Stories and updates from around campus

Williston Graduates 124 Members of the Class of 2017

Senior class president Natalie Aquadro prepares to lead her class beneath the tent for Commencement.

On a cool gray Sunday, as the rain held off, 124 students graduated from the Williston Northampton School during its 176th Commencement exercises. Graduates, their classmates, faculty, families, trustees, and special guests gathered on May 28, 2017, under a white tent on the Quad to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2017. (See the video here.) (See photos here.)

Head of School Robert W. Hill III presided over the event by comparing graduating high school to a much-watched YouTube video of a sea lion pulling a toddler into the sea (the toddler, and her dad, who rescued her, were fine). (Read his amusing—and poignant—remarks here.) Mr. Hill also introduced his mentor from his Middlebury College days, keynote speaker John McCardell Jr., the vice-chancellor of The University of the South and president emeritus of Middlebury College. Continue reading

Origin Story: Commencement Traditions

In the next few days seniors and underclassmen alike will gather for annual ceremonies in which people march around in strange clothes, ring bells, and so on.  Some of what we do is easily explained.  We process to Highland bagpipes because back in the 1950s, Headmaster Phillips Stevens liked pipe bands.  Some is less obvious, but believe it or not, there is meaning to all of this. 

There are two main events: Baccalaureate and Commencement.  Baccalaureate – the name has nothing to do with the Roman god Bacchus; rather it is from the same root as the word “bachelor,” from medieval times when young men, on the evening before they became knights, kept an all-night prayer vigil in church.  So the Baccalaureate service, while not especially religious here at secular Williston, is a serious event concerning our seniors’ transition to adulthood.  I’ve been asked why graduation, the final moment of the school year, is called “Commencement.”  There was a popular cliché in the seventies that actually applies here.  Seniors: Sunday will be the first day of the rest of your lives. Continue reading

Commencement Speaker McCardell Leads the University of the South

Bonnie and John McCardell

John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College, and the vice-chancellor of Sewanee: The University of the South, will be the speaker at the 176th Commencement of the Williston Northampton School.

In 2015, McCardell was appointed chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). NAICU board members set the association agenda on federal higher education policy; actively encourage support of association priorities and initiatives; and oversee the organization’s financial administration. Continue reading

Students Dedicate Yearbook to Jenna Motyka

Ms. Motyka gives Gabby Mercier a hug.

A standing, whooping, stomping ovation, and even some tears, greeted the dedication of the 2017 Williston Northampton School yearbook, The Log. Its three editorsseniors Emma Reynolds, Gabby Mercier, and Saul Blain—announced at a recent assembly that this year’s edition is dedicated to Jenna Motyka, coordinator of student services.  Mr. Seamon captured video of the moment. The following is the transcript of the dedication, which was read by Emma Reynolds. Continue reading

Student Life Speaker Sheds Light on Teenage Brain

Dr. Abigail Judge addresses students at a recent Student Life assembly.

Teens need to know the difference between “hot” and “cold” cognition, and how making decisions in each of these emotional states can bring vastly different outcomes. Student Life Speaker Abigail Judge, a Cambridge therapist who also teaches at Harvard Medical School and conducts research at Massachusetts General Hospital, connected with her teenage audience using humor and self-deprecation during a recent assembly. Her message: know your brain.

“Hot” cognition occurs when emotions are high, when someone is upset, angry, or sad. Teens in this state should notice their feelings (a tight stomach, sweaty hands, a feeling of anguish, for example) and put their phone down. This is not the time to send a text or reply to a provoking phone call. In the cold light of day, Judge said, we all make better judgment calls on how to interact with people. Continue reading

Stories and updates from around campus