On Saturday, June 11, we bid farewell to 68 seniors. The 126th Commencement exercises took place in Abbey Chapel at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, with rain holding off just enough to keep everyone dry before and after the ceremony.
Head of School Steve Griffin gave the opening remarks. “Today we celebrate a diverse and talented group of 68 students [from 15 countries]; they will soon disperse to carry the MacDuffie name to colleges across the country,” he said. “It is my hope that this group, with such a strong and unique personality, will come back to share their success with us and that they will hold The MacDuffie School in their hearts with pride.”
Following the greeting, the MacDuffie Singers did an a cappella rendition of Bright Morning Stars. Three members of the Class of 2016, Linyue “Evelyn” Chen, Jane Bannish, and Gina Napolitano, each gave a brief address. “I learned from each one of you and thank you all for being a part of me and for making these short four years long enough to brand a part of me ‘MacDuffie’ for life,” said Chen. Bannish reflected as well on what students would carry with them throughout life: “I’m sure that for years to come, long after we have forgotten the lyrics of The Magnolia Song, we will remember our friends, classmates, and teachers from MacDuffie. These people made our high school experience.” Napolitano, too, focused her address on the nature of our community. “When the morale is low, a student or faculty member comes up with a way to boost it. This says something about the kind of people that we have at our school—those who are willing to take chances and work hard to make everyone feel included.”
Napolitano, a familiar face (and voice) in numerous formal and informal MacDuffie productions over her seven years here, also sang I Hope You Dance. Camellia Liu ’17 accompanied her on the piano.
Susan Clayton, Director of Boarding Admissions, gave the Commencement Address. In addition to sharing memories of some of the seniors, Clayton challenged the Class of 2016 to contemplate the significance of their time at MacDuffie as they moved forward in life. “People often say that new graduates are the future. That is, of course, true. But you, MacDuffie students, are poised even better than others to have an effect on the future,” she said. “You have the education and the tools like other graduates, but you have also been exposed to an extremely diverse student body – diverse in thought, in religious belief, in cultural norms, in race, and in socioeconomic standing. You, better than others, know how important it is to be open to divergent thought, the enormous benefit of listening and learning from others rather than just shutting them out because of how they look, and how in fact, we all want the same thing – to be valued and respected by others.”
After Clayton spoke, attendees enjoyed another musical interlude as the MacDuffie Ensemble performed Telemann’s Sonata for Flute & Violin. Awards, Cum Laude initiation, the presentation of diplomas, and closing remarks ensued. The ceremony concluded with faculty, staff, students, and guests singing MacDuffie’s alma mater, The Magnolia Song.
The graduates walked out to Summer Suns, with faculty and staff ready to greet them in a reception line outside the chapel. The reception line, where students exchanged hugs and handshakes (and a few tears), gave roses to favorite teachers and advisors, and posed for photos, was truly the final rite of passage.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016!