On the morning of May 25, as the sun settled on the shining faces of Blair’s class of 2021, it became clear that this year’s graduation brought an extra sweetness. “Had I known I’d be standing here, addressing you as Head of School back when we were sending many of you your acceptance letters in March 2017,” said Head of School Peter G. Curran, “I might have focused...on some of the challenges you would face over your high school career and the self-awareness, empathy, emotional intelligence and resilience you would develop as you navigated what lay ahead."
The morning began as family and friends gathered at tables in the Bowl under a wide blue sky. In keeping with tradition, seniors passed through the Arch one last time with the faculty before joining their families on the field. Standing before the crowd, Blair Trustee the Reverend David Harvey opened the ceremony with an invocation. Mr. Curran welcomed students and families to the event, and Senior Class Speakers Daniel Siyuan Dai ’21 and Alexandra Andrea Bakulina ’21 reflected on the lessons they have learned and how the last year has fostered deeper connections. “We grew closer from six feet apart and had the impossible role as senior leaders and prefects of teaching underclassmen to do the same,” observed Alexandra.
Blair administrators took the stage to recognize the outstanding achievements of several faculty members, who were commended for their skill and for inspiring students’ love of learning. Likewise, several seniors were honored with prizes for distinguished performance over the course of their Blair journeys (please see below for the full list of prizes awarded at commencement).
Finally, the moment that the last four years had been building toward arrived. As their names were read by Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, each senior accepted his or her diploma and shook hands with Mr. Curran. When the last student had taken his seat, Mr. Curran listed many of the class of 2021’s notable achievements, saluting the group's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and its legacy of leadership. He also commended the new graduates’ flexibility in responding to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Recognizing how bittersweet the moment must be for many parents, Mr. Curran thanked them for their support over the last four years.
“The relationships that you have built during your time at Blair are what you will take with you today and in the months and years ahead, relationships that you will carry with you through different phases of your careers and lives," he said.
Above all, he urged the members of the outgoing class to “Build on what you have learned here...Become confident citizens of the world who move their professions forward, give back to their communities and find great personal fulfillment.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, Jenna Madison Van Valkenburg ’21 had the honor of accepting the class of 2021 pennant from Michael J. Lieberman ’71, a dedicated Blair alumnus and member of this year’s 50th reunion class.
After the recessional and as the last strains of “Ode to Joy” faded, the graduates joined their families at each table to share a meal and memories from Blair. It had been a morning filled with heartfelt speeches, lighthearted quips, and the cheering of proud parents and faculty. As the first cars began to leave, a few friends stood on the steps of Hardwick Hall for a last photo. Although masks obscured their faces, no one needed to see their lips to know they were smiling. They radiated the joy of a class that had overcome an especially challenging year and, surrounded by friends, emerged stronger on the other side.
Congratulations to the Blair class of 2021! To watch the ceremony, press play below:
Faculty awards presented at graduation:
Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence: Science teacher Suzana Markolovic
John C. and Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize: Science department chair Kelly Hadden
Riether Residential Life Award: English teacher Molly Hoyer
Lillian and Samuel Tedlow Teaching Prize: Math teacher Robin Anthony
Headmaster’s Faculty Prize: Director of Academic Support Allison Leddy
Student awards presented at graduation:
Headmaster’s Prize: Abney Tessier Whitehead ’21 & Jaylen Tomi Blakes ’21
Blair Academy Trophy: Grace Anderson Hogue ’21 & Sarab Singh Anand ’21
George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize: Daniel Siyuan Dai ’21 & Alexandra Andrea Bakulina ’21
Appointment to the United States Coast Guard Academy: Sean Horner ’21