Be courageous, speakers told the Class of 2012 during The Williston Northampton School’s 171st Commencement on June 2. As rain fell outside the Athletic Center, and the graduates prepared to open a new chapter in their lives, commencement speakers reminded them to always have the courage to do the right thing, the courage to persist, and the courage to stand up for their ideals.
“You will scatter across the globe, to new and unfamiliar pathways,” said Head of School Robert W. Hill during his opening remarks. “It’s going to take courage for you to maintain the kind of spirit you have shown here.”
Hill reminded seniors about what they had learned at Williston—to welcome a diversity of ideas, to be self-reflective, to be good people. He urged students to continue to express their passions and their integrity even beyond the sanctuary of the school.
“Courage motivates you to step in others’ shoes, to do the right thing when no one is looking or to cut a new pathway,” he said.
Joanna T. Lau P’13 said it was that sort of courage that her mother, Sophie, showed during years of hardship and uncertainty. Lau, the founder and CEO of LAU Technologies, spoke during her commencement address about Sophie’s determination to educate her eight children. Sophie’s story, Lau said, “epitomized courage, faith, perseverance, and unconditional love.”
“You must have courage to face challenges and unknowns in your lives,” Lau said, “the courage that tests your limit, your character, and your ability to overcome fear and despair. As you enter the next chapter of your life, choose wisely, be accountable and make a difference.”
Lau told seniors that their lives would bring new challenges, but that they could overcome any obstacle as long as they persisted.
“There is a Sophie in each of you,” she said. “Go forth with courage in your next chapter. Have faith in all you do.”
An unexpected moment of courage and persistence occurred during the presentation of diplomas when the Holleran family entered quietly in the back of the Athletic Center. On their way to the school from Rhode Island, they had had a collision with a deer, but had continued on in hopes of making it to the ceremony on time.
Their arrival, just moments after son Joseph Holleran crossed the stage, caused a flurry of activity. As the graduates, holding their diplomas, stood to salute the audience with their rendition of “Sammy,” school officials took a moment to confer.
Holleran was then called back to the stage and, to wild applause both from his family and fellow classmates, received his diploma one more time from Head of School Hill, Board of Trustees President Fred A. Allardyce ’59, and Academic Dean Gregory Tuleja.
During the announcement of prizes, 13 seniors were recognized for outstanding academic prowess and 11 were inducted into the Cum Laude Society. Among the honors: Adrian Mendoza received the Archibald V. Galbraith Prize for top young man in his class; Katherine Cavanaugh received the Sarah B. Whitaker Prize (White Blazer Award) for top young woman; Hansen Yang was named class valedictorian.
Senior class speaker Addison Maria Coley took an opportunity to urge the Class of 2012 to be grateful, thank their loved ones, and savor the moment. She brought out a tiny bell and rang it to remind the seniors how their year had begun and was now ending.
“With the ringing of my bell, I hope we all feel the finality of this moment,” she said. “Don’t forget about this place and these people. Williston will always be our roots, and the best we can do as alumni is to honor everything Williston has given us.”
As is traditional for the closing of commencement at Williston Northampton, the graduates then walked along a line of faculty in a circuit around the gymnasium floor, thanking them and bidding them farewell.