Good morning. Please be seated.
It is an honor to welcome you to the 84th graduation ceremony at St. Andrew's. We welcome our trustees, alumni, and particularly parents, grandparents, siblings, and family members to this occasion. And we thank Matt Carroll and Jen Carroll both for advising this class and speaking so eloquently this morning in Chapel.
Since 1929, amidst national struggles, triumphs, opportunities, and challenges, through World War II, the Cold War, and the 9-11 attacks, St. Andrew's has held a ceremony on this beautiful campus, sending our young men and women out to do the work of grace and goodness in the world.
This year, we gather at a time of particular national confusion, unrest, polarization, and division in our land. We live in an era of narcissism, distraction, certainty, and cynicism. We have perfected the art of applauding the inflexibility of our own opinions and judgment. We have allowed the din of passionate certainty to temporarily dominate the voices of reason, grace, empathy, moderation, and service. Therefore, the rites of graduation all around the country this year will collectively defend the power of education, the majesty of generosity, the promise of opening ourselves up to opinions and conversations and arguments that challenge our sense of assurance and certainty.
Graduation in America this year is all about the rescue of civility, commitment, and courage in our democratic society. It is an assertion of the vision Vic Malhotra shared with us last weekend: the emergence of a model of servant leadership for the 21st Century.
I take as our spirit today these words, spoken in April 1968 by Senator Robert Kennedy after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
What we need in the United States is not division: what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country.
It is fitting that this graduation takes place on the eve of Memorial Day Weekend in the United States, a time when citizens of this country pause to remember those who gave their lives for freedom, who confronted danger, fear, and suffering all because of their faith and belief in the sacred principles of the American ideal.
I ask all members of our Commencement community who served in the armed forces of this country to stand so that we can thank you for your service, and pledge enduring support to all who serve the cause of freedom throughout the world.
Commencement gives me as a Head of School the opportunity to express gratitude for our Founding trustees and leaders who began this educational experiment with the vision of a small residential community open to all regardless of means; for our three previous Heads of School who daily teach me how to translate a mission created in 1929 to a School exploring the contours of the first 20 years of the 21st century; for our current faculty who literally bring the rhetoric and mission statement to life and vitality every day: we honor the teacher in the ER room, the teacher in the dining room at 7:00 a.m. every morning, the teacher walking the campus with an advisee, the teacher who establishes a distinctive culture of family in a dorm, on a team in an ensemble, in an advisor group, the teacher who makes the world of learning so exciting and powerful, the teacher whose very intention, patience, and character serves as a guiding light for the lives of our students. St. Andrew's has always been a place where teachers give more, imagine more, share more, aspire for more, and the men and women sitting behind me today represent that tradition from morning, to noon, to night. Please join me in thanking the faculty for their work with our students each and every day.
This year at Commencement, we will begin a new tradition, recognizing and honoring a member of our staff from our administrative offices, from our maintenance and grounds department, from our housekeeping staff, from our security staff. Each day these offices create a culture of excellence that makes the work of the faculty and students possible. Our staff members enact the spirit and soul of the School through their dedication, skill, sense of humor, and humanity. We thank each man and woman who serves the School so faithfully, generously each and every day of the year.
Would the following members of the staff come forward at this time:
Administrative Office - Head of School Assistant Jo Graves
Maintenance - Phil Pensinger
Housekeeping - Melba Dixon
Security - Phil Davis
Today, Scott Sipprelle completes his first year as Chair of the St. Andrew's Board of Trustees. His vision, generosity, belief in the students and faculty of St. Andrew's; his wisdom, advice, generosity, availability, encouragement, and counsel allow me to give my heart and soul to the mission of St. Andrew's School. Scott today is joined by many members of the Board, who collectively give of their time and energy to make St. Andrew's progress. Please join me in thanking Scott and all the trustees for their service to the School.
Each year at graduation, we thank members of the faculty who will be leaving us at the end of the academic year.
- LeMar McLean '00 returned to St. Andrew's this spring to direct our spring theatrical production and to teach classes in public speaking and theatre. He spoke to the Class of 2017 last Sunday night at our senior dinner, and his advice and perspective was wise, thoughtful, and animated. We thank LeMar for his work with us this spring.
- Laura Bleeke has done a wonderful job this spring working with Lou Berl and the great girls' rowing program at St. Andrew's. Her contributions as a coach, role model, dorm parent have been superb. We thank Laura for her service to St. Andrew's this spring.
- Pemberton Heath completes her second term of service to St. Andrew's as a teacher of English and Math. As a dorm parent in Moss Annex, as a coach of girls' basketball and girls' soccer, as a woman of great intelligence, leadership, and energy, Pemberton embodies the virtue of St. Andrew's in a very powerful and compelling way. Thank you, Pemberton.
- Kellyann Conners has worked at St. Andrew's for four years, as a gifted teacher of religion, a dorm parent, and as a varsity head coach in both the girls' basketball and girls' soccer programs. Thoughtful, discerning, generous, and kind, Kellyann has led St. Andrew's through important discussions and reflections on gender, coeducation, and religious diversity. We thank her for her great service to the School.
- Katherine Crowley has taught English and creative writing for four years at St. Andrew's, served as a dorm parent, advisor, and coach in both boys' and girls' soccer programs and the girls' soccer, lacrosse, and tennis programs. Her flexibility and expertise in virtually every area of School life has made a profound difference in the lives of her students, dorm residents, and athletes. Thank you, Katherine, for your service to St. Andrew's.
- For the past three years, Gretchen Hagenbuch has served St. Andrew's as a teacher of wellness, dorm parent, coach of volleyball and girls' soccer, and advisor. She knows St. Andrew's well from her many years of consulting visits through Freedom from Chemical Dependency, and she leaves with our thanks for her many contributions to our culture.
- After 23 years of distinguished and generous service to St. Andrew's, Diahann Johnson will leave us at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. As a person who poured energy, patience, wisdom, and love into the community and St. Andrew's, as a woman of faith and a woman of great courage, compassion, and empathy, as a teacher who literally defined the beauty, majesty, and grace of French language, culture, and literature, Diahann Johnson made enduring contributions to this School.
As a parent, role model, department head, leader of the Model U.N., and international service trips, Diahann tied the work of St. Andrew's to the work of the United States and the world. We honor her today for her great service to St. Andrew's. Diahann — please come forward to receive this gift marking this day and your distinguished career at St. Andrew's.
It is an honor for me now to introduce our Commencement speaker, L. Heather Mitchell.
I have known Heather now for over 25 years, a time span that covers her matriculation as a III Former at St. Andrew's in 1988 to her work as a member of the St. Andrew's Board of Trustees today. If you are lucky enough to meet Heather's daughter Carter you will have a good sense of the personality, curiosity, intelligence, generosity, and spirit that Heather brought to St. Andrew's as a student. She was an outstanding scholar and athlete; she was a gifted singer, actress, and leader in her class. She was also a young woman intent on improving, developing, and cultivating the experience of coeducation and the experience of students of color at St. Andrew's.
Heather's interest in American society's attitudes and policies toward women and people of color emerged from her remarkable family and particularly from her grandfather The Right Reverend Quintin Ebenezer Primo, Jr., the first African American bishop elected in the dioceses of Chicago and Delaware. Bishop Primo's legacy of faith, reconciliation, and social justice lives on in Chicago, in Delaware, in the lives of his children and his grandchildren.
Heather is a graduate of Williams College, where she earned a B.A. degree in English and was a Herbert Lehman Scholar, NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In 2004, Heather earned her Master's degree in Liberal Studies (highest honors) at Dartmouth College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. During her career at Dartmouth, Heather earned the Graduate Community Service Prize and the Samuel McGill Graduate Student Award.
Her professional career has included leadership experience in both education and business. From 1998-1999, Heather taught English, served as Associate Director of Admissions, coach and advisor of multicultural life at St. Andrew's. From 2000-2003, Heather directed the Steppingstone Scholars Program, an innovative organization that identifies, recruits, and places low income, public school students into independent, magnet, and charter schools in the Philadelphia area.
Since 2004, Heather has worked with Capri Capital Partners, LLC. During her career, she has served as President and Chief Operating Officer, Head of Asset Management; Principal and Chief Administrative Officer; Principal, Investor Relations; Vice President, Client Relations; Vice President, Public Affairs; and Assistant to the Chairman.
Heather currently serves on the St. Andrew's Board of Trustees; she is the Co-Chairman of the Primo Center for Women and Children (providing innovative programming for some of Chicago's most vulnerable residents, homeless women and children); and the Treasurer of the Board of Directors for Steppenwolf Theatre Co.
She and her husband Kenny Mitchell are the proud parents of Carter Mitchell, the remarkable poised, brilliant, and thoughtful girl who reminds me so much of her mother.
I know I speak for Elizabeth and Will Speers when I say that we love Heather dearly: we are proud of her grace, spirit, generosity, love of people, and love of life, burning passion for understanding, reconciliation, and dialogue on matters that still perplex and blind the American soul. It is, therefore, an honor to have her and her family back at St. Andrew's this morning.
Please welcome L. Heather Mitchell.