By Bart Gummere, Associate Head of School for College Counseling and Alumni Relations
EASTSIDE PREPARATORY SCHOOL’S GRADUATION ceremony for the Class of 2019 was held on Friday, June 21st in TALI Theatre on campus. Members of the EPS community (faculty, staff, parents, grandparents, extended family, friends, and alumni) gathered to celebrate the graduating seniors. What follows are excerpts from speeches given during the ceremony.
BART GUMMERE, 2018-2019 HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL
I’m not sure you realize this; you are a seminal class in EPS history. You came into the Upper School four years ago amid a buzz of new possibility. The TMAC was brand new, and as such symbolized a new era for the school. You all embraced the possibilities and your actions capitalized on these opportunities. Amongst you are true athletes, thespians, mathematicians and writers. There are scientists, activists, political experts, and debaters. The first four-year participants in our fusor program will graduate today. Creations of all types began to emerge from our maker space. Teams of all kinds, athletic and academic, began winning during your tenure. You wrote significantly for the newspaper which grew tremendously, both in number of editions and in quality. One of you created a sports network. This class has so much talent, and that talent is coupled nicely with an admirable level of humility. In short, you helped the school grow up and realize a vision some of us held dear over a decade ago. And you helped bring us here far faster than I ever imagined possible when I started in this position thirteen years ago. For that, I thank you.
Of course, your class has not been without struggles. Building community is such a tricky balance. And you’ve learned to navigate this challenge far better than most your age. One habit you all have developed well in your classrooms is to discuss difficult topics reasonably. You do this by being good listeners and by speaking in a measured, respectful manner. You’ve grown into this habit over time, and with the watchful encouragement of your teachers. I’ve watched classes where the respect for the views of others, even when they differ greatly from your own, is palpable.
Your generation is helping raise awareness on many issues, and the manner in which you go forth discussing those issues is likely to be critical to solving problems.
“Inspire students to create a better world.” So reads our vision statement. Helping the world learn to communicate more productively, knowledgeably, and respectfully is a big challenge. And it’s one that I believe you are ready to take on. The Class of 2019 gives me hope in this regard. Thank you.
HALIMA MUGHAL, STUDENT SPEAKER
Since I was asked to give this speech, I racked my brain trying to think of the perfect way to deliver it, with the perfect words. I struggled with this so much because I wanted to put one big definition on our class, I wanted to have one shared experience or one common goal. But, as I came to understand, that’s not practical.
We are all young people trying to figure out who we are and as a result, that has led us to all sorts of different places. While we were in fact raised together, we are all embarking on very different journeys. I am incredibly proud to be a part of a class which has always been dissatisfied with sitting on the sidelines and watching opportunities pass them by. Instead, you are all fighters, you rise when you fall. My advice to you is this: know yourself, be loud about what you believe in, don’t be afraid to be the first person to say something, always ask for help and never stop dreaming impossible dreams. I am confident you will succeed at all of these things because these are skills you already have, and have also unknowingly taught me.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our teachers. You are the reason all of us are standing on this stage, and while it seems intuitive it deserves recognition. Your fire fuels our fire. You are not just our teachers, you are our mentors and the people who have led us to the finish line. I am eternally grateful to your dedication, your compassion and your talent.
To the Class of 2019. All of you inspire me every day. All of you, without realizing it, have had an effect on who I am today, and I would not be the person I am right now without knowing all of you.
RYOJI KARR, STUDENT SPEAKER
Before coming to EPS in ninth grade, I’d been to public school, private school, and homeschool, and I thought I’d seen it all. But I never realized how perfectly a school could fit me until I came here. Instantly, I felt more at home. I think one of EPS’ greatest assets is its community. Everyone is so friendly and helpful and funny; it was a little scary for me at first. Despite the initial shock, I quickly made friends, and I have to say that the people standing here behind me are the people I would gladly trust with my life. We’ve been through so much together.
The past four years have been the best four years of my life. I’ve grown a huge amount as a person, and it’s been amazing to see all my friends do the same. I want to thank all the faculty at EPS for being the approachable, helpful, and wonderful people that they are and for giving us the opportunity to learn and have fun while doing it. I also want to thank all the parents. I feel like you guys don’t get nearly as much credit as you deserve. Time and time again, you’ve volunteered and donated and shown up to events to support not just your own kids, but everyone.
Class of 2019, you are all kind, brilliant, caring, and weird, and I love you for it. After today, each and every one of you will begin a new chapter in your lives. You’ll go out and make the world a better place with your unique brand of EPS ingenuity.
DR. TERRY MACALUSO, HEAD OF SCHOOL
Whenever I prepare remarks for a captive audience—and you are a captive audience—I try to avoid giving advice. Today I can’t not give advice.
When I was fourteen, I got a job giving music lessons. I taught accordion and piano. I didn’t actually play the piano—but a keyboard is a keyboard. I could only navigate the piano by looking at the keyboard vertically, which required the development of some advanced contortionist skills—but the money was great. I had five clients. Remember, I do not play the piano. I struggled for about two months and finally admitted—first, to myself—that a keyboard was not just a keyboard. I quit the job and went back to being fourteen. I learned two things from that experience. First, misunderstanding my own capacity became a burden other people had to bear. And second, a perspective is a tiny part of a larger whole that I may not comprehend; moreover, I may not know that I don’t.
And why have I chosen this moment for a public confession? Because unsuccessful experiences become valuable when you use them for some constructive purpose. Hubris—a Greek term referring to the character flaw of overconfidence worthy of the attention of the gods—while, perhaps a more dramatic term than is required here, is the kind of overconfidence that we can sometimes feel when we want something to be the case; we even believe that it is. I did believe I could give piano lessons. I couldn’t. It wasn’t tragic—but in what circumstances might such overconfidence result in serious damage?
A perspective is a tiny part of a larger whole about which I may be ignorant. If I can recognize that, I’ve taken one step toward guarding against hubris. Ninety-five percent of the time, I’d wager, you don’t have a clue about how much you don’t know. Before you leap to a judgment, ask yourself how many people you know who deliberately make stupid decisions and then share them broadly. Might there be a reason to assume, first, that you don’t know all that you think you know? Do you have any direct experience that would verify the potential truth of some hastily dashed-off barb? Is it possible that you reveal your own ignorance by leaping to judgment in the first place?
Consider the quality of public discourse in 2019. Consider hubris. The two are connected. If you choose to do anything to contribute to the social fabric that is humanity, please offer moderate, well-considered observations based on what you know—as distinct from what you think you know. We used to refer to that posture as humility. Try to attain humility.
Act from a humble posture. Assume the best in others, unless you have personal experience that warns you to do otherwise. Be critical—but thoughtfully so. The reemergence of humility may well be the reminder the world needs to make a peaceful, productive and joyful future. Congratulations to the Class of 2019.
Adapted from speeches by Dr. Terry Macaluso, Head of School
The Founders’ Award is presented to a graduate who, similar to the individuals who founded EPS, contributes something to the community where nothing was before. In the case of our Founders, that something is Eastside Prep. In the case of Bohn Crain, the product is more digital than material. One of Bohn’s college recommenders observed, “A letter of recommendation does not do Bohn justice, as he has been and continues to be a pillar of our community. Bohn is one of the most conscientious, hardworking, and passionate students that I have worked with. He is the student that every teacher wants in their class, every coach wants on their team, and every advisor wants to work with.” Another wrote, “Bohn will be an asset to any higher educational institution because of his intellectual curiosity, his emotional maturity, and the genuine care he has for other people.” Bohn founded EPSN, the school’s sports network.
As he worked to capture sporting events, he collaborated with other students, turning them into photographers, writers, producers, and editors.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
During academic year 2016-2017, EPS purchased the campus and commenced construction of a 90,000-square-foot building. Overall, the construction of the TALI building, the purchase of the campus, the renovation of the Annex and the LPC involved $50,000,000 in multiple transactions. Talented and very hardworking staff accomplished all of this, but it takes a committed board with astute leadership to support such a venture. During her three years as President of the EPS Board of Trustees, Stacy Graven has provided the kind of experience-based guidance that few presidents of boards of trustees can. Fundamentally, when the president of the board for a non-profit organization works for another non-profit board of trustees, the benefit of her experience flows to the fortunate Head she supervises. The Graven-Johnsens walked onto the Eastside Prep campus in 2009. They found an academic environment that fit their sons, and I think it’s safe to say that the entire family fell in love with Eastside Prep—and we, with them. For leadership during a pivotal time in the life of the school, for nine years of service on the EPS Board of Trustees; and for her insightful wisdom about governance, leadership, construction, and patience, the 2019 Eastside Preparatory School Distinguished Service Award is presented to Stacy Graven.
For five years as Upper School Assistant and as Registrar for ever-larger graduating classes, Shelly Allen has endured, triumphed, succeeded, achieved, completed, answered, fixed, found, solved, saved and taped together almost anything you can imagine. She remains patient in the face of unspeakable rudeness. She responds—instantly—to any request, and she works 200 hours a week. The Upper School Executive Assistant office is out in the open. There’s no protection. Anything can, and will, happen. It’s also an office in which miracles are performed. Solutions found. Peace restored. For her selfless dedication, commitment, and genuine regard for the EPS community, for her willingness to persevere, to make it work, and to smile through it all, the 2019 Eastside Preparatory School Distinguished Service Award is presented to Shelly Allen.
The Critical Thinking Award is presented to the member of the graduating class whose keen appreciation for ideas and willingness to promote intellectual discussion enlivens our classrooms and hallways on a daily basis. Henry Hale shines in all academic realms. Multi-talented, disciplined, and dedicated, he makes each classroom more stimulating and interesting. Math, literature, politics, and music are among the many topics Henry discusses with passion and depth. His greatest strength may well be the humility and care for others he brings to each classroom. The award description specifically cites the ability to “promote intellectual discussion.” It is in this area Henry especially shines. His ability to analyze and synthesize make him a great student in any setting. Teachers consistently cite his ability to discuss and analyze in a manner that helps bring others into the conversation. A faculty member adds, “Henry’s ability to problem solve, abstract, and communicate his thinking is extremely rare.”
The Responsible Action Award is presented to the member of the graduating class who in both quiet, unseen actions, and courageous public moments demonstrates a consistent, sincere regard for the community. It is my belief MollyAnn Burkey may be flawless in this regard—absolutely, hopelessly responsible. If this student has ever NOT done something assigned, that fact has eluded every adult in the school. A model student, MollyAnn’s great sense of responsibility impacts our greater community even more significantly than it fuels her own achievement. Each class period she treats the matter at hand with enthusiasm and seriousness of purpose, and that example rubs off on others in the most positive ways. In the school’s letter of recommendation that accompanied each college application, we wrote, “In seven years of working with MollyAnn, the only thing we’ve found to criticize is her inability to recognize just how remarkable she is.” Lofty praise, and fully deserved
The Compassionate Leadership Award is presented to the member of the graduating class whose actions consistently reflect the importance of personal responsibility and compassion for others, setting an example for all to follow. Compassion starts with the ability to understand the needs of others. Millan Shenoy listens, really listens, to those around him, be it in a classroom, the hallways or anywhere in our community. Described as the “emotional center of his grade,” Millan is a reliable, engaging presence everywhere in the school. One faculty member writes, “He is consistently kind, inclusive, and does so in a way rich with integrity.” One of his peers writes, “Millan makes the classroom a comfortable environment to share in. Even outside of class he is accepting and patient with questions and discussions on any topic.” As with any strong leader, Millan is dedicated to the community as a whole. He advocates for others constantly and is genuinely concerned about everyone’s well-being.
The Wise Innovation Award is presented to the member of the graduating class whose creativity, curiosity, and contributions illuminate new possibilities and inspire others to similar exploration.
Let’s face it, being innovative, truly innovative, requires being different—often confidently different. I admire Audrey Whitmer in countless ways. Her ability to be “confidently different” has been evident from the day she walked through our doors. One faculty member writes, “Regardless of the task, she is finding a new way to solve it or answer it. She’s consistently coming up with new approaches and tools. And she seeks out the avenues that allow her to explore these.” A classmate writes “Audrey is always asking the ‘what if’ questions in class, and…her questions always lead the class to focus on a much more detailed, narrowed topic that we are all excited to explore.” Audrey, your curiosity and contributions do “illuminate new possibilities and inspire others to similar exploration.”