As new parents, we wonder how we will make room in your heart to love our child more than we already love those in our family. We are told our capacity to love will grow, but we simply cannot fathom the miracle that is about to take place until we experience it.
When our new students arrive at Proctor each fall, we welcome them into our Proctor family (and often our biological families given the nature of boarding school life). And in turn our love grows with each new class that enters. When our graduates walk across the stage, as the Class of 2021 did on Saturday, we experience that same miraculous expansion in our hearts as we make room for this group of amazing young people alongside the thousands of other former students who have impacted our lives.
While the weather today (rain showers and frigid temperatures) could have dampened the usual festive atmosphere associated with a Proctor Commencement, the Class of 2021 and their families shone brightly. Just five months ago we were uncertain if we would be able to hold an in-person graduation ceremony, but there we were, chairs spaced, limited attendance for each graduate, sharing in this right of passage that Proctor students have enjoyed for the past 173 years. After navigating fifteen months of unthinkable adversity, the Class of 2021 was finally at the center of our attention as we gathered together filled with joy, pride, and gratitude for the time we have spent together.
Friday Night’s Senior Dinner looked a little different this year without families in attendance, but the time spent with advisors and friends and faculty families was special nonetheless.
Senior Awards Night followed under the tent with well-deserved recognitions going to a number of different seniors in between thank you’s and spectacular musical performances. Check out a recording of the event below.
After an evening of dancing in the Wise Center, the Class of 2021 gathered in a rain drenched Alice’s Garden on Saturday morning prior to Proctor’s 173rd Commencement. Friends, family, advisors, and loved ones surrounded our soon-to-be graduates, squinting through falling rain and whipping winds, to offer the most genuine of smiles for the camera.
Then the moment finally arrived for the Class of 2021 to walk through a sea of their loved ones and teachers and officially become graduates of Proctor Academy. This processional represents so many years of support, love, encouragement, and sacrifice. It epitomizes the notion of our love growing as the young people in our lives physically grow. All of the hours of homework, extra help, advising, driving to practices and games and lessons, mentoring, coaching, and guiding lead to this moment. Their paths have been non-linear (as they should be), but each has embraced their journey, a journey that has forged a sense of self few 18 year olds possess when they enter the world after high school. This sense of self was evidenced by the speeches of Maddie Semet ‘21 (Valedictorian), Toby Wilkinson ‘21 (Salutatorian), and Cha Krupka ‘21 (Senior Speaker).
“The Proctor community is a community in which students stand in front of hundreds and reveal the most personal of stories. A community in which students and faculty alike will at 10:30 on an unassuming Monday ridicule themselves in assembly at some random game. It is a community that is much like a spider’s carefully crafted web. Many separate strands, be it people or ideas, extend out in several different directions. Some quite close, some directly opposed. Yet a common thread travels across these separate strands, spiraling outward, reaching even the furthest ends connecting us all. We are all woven together in a beautiful tapestry of cultures and ideas, holding strong through even the toughest winds or heaviest of downpours. As such, none of us will ever truly leave Proctor. Traditions may come and go...but our ideas, our greatest and happiest moments will forever permeate the web, intrinsically woven into it, holding the many strands together as we travel off and away...Thank you, Proctor, for weaving me into your web.”
- Cha Krupka '21
Today was not just about celebrating the Class of 2021, although they were our primary focus. Joining the class as honorary alumni were Head of School Mike Henriques and his wife Betsy Paine. A school’s strength is cultivated by all of its employees, students, parents, and alumni, but a Head of School plays a unique role in stewarding a school, and Mike and Betsy have done a masterful job over the past sixteen years. They have modeled what it means to love and support individuals within a complex community. Likewise, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tom Healey P’16, ‘17, ‘19, ‘21, was recognized as he steps down after an incredibly meaningful and impactful time as Chair of the Board.
Sixteen years ago, Danny Loehr ‘09 joined the community as a ninth grader during the fall of 2005, Mike’s first year as Head of School. After studying off-campus on both Ocean Classroom and Mountain Classroom, spending countless hours in Slocumb Hall throwing pots, and serving as School Leader during his senior year, Danny went on to study at Middlebury College after living and working at a shelter for undocumented immigrants in El Paso, Texas. He went on study at New York University School of Law, earning his J.D. in 2018, and working in public defense offices across the country before clerking for two federal judges and working with Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative providing legal representation to individuals on Alabama’s death row. Danny appropriately bookended Mike’s tenure as Head of School by returning as our 2021 Commencement Speaker.
“The four quarters in my pocket are of little use to me when I go out to a nice meal. But when I bring them to visit a client on death row in Alabama, I can put them in the vending machine and buy my client the best food he’s had in weeks. In order to be useful, we must find out where we are needed.” - Danny Loehr ‘09
After speeches were finished, awards given, and diplomas granted, the Class of 2021 receded back down the aisle as alumni of Proctor Academy. This chapter of their Proctor experience may be complete, but their relationship with Proctor is just beginning. Our hope is the Class of 2021 will take that which they have experienced at Proctor - the love, the support, the fun, the laughter, the midnight jumps in the pond, the acceptance of individuals for who they are - and apply it to their next adventure. Just as we learn in an instant as parents that our capacity to love will grow, the Class of 2021 will learn they love Proctor AND their next adventure without compromising either. And that is a beautiful thing.