NMH grads encouraged to embrace life’s uncertainty during virtual commencement

  • The Northfield Mount Hermon School Class of 2020, pictured in a group photo taken in the fall of 2019, graduated during a virtual ceremony on Sunday. Contributed photo

  • Northfield Mount Hermon School Class of 2020 Valedictorian Maia Castro-Santos, of Gill. Contributed photo

  • Contributed photo Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 5/24/2020 9:00:21 PM

GILL — Students and their families joined in from computer screens around the world on Sunday for Northfield Mount Hermon School’s first virtual commencement, kicking off Franklin County’s 2020 graduation season.

Head of School Brian Hargrove said that while the event was unlike anything the coeducational boarding and day school had hosted before, “it was driven by the same devotion that shapes our traditional on-campus commencement. Our community came together with full hearts to honor and launch our graduates with the love and support that defines the student experience at Northfield Mount Hermon.”

The 201 graduates had already been treated to several days of celebratory virtual events that were a combination of pre-recorded videos and live Zoom gatherings. Student-faculty trivia, musical performances by student ensembles, speeches by the Class of 2020 valedictorian and co-salutatorians, and an awards ceremony were all assembled in the final weeks of the school year.

“It’s humbling to see how our students, faculty and staff pulled this together in such a meaningful way,” Hargrove said. NMH School currently enrolls 655 students from 31 states and 53 countries.

Commencement speaker Ellyn Spragins, an award-winning journalist and author who graduated from NMH in 1972 and whose book, “What I Know Now: Letters To My Younger Self,” was a New York Times bestseller, had to pivot, too. She admitted that delivering an inspirational speech via video was never part of her plan.

“What happens,” she wondered, “when the world veers off course and lands a punch to the gut?” Her answer was, “You bounce back.

“Pain, suffering and unexpected circumstances are catalysts for growth,” Spragins said. “We change. We learn. We accept that our plans have been upended. That change of your perspective can generate something astonishing: renewal, innovation, a great upwelling of our individual and collective imaginations.”

NMH’s tradition is to have a student orator — selected by students and faculty — speak during commencement, and the Class of 2020 oration was delivered by Olisa Tasie-Amadi. He urged his classmates to take their “unfinished ending” of high school in stride.

“Pour out your soul and surrender yourself to the uncertainty of life,” he said in a video speech delivered from his home in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. “Focus on the days, the minutes, the seconds, and live specifically. Life was never meant to be predictable or measured, so live eccentrically. Your life may be broken down and rebuilt many times over, but in the end, it will still be your head, your heart and your hands.”

“I am proud of the Class of 2020,” Hargrove said. “I am grateful for their families’ trust in NMH. And I am amazed by my colleagues, the teachers and staff members, who this spring have worked harder than ever to provide our students with a world-class education and support and love.”

Franklin County graduates and awards

Connor Bagdon of Sunderland; Wyatt Bandy-Page of Shelburne Falls; Ella Bathory-Peeler of Gill, co-salutatorian, The Florence Chapman Haslun Prize, Cum Laude; Lucinda Brock of Greenfield; Adam Carlisle of Ashfield; Maia Castro-Santos of Gill, valedictorian, The Art Purchase Prize, Cum Laude; Sean Damon of Northfield; Elizabeth Flynn of Greenfield; Natalie Foster of Northfield; Thomas Graves of Greenfield, The Thompson Art Prize; Marina Keator of Gill, The Joseph T. Elliott Jr. Prize in Music, The Piscuskas Day Student Prize, Cum Laude; Charles Kenyon of Gill; Harrison Kerber of Bernardston, The Marie Hood Award; Jude Lindale of Northfield; Isabel May of Erving, The Head of School’s Award, Cum Laude; Sara O’Keefe of Orange; Connor Theriault of Gill; Jack Theriault of Gill; Althea Tierney of Gill, The NMH Resident Leader Award, Cum Laude; and Ashley Wrisley of Greenfield.

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