At its 93rd commencement ceremony June 14, Lakeside celebrated the 145 members of the Class of 2018. The graduating seniors were recognized for myriad individual accomplishments and what Upper School Director Felicia Wilks called their "commitment to community" rooted in their "striving to see things from each other's unique perspective."
That commitment, said Wilks, extended to their fellow classmates, to activism on behalf of equity and social justice, and in "one of your most touching contributions," to leadership and service on behalf of younger students.
"We called on the senior leaders in this class again and again this year to help us guide younger students," Wilks said, and the seniors delivered — sharing steady, solid, and heartfelt advice, including "about how to make friendships that last, how to stand for what you believe is right even when that position is unpopular," and how to put applying to college in perspective (one senior's wise counsel: "Look guys, you're going to college if that's what you want to do. And for those who worry about letters of denial ... well ... I was just denied yesterday. And guess what? I'm OK and you'll be OK, too.")
In "reflecting on the power and the beauty of the Class of 2018," Wilks highlighted the students' wide range of talents in dance, music, spoken word, comedy, athletics, theater, film; in academic, chess, and ethics competitions; and in countless other areas. She pointed to the class average of 130 service hours performed per student, many more than the required 80 hours. It was clear from their moving, written reflections, she said, that "you gained as much as you gave to your volunteering efforts." She read several, including this one: "[Volunteering has] opened me to a world that I didn't know existed and encouraged me to become more understanding of the people around me and realize that everyone has a story that nobody knows."
Read a fuller excerpt of her speech here.
Noe: Be present, show courage
Head of School Bernie spoke of three areas of "unfinished work" students should continue post-Lakeside. First, he urged the graduates to be cognizant of the distractions of technology and to try to be "fully present in the moment" in the face of the "constant interruption and distraction of smartphones."
To that end, he had signs ready to give to each graduate, with the sign's back saying, "Technology Free Zone" and the front, personalized with their name, saying "Be Present!" The signs were a holdover from a not-so-successful effort this year to encourage students to ditch their devices at lunch and in the student center. But, smiling and laughing, Noe said he was not giving up.
"When you are fully present, Class of 2018, you will be a better friend, a better family member, later in your life a better parent, and when you get there, a better leader. You will take the time to recognize the unique gifts of everyone as well as the struggles others face. You will be more fully human in your interactions with others. You will make the world a better place for others much more through your presence in life than through your perpetual doing."
The second and third areas of unfinished work, he said, called on them to solidify and hew to their values and to show moral leadership in a world beset with moral failure. He cited the #MeToo movement and its reveal of the widespread exploitation of women in the workplace by powerful men. "Did no one, for years on end, in so many different settings, not know this was happening? Or did they choose to remain silent, choose to not notice, to look the other way, to not get involved, to attend to their own careers and interests?"
As an example of moral rectitude, he described a man who spoke to one of his Lakeside classes, Carl Wilkens, who in 1994 was the only American who stayed in Rwanda during the genocide, despite being told his only recourse was to flee, and, in staying, managed to exert influence to save 240 children.
While saying he hoped none of the students would face such dire circumstances, Noe said, "... it is still critical, at every age, to answer the question: Who am I at my core, my essence? What do I really value? What do I hold as truth? Who am I when not referring to my accomplishments, my family, my school?
"It will be critically important in your lives, Class of 2018, that you continue to develop your moral center; continue to identify the truths that you will live by; continue to be people of high moral character. This development will continue throughout your lives; it is never finished because you encounter new morally complex situations and must respond to them. You graduate into the era of 'fake news' where the very notion that there are facts and truth is under assault. How will you respond?"
Read a fuller excerpt of his speech here.
Representing students on the commencement program were Dagmawi Nurri Misgano, president of Upper School Student Government, and Helen Christine Haley and Matthew William Dobmeier, chosen by their fellow seniors to speak. (You can read excerpts of their speeches here and here.)
Misgano, who gave the convocation, said, "If anything's unpredictable it's life. But when I look at this class, I see nothing but bright futures. ... I'd bet anything on that."
Haley and Dobmeier reminisced with humor. "No matter how wild the last four years together have been," said Helen, "we have banded together, we have kept our cool, and we have made some dank memes out of them." She concluded by urging classmates to "stay groovy."
Tamra Patton: Distinguished Service Award winner
As part of the commencement ceremony, Natasha Jones '89, chair of Lakeside's Board of Trustees, announced the winner of the Willard J. Wright '32 Distinguished Service Award, which is given to someone who has provided service to Lakeside that has been transformative.
The award went to Tamra Patton, who retires at the end of this year as head athletics trainer. Jones shared a tribute to Patton that read, in part: "To Lakeside's great benefit for 28 years, she has shared a unique skill set as part healer, part teacher, part administrator, part counselor, and part coach ...
"... She is a truth teller who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of her high expectations. Her no-nonsense approach is part of her charm: She cares but does not coddle. And it is her ability to care for kids physically while pushing them to stay engaged mentally within the team that makes her a coach's dream."
Read the full citation here.