Gould Academy Celebrates 179th Commencement
Gould Academy presented diplomas to 59 seniors at its 179th commencement on Saturday, June 6.
Speakers, faculty, and graduating seniors made their way from Hanscom Hall and across Alumni Field, where several hundred family and friends gathered under the tent to celebrate the Class of 2015
The Reverend Richard Bennett of the West Parish Congregational Church gave the invocation. Wendy E. Penley, president of the Gould Academy board of trustees, introduced this year’s keynote speaker, inaugural poet and Bethel resident, Richard Blanco.
Blanco opened his speech by recognizing the proverbial village that he stood before, and with, in that moment, and went on to highlight the challenges students faced up until this point as well as the many choices ahead. He then took a moment to read poet Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and educate the audience on its true and often misunderstood meaning.
“I am a poet, after all,” Blanco continued, “and as such, I’m here to share something poetic, something more subtle and complex, that is perhaps, even more important than your graduating GPA today. Something that I’m sure that Gould has also equally prepared you for, though you may not be aware of it just yet.”
“…Frost is playing a sarcastic trick on us,” Blanco went on to say. “He is saying that there really is no absolute right or wrong path or decision or road in life; there are only decisions that we must trust, sometimes beyond and despite reason.”
Blanco ended his speech with sound advice to the graduating class, based on both personal experience and the lesson from Frost’s poem:
“No matter what road you choose, make it the right one.”
In her forward-looking address, Class of 2015 Valedictorian Pratt M. Olson of South Portland, Maine asked her fellow students to stop looking for the thing that will help them to remember their experiences at Gould.
“To retain our sense of possibility as we continue onward, what we need is not something to remember our experiences by. We need only to remember our experiences. The thing is, you can lose an object; it can be stolen or broken, but the same is not true of an experience. An experience can never be stolen, it can’t be broken, and you definitely can’t lose it. You can forget the details of an experience, but once it’s happened you can’t change the way that it changed you.”
“So, stop looking for an object. Objects aren’t going to get you up a hill. What will get you to the top are your experiences. There are always going to be more hills than you think, but the thing is, you’re ready for them.”
Student-elected class speaker Xiaolu Qian from Shanghai, China offered her graduating class perspective.
“So remember when you say goodbye to all your friends or teachers today, don’t be shy. As you are doing so, keep a few things in mind: for any reason that you are leaving today with great excitement, it is that you have left marks on this place and will continue to shine to make your friends proud. This might be the last complete gathering of this group of amazing people, enjoy and value this moment that we are all here today.”
Head of School Matt C. Ruby then announced the presentation of honors to members of the graduating class.
Pratt Olson received the Headmaster’s Bowl, presented annually to the senior who has exhibited the highest standards of scholarship, character, and service to the school and participation in activities of the school. She also received the Scholarship Shield, awarded to the senior with the highest academic average.
Seniors acknowledged for achieving a cumulative average of 90 or above over their careers included: Natalie K. Choi, Aiden P. Clarke, Isabella J. DeLuca, Megan E. Detels, Skye M. Fournier, Rachael L. Goldberg, Rose H. Goldberg, Mary A. Harvey, John W. Kannegieser, Evan A. Landon, Alexandra K. Leff, Pichayut Liamthong, Heidi L. W. Ohms, Pratt M. Olson, Juncheng Qian, Xiaolu Qian, Hannah T. Runyon, Melissa S. Seib, Maxwell L. Southam, and Kyler B. Walker.
Last year, Gould Academy was granted charter with the Cum Laude Society, which was founded in 1906 to recognize the scholastic achievement of seniors in secondary schools. This year’s members of the Gould Academy Cum Laude Society include: Aiden P. Clarke, Megan E. Detels, Rachael L. Goldberg, Rose H. Goldberg, John W. Kannegieser, Alexandra K. Leff, Pratt M. Olson, Xiaolu Qian, Hannah T. Runyon, Melissa S. Seib, and Kyler B. Walker.
Academic Book Prizes were then presented to the following students: English: Pratt Olson, History: Jack J. Morrison, Mathematics and Science: Xiaolu Qian, French: Alexandra K. Leff, Computer Science: Jingfei Zhou, Mandarin: Aiden P. Clarke, Spanish: John W. Kannegieser, Theater: Paige H. Conroy, Art: Ronglin Na, and Pottery: Maxwell L. Southam.
The Linwood “Lindy” Lowell Award, an honor voted upon by the graduating class, is given annually to the member of the senior class whose friendly personality and helpful nature have brightened the lives of fellow students. The Class of 2015 chose to award the honor to classmate Rachael L. Goldberg.
The Senior Point Award, given to that senior whose Senior Point project best exemplifies the three values at the heart of any Gould endeavor, “the energy to try, willingness to risk, and capacity to tolerate,” was presented to Maxwell L. Southam.
The Ralph Gould Music Award was given to senior Paige H. Conroy in recognition of her excellence and contribution to the school in the area of music.
The Town of Newry also presented monetary gifts to each of the graduating seniors who are full-time residents. This year’s recipients were Alison L. Corey and Kyler B. Walker.
The Rhode Island School of Design President’s Award, established in 1984, recognizes an accomplished artist in the senior class for his or her effort and achievement in the arts, overall academic achievement, and creativity and talent. This year’s recipient is Evan A. Landon.
Hattie M. Rosenberg and Theodore C. Jones IV received the Elwood F. Ireland Award, given to the boy and girl of the senior class who best exemplifies service, leadership, and character.
Melissa S. Seib received the Francis “Hi” Berry Award, and John W. Kannegieser received the Joe Roderick Award. Both awards are given to a boy and girl senior with outstanding competitive spirit shown through example and overall competence in athletics.
John W. Kannegieser also received the William P. Clough Award, an award created upon the retirement of William P. Clough who served as headmaster at Gould from 1983-2001, in recognition of an on-snow athlete who has demonstrated outstanding character, attitude, and leadership.
Elle S. Burbank received the Gould Academy Alumni Association Award, which recognizes the son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter of an alumnus or alumna whose attitude, involvement, and contributions typify the ideals of Gould’s alumni and its Alumni Association. Elle’s grandfather, Stephen L. Smith, is a member of the Class of 1958.
Elle S. Burbank also received the Annie Daley Courchesne Award, which is given in memory of Annie Daley Courchesne, Class of 1986, and celebrates the spirit of student involvement in social, political, and environmental causes.
Skye M. Fournier received several awards including the Ouwinga Citizenship Award, the Jan and Lorenzo Baker Award, and the MELMAC Principles Scholarship. The Ouwinga Award honors a member of the Gould student body who embraces the spirit in which both the Ouwingas live their lives through acts of selflessness and thoughtful humanitarianism; the Jan and Lorenzo Baker Award is bestowed upon a member of the senior class who best exemplifies the qualities that the Bakers fostered: personal courage, an adventurous and creative approach, and a clear vision of him or herself and their world; and the MELMAC Principals Scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who has made a difference in the lives of others and that of his or her community and is a solid school citizen involved in extracurricular activities; a student who has exhibited a commitment to public service; and an individual with the potential to make a difference in the world.
Matt Ruby and Wendy Penley then presented diplomas to the 59 graduating seniors before the Reverend Richard Bennett gave the benediction, asking the graduating class to repeat after him:
“Here we are, all together, in one place; we are on the move.”