Pomp, circumstance, happy graduates and proud parents were the order of the day at Blair’s 171st commencement on May 23. The tradition-filled ceremony was held on Sharpe House lawn, where families and friends celebrated bright futures ahead for Blair’s 131 graduates.
The ceremony began as faculty and Trustees processed to their seats amid enthusiastic applause, followed by the beaming members of the class of 2019. The Rev. Lisa Durkee, Blair’s chaplain, addressed the assembly with an invocation, and Head of School Chris Fortunato and Senior Class Council members Cheuk Kiu Justin Leung ’19 and Jillian Rogers ’19 each shared warm words of welcome.
Several outstanding members of Blair’s faculty received recognition for their dedication to Blair’s students and their teaching profession. Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry, Dean of Students Carmelo Mazza and Mr. Fortunato each stepped to the podium to present faculty awards. Next, Mr. Fortunato, Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 and Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni acknowledged the achievements of five seniors as they awarded the Headmaster’s Prize, the Blair Academy Trophy and the George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize (please see full list of award winners below).
Anthony Moore ’19 and Linda Tong ’19 shared the honors as this year’s recipients of the George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize and the 2019 class speakers. Anthony spoke gratefully about the warmth and kindness of the Blair community. He shared special memories of moments with friends, noting that while academic and extracurricular challenges will be tougher in college, “the most difficult part, by far, will be finding new people who can compare to the ones we are leaving today.”
“Our time at Blair has been a privilege for many, many reasons, but the 131 brilliant, talented and unbelievably kind people I am lucky to call my classmates are what have made this place truly special,” he said. “We have all been truly lucky to be part of this wonderful, amazing class.”
In her remarks, Linda shared a “love letter” to Blair Academy. “As much as I love this place now,” she said. “That wasn’t always true.” She described how she was terrified in her early days at Blair, but that the wise words of an upperclassman convinced her that she should make the most of her time on campus. The more she became involved, said yes to every opportunity and allowed herself to be vulnerable, the more she fell in love with Blair.
Concluding with words of advice for her classmates, Linda said, “I dare you to fall in love again, wherever you are next year. You are the most talented group of human beings I know, and you don’t know just how talented you are until you try. Take risks and say yes.”
Finally, the moment the class of 2019 was eagerly anticipating arrived: the awarding of diplomas. Each senior crossed the stage as his or her name was read, and they exchanged hugs and handshakes with Mr. Fortunato. Families and friends cheered for the graduates, while happy tears were shed, as well.
Mr. Fortunato addressed the graduates one final time before they headed out into world as Blair alumni, describing the members of the class of 2019 as his heroes. “I see you in this way not because you are perfect or because of your number of 6.0s, goals, prizes or achievements, but because you have been brave enough to continue this journey with us, celebrating your triumphs and, more importantly, facing your fears,” he said. “You were flawed, but true heroes always are.”
He advised the classmates to remain optimistic, to be builders of society, and to extend the kindness and love they have known at Blair to all they encounter. “Stay true to that, my friends, and to yourselves,” Mr. Fortunato concluded, “and, I assure you, you will always be heroes.”
The traditional pennant presentation brought the ceremony to a close. Robert Jenkins ’69, a member of this year’s 50th reunion class, handed the class of 2019 pennant to Faith Marie Sanchez ’19, symbolizing a hearty welcome to the graduates as they join Blair’s alumni body. Faith led the recessional as the Blair Academy Commencement Ensemble played “Ode to Joy,” and the class of 2019 jubilantly celebrated this milestone event with their families and friends.
Faculty awards presented at graduation:
Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence: English teacher Becca Litvin ’10
Riether Residential Life Award: Associate Dean of Students Caroline Wilson
John C. and Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize: math teacher R. Latta Browse
Headmaster’s Faculty Prize: language teacher Lian Wang
Tedlow Teaching Prize: history teacher Quinten Clarke ’87
Student awards presented at graduation:
Headmaster’s Prize: Aiden Abrahamsen ’19 & Cornelia Sigety ’19
Blair Academy Trophy: Madison Jones ’19
George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize: Anthony Moore ’19 & Linda Tong ’19