Baccalaureate Remarks by Head of School Bob Hill

Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh

Good evening and welcome to parents, faculty, guests, and especially the Class of 2015.

As most of you know, the tradition of the Baccalaureate Service dates back to the Middle Ages where it signified a student’s attainment of his religious orders. For the Class of 2015, I have seen the list where you are headed to college next year and as best I can tell none of you has listed a monastery or convent, though there might be parents in the audience who think that’s not such a bad idea.

Given the historical roots of this ceremony, which retains all of the symbolism and meaning of a significant rite of passage, I’ve been searching for the right speech, should it be a homily, a sermon, a lecture. Whatever I decided, I knew that I must find a theme that befits the occasion, words that are fittingly solemn, maybe even filled with wisdom.

So I’ve decided to talk to you, Class of 2015, about household pets. Specifically, I want to talk to you about dogs and cats. In a show of hands how many of you have had one of these wonderful animals living under your roof at home. Some of you may even permit that beloved pet to sleep in your room, on your bed, or perhaps even in your bed with you.

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Senior Commencement Address by Cade Zawacki

Photo by Matthew CavanaughHello and once again welcome to everyone who is here today.

For the first time, perhaps in my life, I feel wise. I feel as though, by this point in time, I have gained enough knowledge, gone through enough personal experiences, succeeded and failed enough times, that I have accumulated at least some valuable information that others can truly benefit from hearing. And of course, as I continue to grow, so will this wisdom, but for now, I am honored to be given the opportunity to share with you today some of these things that I have learned. `

Now, the graduating class already know what this speech is about. But for the rest of you here, and for those who have forgotten, let me recap: this speech, it’s going to be odd. This speech, it’s going to be different. And I hope, more than anything, that this speech will be memorable. Because, you see, too often I have witnessed speeches become lost in their own words – perhaps eloquently written, but in the years or even days following, you can’t seem to remember what they were about, you cannot recall those reflections, life lessons, and stories that the speaker referred to and referenced. The challenging part however, about trying to write a memorable speech for graduation is that it is impossible to expect one person to sum up the infinitely diverse experiences of many into a single, all-encompassing, climactic address – and so faced with this challenge, I cheated.

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Head of School Bob Hill’s Commencement 2015 Remarks

Good morning and welcome to The Williston Northampton School’s 174th Commencement. Welcome to parents, families, guests, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff.

I want to begin this morning, by recognizing that this ceremony falls on Memorial Day weekend. So I would ask that we begin with a moment of silent reflection for all those who gave their lives in service to our country.

Thank you.

So welcome Classes of 2018, 2017, 2016, and especially, you, the Class of 2015.

Yesterday during our Academic Awards Ceremony, I asked the audience to acknowledge Williston’s astonishingly committed teachers who work so tirelessly and selflessly to help students achieve their goals. No doubt that Purpose, Passion, and Integrity don’t exist without the guidance of this fine faculty. In that spirit, 2015, there are a lot of people who came here today just for you, because they love you and supported you–parents, relatives, guardians, and friends. So I ask that 2015 stand and face the audience to show your collective appreciation for all of those folks in attendance this morning.

Class of 2015, you have been hearing for the past two weeks—from just about everyone—to cherish the memories of your Williston experience. Seriously, how are you supposed to do that when your 32 gig iPhone has been flashing the warning that “storage for the device is at capacity.” What a downer of a message for this fine morning: “You have no more capacity for memory.” Let’s think about that: What if, in the middle of one of your most exciting academic moments at Williston, say in a class debate when Emmett and Bickerstaff were squaring off, that a little signal went out in your brain that said “you have exceeded storage for this device.” What do you do then? Are you supposed to rush over to tech support screaming for Mr. Lorenzati? He probably knows you are on your way anyway since we track you guys with a little chip in your Surfaces. Can your brain really be filled to capacity?

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Academic Award Remarks 2015 by Head of School Bob Hill

Editor’s note: The following Award Ceremony Welcome was presented by Robert W. Hill III on May 23, 2014.

Good afternoon and a special welcome to parents, families, guests, and to all of our students gathered to celebrate the essence of our lives at Williston: academic accomplishments. I enjoy the last two weeks of the year—even as I live in mortal terror for seniors as they get closer to Commencement—since the last two weeks bring us together numerous times to honor our students. Hard work, persistence, resilience, determination, integrity—whether in the classroom or in an extra-curricular pursuit—are traits that should always be praised and will take you far in life.

What a year it has been for Williston! Yesterday we celebrated the many athletic achievements at both the individual and team level for the spring term. Sports are always in the public eye and I confess to tweeting out scores or great plays as I see them (I do that, too, when I visit classrooms). I’ve always wondered what it must be like to dunk a basketball, or play on an undefeated hockey team, or be like Gabby and never see the back of another runner for six consecutive years. That was what crossed my mind yesterday.

But today, I think of the academic sphere. We witnessed acclaimed performances in the arts this year—recently our Teller Chorus, Cats, and Widdigers set a new high mark with “Frostiana.” Those of you who saw or performed in As You Like It know very well, the Williston Theatre is second to none. And the senior projects were amazing, whether you saw Gabe’s cool light show last night or Nick and Matt’s staging of “The Clean House,” or the Grubb’s Gallery exhibitions, or the integrated science presentations, the list goes on and on. This year teemed with incredible intellectual and creative accomplishments generated by students all year long—often outside of the public gaze.

But just as students, some of whom we will publicly recognize here this morning, work deep into the night, or spend countless hours perfecting a paper, a math proof, a lab assignment, so too do your teachers. You are supported every step of the way. Williston’s teachers are unique in my experience in the ends to which they go to advise, mentor, listen, and support their students. Last second extra help? No problem. Another draft of a college essay? No problem. Inspiring you with a desire to learn for the life long quest of becoming an informed, thoughtful, and relevant member of society? No problem. Your teachers sacrifice for you all the time, and never make you feel guilty about it the way we parents do. Please join me in thanking the Williston faculty who are arrayed behind me.

As I emcee today’s ceremony, I ask that you pay attention to the citations that are read and attached to names from Williston’s history. It’s good to remember, that what we celebrate today connects us to Williston’s past.

See the full list of academic award winners.

Senior Dinner Speech by Emmett O’Malley

How much are we going to miss this place? Now that’s a good question. So good, in fact, that there is no clear answer. For any of us.

I think sometimes, we’re going to miss the campus, I think sometimes we’re going to miss competing in a Williston uniform, I think sometimes we’re going to miss that ineffably comforting vibe every Williston classroom exudes, I think sometimes we’re going to miss the people that make Williston Williston, and I think sometimes we’re going to miss signing every sheet that doesn’t cover our bed before battling the world beyond Nini’s.

Okay, that last one was a bit of a stretch, but the one before that, yep, I think that’s the one. That’s what we have to cherish. That’s what we’ll carry with us forever. Our relationships. The ones we’ve all founded with peers, faculty, and staff that have shaped our time here.

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