Bright blue sky and hot summer sunshine set the stage for a unique and wonderful reunion of sorts as Brunswick graduated 102 members of the Class of 2020 at its 118th Commencement exercises on Saturday, July 25.
“Guys, I simply can’t describe how good it is to see all of you here today,” Head of School Thomas W. Philip told the graduates as he opened the ceremony.
“To see you back on campus warms the heart.”
Graduates, whose senior year was abruptly sidelined on March 11, paraded onto Robert L. Cosby Field for a physically-distanced ceremony that featured a trio of thoughtful speakers who reflected on both the Brunswick experience and the dramatic, worldwide changes of the last five months.
Leading the parade was a handful of faculty who took their seats in the bleachers, facing the graduates.
Parents, extended family, and community members from Greenwich Academy and around the world — hundreds and hundreds of them in all — watched the ceremony from a distance online.
Philip said he has been thinking a great deal about the Class of 2020 over the past several months, and despite the historic difficulties of the present moment, he wakes each morning filled with excitement and hope.
It’s moments like this, he said, that are ripe for great innovation and historic change for the good.
It’s moments like this, he said, for which Brunswick was built.
“What this school was actually established to do is to prepare you for exactly moments like this,” he said. “Brunswick’s mission is to take young men of talent and push them. To instill in them, often despite their privilege, a sense of humility and justice. And critically, to kindle a spirit of toughness for those times when toughness and perseverance are needed.”
“I can’t help but be hopeful because I know there are young men like you in the world,” he said. “Gentlemen, I know you are ready for this moment.”
Valedictorian Jamison Meindl introduced “Ivy” speaker Kamil M. Salame.
Salame cited Brunswick not just for the way it has responded to the pandemic, but also for the all the different ways it has more routinely captured the imagination of children from the playgrounds of the Pre School right on up to the playing fields of the Upper School, including of course in the classroom, on the stage in Baker Theater, and far beyond.
“When your kids ask you about being the ‘Corona Class,’” he advised, “be honest about how tough it was as an 18-year-old to spend your final days at the school you love through a screen.
“But then, talk about what we achieved as a community, how you never felt closer to your classmates than when you were forced to be apart.”
Ronald R. VanBelle, director of athletics and Upper School math teacher, served as faculty speaker.
VanBelle offered three pieces of advice to graduates: stay in the moment, keep your sense of humor, and “be a good guy.”
He cited the pandemic for the simple lessons it has offered in how to slow down, and, in particular, for how it has underscored our need for human connection, especially in the form of a handshake.
“Society has taught you to focus on doing over being,” VanBelle told the graduates. “We are all in such a hurry all the time to get to what’s next.
“As a result of the last few months, however, we have all slowed down a bit,” he said. “We have reconnected with our families, for good or bad, but I suspect mostly for good.”
VanBelle predicted the iconic Brunswick handshake, sidelined for the moment by the pandemic, will return.
He offered these final thoughts to the graduates:
“You will be remembered as the class that missed out on their senior spring and had to graduate in shifts on a football field, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing,” he said, adding:
“Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end.
“Oh, and remember: Come back and visit your old teachers and coaches here at Brunswick.
“And when you do, if you want, I have a handshake waiting for you.”
Graduates recognized with awards of distinction were:
Kamil M. Salame
Community Service Award:
Kamil M. Salame
Charles P. Burnett
Jenkins Athletic Award:
Clayton L. Ostrover
Thomas A. Altman Prize:
Peter R. DiChiara
Robert L. Cosby Award:
Jean-Bernard R. Zoungrana
A. Macdonald Caputo Award:
Alexander M. Burdick
Nicholas D. Winegardner
Logan D. Darrin
Nadjingar S. Ngbokoli
Tucker L. Slattery
Head of School's Trophy:
Henry B. Foster