Members of the Class of 2021 were honored and presented with awards during an assembly held in the Steers Center on May 27, on the eve of their Commencement. As with the Underform Awards Assembly earlier in the week, the ceremony was livestreamed for family members and friends.
The assembly opened with a prayer from Sacristan Benjamin Secor, followed by opening remarks from Head of School Rachel Stone. Rachel noted, “You have made it to May 27, 2021, because being in this community mattered most. Because taking care of one another, living through a pandemic together, competing athletically and performing artistically in ways most high school students did not, and establishing new traditions (like the Hill Hunt) while recreating old ones (like the Pink Out) was far, far better than experiencing a pandemic without the support of your fellow Saints. Even seniors who were remote found ways to contribute to both the academic and extracurricular life of our school, going above and beyond for the sake of building community.”
Rachel continued, “Collectively, you have embraced your experiences here and developed self-awareness, discipline, and confidence along the way. That learning curve never ends; you will face it again next fall as a new round of challenges arrives. But you are ready. You know yourselves as students; you know that persistence counts just as much as intelligence—if not more; and you know that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness. And so this afternoon, as we celebrate success and noteworthy performance, please remember that these awards are a celebration of excellent work but not a definition of where you stand as students and people. All of you have found success along your Canterbury journeys, and it’s the journey, of course, that is the true prize. The faculty and I thank and congratulate you for your good work and the impact you have made, and will leave, on our community.”
Preceding the first awards, Assistant Head of School for Student Life Peter LaVigne recognized all members of the class who had held leadership positions over the course of their final year, including Sacristans, Sixth Form Council members, and proctors. Class of 2020 members of the Canterbury Honor Society—Giselle Bradshaw, Nicholas Capanna, Lexah Caraluzzi, Thomas Cho, Na’Sah Dabbs, Katherine Delamere, Anika Flik, Katherine Hawley, Jia Yi Ji, Abigail Kavanaugh, Torin Kearney, Cameron Krinsky, Lorelai Lee Swanek, Yurou Li, Ella Olcese, Sydney Ragland, Cassidy Rockwood, Jack Rufa, Benjamin Secor, Yishan Shi, Samuel Tscheppe, Sebastian Tseng, Andrew Xu, Kai Xu, Sandra Xu, and Charlotte Zapletal—were also recognized individually for their hard work and academic accomplishments. Mr. LaVigne left the Class of 2021 with inspiring words from Ignatius of Loyola: “Go forth and set the world on fire.”
Athletic Director Jim Stone began the award presentation with athletic awards in several categories. Charlotte Zapletal and Sean Quaye received the Most Improved Athlete Awards. Anika Flik and Evan Burke received the Best Leadership Awards for serving as captains on the Girls’ Varsity Hockey and Boys’ Varsity Baseball teams, respectively. Cassidy Rockwood and Jack Barton were presented with the Best All-Around Athlete Awards for their skills and dedication to multiple varsity-level sports.
Dean of Faculty Wright Danenbarger then presented the Edward F. Mack Awards to members of the class for their contributions to particular areas of school life. For Outstanding Contributions to Community Service, Margaret Ondrey; for Outstanding Contributions to the Cantuarian, Katherine Hawley and Jia Yi Ji; for Outstanding Contributions to the Sustainability Club, Katherine Hawley and Benjamin Secor; for Outstanding Contributions to Theatre for Performance in a Male Role, Torin Kearney; for Outstanding Contributions to Theatre for Technical Theatre, Giselle Bradshaw; for Outstanding Service as a Proctor, Evan Burke, Anika Flik, Colleena Healy, Benjamin Secor, and Celine Yoo; for Outstanding Service as an Admission Ambassador, Lexah Caraluzzi, Ju Yeon (Thomas) Cho, Na’Sah Dabbs, Katherine Delamere, and Anika Flik; for Outstanding Contributions as a Sacristan, Ella Olcese and Torin Kearney; and for Outstanding Contributions in Student Government, the members of the Sixth Form Council: Ju Yeon (Thomas) Cho, Na’Sah Dabbs, Katherine Delamere, Lily Greenwood, Maximilian Oeser, Ella Olcese, and Sean Quaye.
The award presentations continued with academic honors given to Sixth Form students for specific areas of study. The Edward J. Duffy Family Award for excellence in the study of Studio Art, given in memory of Mr. Duffy by his children, was presented to Elizabeth (Betsy) Ondrey.
The Francis T. Carmody ’25 Award for creative talent in art—given in memory of Trustee Francis Carmody, son of founding Trustee Terence Carmody—was presented to Peyton DeRouen.
The Gerald A. and Therese J. Vanasse Choral Music Award was presented to Katherine Delamere in memory of Mr. Vanasse, who served as school organist, choral club accompanist, glee club director, music director of spring musicals, and shared his love of music with Canterbury students from 1960 to 1990. The award is given to the student who has demonstrated the highest level of leadership.
The Stephen N. ’43 And Lacey Hume Award—given in memory of Trustee Emeritus and son of the founding Headmaster, Stephen N. ’43, and his wife Lacey—was presented to Nicolas Graham, Fatima Nda-Isaiah, and Sebastian Tseng for excellence in the study of contemporary music.
The Frederick L. Gilson ’50 Award was presented to Lorelai Lee Swanek for excellence in classical music performance, and to Yurou Li for excellence in the study of the Carillon.
The John Thomas Smith Award for excellence in the study of English—given in memory of John Thomas Smith, benefactor of the School and parent—was presented to Katherine Delamere.
The English Essay Award, presented to the author of the best critical essay written for the annual Sixth Form English essay assignment, was given to Lexah Caraluzzi.
The Francis T. Carmody ’25 Prize Awards were presented to Sandra Xu for creative talent in prose, and to Katherine Hawley for creative talent in poetry.
The Allan A. Ryan Award for excellence in the study of History—given in memory of Mr. Ryan, a founding Trustee and parent—was presented to Jia Yi ji and Yurou Li.
The Weldon R. Knox Award, established by the Class of 1971 in memory of Mr. Knox, who taught math from 1960 to 1975, was presented to Declan Clancy. The award is given to that student who has demonstrated the greatest improvement in the study of mathematics while at Canterbury.
Given in memory of Mr. Farrell, a founding Trustee and benefactor of the School, the James A. Farrell Award for excellence in the study of mathematics was presented to Kai Xu.
The Hubert McDonnell Award for excellence in the study of theology—given in memory of Mr. McDonnell, a Trustee from 1938-1950 and parent—was presented to Abigail Kavanaugh and Torin Kearney.
Given in memory of the founding Trustee, the Terence F. Carmody Award was presented to Lexah Caraluzzi and Katherine Delamere for excellence in the study of Spanish, and to Lorelai Lee Swanek and Charlotte Zapletal for excellence in the study of French.
The James K. Breene Jr. Latin Award, given to the Sixth Former who has demonstrated unusual dedication to the Classics while at Canterbury, was presented to Abigail Kavanaugh. The award is given by the Class of 1963 in memory of Mr. Breene, who was a Master at Canterbury from 1955 to 1973, during which time he inspired his students with his integrity, intellect, and humor.
The Captain Thomas J. Sartor Award for excellence in the study of science—given in memory of Captain Sartor from the Class of 1919, benefactor of the School and parent—was presented to Jia Yi Ji and Yurou Li.
The final honor, the Roderick Clarke ’46 Distinguished Academic Achievement Award, given by the Class of 1956 in memory of Mr. Clarke, who served Canterbury from 1954 to 1990 as a history teacher, Director of Studies, College Counselor, and as Canterbury’s Headmaster for his last twelve years, was awarded to the student with the highest GPA. Rachel Stone presented the award to this year’s recipient, and Class of 2021 Valedictorian, Sandra Xu.
The ceremony concluded with remarks from Dean of Students Jake Dellorco and Sixth Form Council member (and last year’s winner of the Nelson Hume Speech Competition) Maximilian Oeser. Max spoke about the importance of the interests, relationships, motivations, and personal growth that were fostered at Canterbury: “Although our stint at Canterbury is coming to an end, take the time to think about all the new pages that are being written because of what you have done while at Canterbury. All the new interests you have, all the new friends you’ve made, all the teachers that helped steer you in the right direction. And never forget, just because our time at Canterbury is coming to an end does not mean our Canterbury chapters have to come to an end. This is our home, and it will be forever.”
Following the award ceremony, Sixth Form students enjoyed a final dinner with faculty in the Steers Center and were addressed by this year’s Cantuarian dedicatee, Elyse “EJ” Soifersmith. As the Assistant Dean of Students, Director of Student Activities, Head Coach of Volleyball and Basketball, and Dorm Head of South House, EJ is ever-present for students. EJ first joined Canterbury as the head coach of Varsity Volleyball in 2005 but soon thereafter transitioned fully into Student Life. She received her bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University, where she played D1 volleyball and was captain her junior and senior years. She earned her master’s degree in social work from New York University and served as a social worker at Children’s Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, NY, for nine years before joining the Canterbury family. Given her background in social work and her extraordinary compassion for others, it is no wonder she is lovingly referred to as “Campus Mom.”
EJ shared some parting advice for the graduating class: “In my opinion, there is nothing more important than being a good person in this world. Living your life as a good person can mean many different things: giving someone a compliment, taking the time to say hello or listen to a friend in need, being the CEO who treats her employees right, asking someone how their day is going, donating money, being kind, picking up trash, volunteering your time, or simply doing what you think is right and just.” She concluded by sharing an anecdote from the Sixth Form Dance, which took place the night before: “During the last song at the dance, I watched all of you break off from five separate groups to create one huge Sixth Form community circle. It made me tear up because it reminded me of your beautiful friendships, how you take care of one another, and how you demonstrate inclusivity.”
Congratulations to all the Sixth Form award winners!