or discouraged, or just a little lost… and the friend or faculty member who helped carry YOU forward. Likewise, what you will leave behind as a legacy are these very moments as well, but I believe what will stick most about the Class of 2021 is the gratitude you have all shared.”
Sandra “Sandy” Xu ’21, the class valedictorian, delivered the student keynote address. She was presented with the Roderick Clarke ’46 Distinguished Academic Achievement Award at Thursday evening’s Sixth Form Prize Assembly. Sandy shared what she has valued most about the Saints community: “We inspire and bolster each other limitlessly. We make posters for each other’s games; we show up for events. We cheer for Torin’s eloquent announcements; we have snowball fights. We make new catchphrases, we experience the highs and lows of high school football. We are such a close class that we feel comfortable sharing the vulnerable parts of ourselves in front of 50 people. We don’t just go through the motions. We cry. We cry because we’re losing our homes away from home.”
Sandy went on to express her gratitude for being able to spend her final year—and Commencement—in person: “Being able to stay here in person for most of the year was an immense blessing that arose out of our impressive efforts to keep us healthy. I cannot emphasize enough how ecstatic all of us are to be present during this commencement. On that note, I would like to show my gratitude for all of the faculty, especially the Stones, the Lavignes, Mr. Dellorco, Ms. Cooke, and EJ. You have worked late nights and early mornings to tirelessly make our year the best it could possibly be.”
The morning was also peppered with the delivery of final prizes, both for faculty and the graduating class. Sarah Armstrong, Director of Theatre and Liturgical Music, received the J.P. Mandler Teaching Award. Named for J.P. Mandler, who served the School for 46 years in the roles of English Department Chair, Director of Studies, Dean of Faculty, Director of Technology, Dean of the School, Senior Master, and Longest-Tenured Faculty Member, 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 presented Sarah with the award, saying, “The level of flexibility, ingenuity, and creativity that Mrs. Armstrong has shown during this time attests to her impact as an integral pillar in the foundation of our hilltop. She has truly facilitated, directed, guided, and redefined what it means to think outside of the box.” Sue continued, “Whether you wish to hone your solo vocal skills, learn how to sing tight harmonies in an acapella ensemble, enhance your public speaking, lead the music ministry team at weekly mass, take the stage in a musical, or climb the chapel tower to play the Carillon, Mrs. Armstrong will be there to support you in your endeavors.”
Commencement Awards were also presented to the class of 2021. Benjamin Secor received the Robert M. Steele ’72 Scholar-Athlete Trophy, in memory of Robert M. Steele, a model scholar and athlete, for academic and athletic achievements. Lexah Caraluzzi and Lorelai Lee Swanek both received the Charles R. Huntington Scholar-Athlete Trophy for academic and athletic achievement in memory of Mr. Huntington, a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director from 1969-1999. Colleena Healy and Benjamin Secor were awarded the Elizabeth (Betty) Burke Award for the Sixth Form students, whose time at Canterbury has been marked by cheerful determination to serve God and others. Na’Sah Dabbs was named the Class of 1987 Citizenship Award recipient for his role as the Sixth Former who, in the judgement of peers, has best fulfilled obligations to the School, fellow students, and self.
The Richard L. and Mary Catharine Farrelly Award was presented to Colleena Healy for her quiet but thorough leadership. Six students received the Philip H. Brodie Award for exceptional achievement and all-around service to the School: Giselle Bradshaw, Lexah Caraluzzi, Ju Yeon (Thomas) Cho, Anika Flik, Torin Kearney, and Sean Quaye.
The presentation of awards concluded with the naming of the Dr. Nelson Hume Award-recipient, given this year to two students. Na’Sah Dabbs and Katherine Delamere were presented with the esteemed award as the Sixth Formers whose leadership, character, and achievements have been of the highest order and whose performance embodies the ideals of the founding headmaster.
The week preceding Commencement was filled with festivities to celebrate the graduating class, including final concerts; the end-of-year carnival, complete with inflatable slides, food trucks, lawn games, and a dunk tank; the Sixth Form Dance held in the Steers Center; the Die-Hard Hike at Lover’s Leap State Park for four-year students; Class of 2021 tree-planting by the chicken coop; the Sixth Form Retreat, where students read notes they wrote to themselves in the beginning of the year; the Sixth Form Prize Assembly and Dinner with faculty; and the Baccalaureate Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady, presided over by Fr. Mark Connell.
Following Commencement and the week’s packed activities, Sixth Formers and their families enjoyed final on-campus moments with friends and faculty before departing as alumni.