As families filtered from dinner in the Brown Dining Commons to the large tent on Farrell Field for Senior Awards Night, a slideshow played on the big screen contrasting images from each student’s first weeks on campus and their last. The physical changes that take place during high school are remarkable, but they pale in comparison to the social and emotional growth that transpires. As the Class of 2022 walked across the stage this morning, we watched with pride at the humans they had become.
Four years passes in the blink of an eye. The high school experience of this class has been as tumultuous as any in recent memory. Sitting with seniors at breakfast Friday morning, they reflected on how disrupted their four years at Proctor has been. After a normal freshman year, they missed their sophomore spring due to COVID-19 and had an incredibly abnormal junior year. Their senior year was, again, heavily impacted by the pandemic, different rules and regulations on campus, and the background noise of a disrupted world.
During the 1990s, Proctor adopted an informal motto: Attitude is Everything. Every now and then you will see some tattered t-shirts on our most veteran faculty with the block print reminding us of the importance of this mindset. The Class of 2022, through their positivity and resilience, lived this motto to their core. Through quarantines, disappointment, and fear, they chose joy. It permeated each and every corner of campus.
Over the last 24 hours, we witnessed the joy of this class first hand. We saw it on their senior cruise Thursday night, at graduation rehearsal Friday afternoon, and in their video “thank yous” and performances during Senior Awards Night. We saw it in the speeches of Valedictorian Ada Gardner ‘22, Salutatorian Emily Charleston ‘22, and Senior Speaker River Turnbull ‘22. But more than anything, we saw it in their smiles as they simply lived these last few days of life at Proctor together.
During a special feather-tying ceremony for his daughter Trinity '22, JR White Hat '00 shared the following, "I think I speak on behalf of all the parents today when I say that from the moment you were born, we have committed our lives to you. To your safety, to your well-being, to protecting you. You are the first thing we think of when we wake in the morning, and when we lay our head at night, you are in our final thoughts. We love you. And at some point, we entrusted this community to continue those teachings and be a partner in raising you. On behalf of the parents of the graduates I want to say thank you to all of Proctor for preparing them for this next step in life." Many of us who have children of our own or who see this class as our surrogate children felt tears stream down our faces as JR shared his words.
We truly believe there is no graduation ceremony like a Proctor one. It serves as this culminating celebration of our collective work as a community over the past four years alongside this group of young people. The tears that steadily stream down our faces during Commencement are this unique mixture of happy-, sad-, proud-, exhausted-tears.
We cry because we care so deeply about these kids, because when we sit on the mountain top we appreciate the difficulty of the climb. We cry because this chapter of our lives with these kids is over, and because we are so excited to see how the next chapter unfolds. We cry because we see now that the Class of 2022 courageously taught us to choose joy when so many others chose despair. What a gift to their families, their classmates, and to us as a school.
Proctor welcomed Emily White Hat '94 as the 2022 Commencement Speaker. Her address was more than two years in the making after originally being scheduled to speak at our 2020 Commencement that was unfortunately made virtual due to COVID-19. In a powerful address encouraging and challenging all of us in attendance to ask ourselves critically whether the work we are doing is relevant. Are we creating visibility and access? Did we open the door behind us or close it? Thank you, Emily, for sharing your wisdom today. Enjoy additional highlights from the ceremony below.
"Since I stepped off the plane in Manchester, New Hampshire in the fall of 1992, I have been taking risks. I have been fighting every day for visibility. As long as I can remember, my goals have been to make this world a better place for indigenous people. Because of my access to this education at Proctor, I would step into the awesome and powerful responsibility and privilege this education provides. I hope you each recognize the access you have because of your privilege; to see how women are treated, how our LGBTQIA relatives are treated, to use your visibility to recognize, trust, and support those who are less visible."
- Emily White Hat '94
"Proctor is a place of curated opportunities. My challenge for you is to embrace the opportunities that come your way. Opportunities are all about doing the hard things and growth doesn't happen without challenges...Lean into the opportunities that come your way, even if it's hard, especially if it's hard."
- Valedictorian Ada Gardner '22
"When we strive for perfection, we limit the risks we take...Some of us may be striving for perfection when we arrive here, but Proctor casually stops the quest for perfectionism by allowing our eyes and hearts to try new things. Struggle isn't hidden at Proctor, packed away and overlooked. It is embraced."
- Salutatorian Emily Charleston '22
Time moves differently in high school. The days are so long, but the weeks and months fly by...The truth I've chosen to overlook for too long is that there are so many things about Proctor we will never experience again. We romanticize the moving on, but must take time in the moment...This school is so unique in the way it grabs you, holds you, and keeps you. Today is going to be a blur, but take that breath and enjoy the moment."
- Senior Speaker River Turnbull '22
Jack Shi '22 and Mason Guerster '22 share a beautiful rendition of "What a Wonderful World", one of three student musical performances during the ceremony.
Commencement 2022 from Proctor Academy on Vimeo.