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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

The Front Lawn

Vincent ’25 delivers final Chapel Talk of the 2023-2024 school year

2023-2024 ASSIST scholar Vincent Von Der Forst ’25 reflected on leaving his home in Bavaria, Germany for a year of new friendships and experiences at St. Andrew’s in the final Chapel Talk of the school year. 

Good afternoon everybody.

Last Saturday, Mary Troy and I walked around the pond. Or at least we tried, got lost halfway and Ms. Kerrane had to pick us up and drive us back to campus (again, thank you so much, Mrs. Kerrane). Not our brightest moment… Mary and I had always planned to go on this adventure since the very beginning of the school year, but we never really seriously considered doing it—until the day before graduation. When I woke up that morning, I felt like I was missing out on something so crucial to my experience at St. Andrew’s that I wouldn’t be able to leave here without doing it. So I texted Mary, “Do you want to walk around the pond?” and she answered with, “Yeah, let’s try it.” We packed snacks, water bottles, and a speaker and started walking towards the unknown, equipped with a Strava map, a guide made by Daisy and Madeleine, and the excitement for what would turn out to be one of my key memories this year.

When we entered the woods down by Ms. McGrath’s house, I had a similar feeling of joy and fear of the unknown that I had when I left my home on August 15th, knowing that I would not come back for another 300 days. I remember my mum standing in the doorway that morning, waving goodbye with tears in her eyes. I remember crying myself when I hugged my sister in the airport and I remember my dad’s bald head sticking out of the airport crowd as I walked through security. I always knew that I wanted to go abroad, but at that moment, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. I was leaving everything and everybody I cared about behind, only because of some random boarding school in the middle of nowhere (no offense, of course). For me, spending a year in the U.S. meant a time difference of six hours, having to find new friends, and getting used to a completely new environment. Suddenly, the English language would be my only way to communicate (of course except for D-Block French with Mme Pears - merci pour ça). And it also meant measuring everything in teaspoons, cups, gallons, inches, feet, yards, miles, or Fahrenheit—something I’m still not used to. 

But I was as ready as I could, I had worked my way through the handbook and I finished my summer readings. So when the airplane took off to this new world, I was really excited. Around eight hours, several movies, and an eternity of staring out of the window later, I finally arrived in the U.S.. After a four-day-long orientation in Connecticut, I arrived at New Jersey airport, where Mr. Steve, one of the school drivers, picked me up. Because I was completely exhausted, we didn’t talk much during the ride, but he gave me one piece of advice that is still with me today: He said, “When you’re in America, never talk about politics.”

Before coming to St. Andrew’s, I spent ten days at Peter and Henry Bird’s house in Sea Bright, New Jersey and I was immediately struck by the beauty of the beaches, the fresh and salty air, and, most importantly, the people. As soon as I saw the Birds waving in their doorway, I knew that this year was gonna be amazing. In those 10 days, I ate my first lobster, ran a two-mile race with Peter and Henry (which was maybe not the smartest idea, but back then, I didn’t know about their passion for cross country), we got stranded in a little boat because the motor broke, I visited New York, and I also tried surfing. After those 10 amazing and eventful days, I wrote in my diary, “The Birds are the nicest people and the best host family I could have ever imagined.” Tomorrow, they’ll pick us up and I will, now for the last time, spend 10 more days with them. I am so incredibly grateful for them and their hospitality—thank you so much!

Then, on August 31st, we arrived on St. Andrew’s campus. After having registered myself in the Field House, I carried my suitcases up to Schmolze and stumbled into Luke Ketzner, one of my future roommates. He excitedly asked me, “Are you Vincent?” I responded with “yes” and he showed me to our room. Shortly after, I bumped into a—and I am quoting him here right now—“tall, dark, handsome man” and with Tyrus, Schmolze 303 was complete. They always say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and I think that I will leave here with one-fifth of Tyrus’s American charm and great advice, and one-fifth of Luke’s determination and grit. And seriously, Tyrus and Luke, the past nine months felt like a never ending sleepover and I will miss our after-lights-out talks and, even more so, our Middletown Monopoly gaming sessions. You taught me how to sleep like a stone, how to bribe somebody for their food, and how to be a good friend. Even though I was afraid when I was told that I would have two roommates, I couldn’t think of any better duo than you guys.

The days of preseason flew by, and suddenly, school started. A normal day here at St. Andrew’s was so much different from what I had been used to in Germany, and it honestly took me a while to fully master the routine of breakfast check-ins, dress code, and table rotations. What first looked like a simple lunch break soon became one of my favorite parts of the day and every family-style meal, I looked forward to getting to know everybody at my table. Not knowing what to expect from an American high school cafeteria, I found myself surprised with the hundreds of delicious meals I had, and of course, Pizza Friday was my absolute favorite. Thank you, SAGE!

One of the most transformative events, though, were my classes. I was afraid of not being able to keep up with my peers and of not being able to express all my thoughts and opinions in an understandable way. But my worries were for nothing. Every teacher and every classmate was so welcoming and would repeat a word even four more times until I would understand it. I asked hundreds of stupid questions and received thousands of helpful answers. During a chemistry quiz at the beginning of the year, I remember writing ‘firelighter’ instead of ‘fire extinguisher,’ and ‘handcuffs’ instead of ‘gloves.’ Thank you, Mr. Guldin, for being patient with me! In other classes, I had similar experiences, but soon, I started to feel like a part of the class, and this attitude helped me a lot. Dr. Geiersbach’s chamber music block was one of my favorite classes this year. Ms. Cusick’s English class was probably one of the most challenging ones. In Mr. Edmond’s public history class, I first learned how to participate in an academic round table discussion, and the memories of math with Mr. Kwon (including the late-night study room sessions for the next quest) will remain with me for a long time. In the second semester, Mr. Finch, my data science teacher, taught me how to predict the future with the help of big data, and in Dr. Hyde’s nuclear physics and ethics [class], which was probably my most interesting class here at St. Andrew’s, I first encountered Einstein’s relativity theory and argued for and against the prohibition of nuclear weapons. All the courses that I took were incredibly engaging and insightful, and I will miss the St. Andrew’s teaching style. Thank you so much to all of my teachers, for helping me push my boundaries and broadening my horizon.

Another essential part of my St. Andrew’s experience was the orchestra and the chamber music guild. Every week, I was looking forward to sitting down in the rehearsal room and creating beautiful, and sometimes not-so beautiful, melodies. I enjoyed playing in Engelhard Hall and I can’t believe that I won’t be here for the next concerts (of course I’ll be watching from the livestream!). Since the beginning of the school year, I’ve been begging Dr. G to play Dvorak’s 9th symphony, and on Arts Weekend, we finally did it! The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak came to the U.S. in 1892 and composed his “New World Symphony,” describing his experiences in a new and strange, but beautiful country. Playing the piece with everybody else that night was truly special, because I could resonate with Dvorak’s experiences. So thank you to everybody in the orchestra for helping make this wish come true.   

When I looked at the afternoon activities, my parents told me to do something to get out of my comfort zone, so I signed up for the fall play. I had never done anything related to acting and theatre, and yet from the moment I stepped into Forbes Theatre and met Mrs. Taylor and the rest of the cast, I was amazed by the atmosphere and this sense of enthusiasm in the room. Surprisingly, I got one of the main parts in one of the plays, and I completely loved it. The feeling right before the curtain call was incredible; joyful anticipation mixed with a ton of nerves. I was so thrilled by this feeling that I also signed up for the winter musical, knowing pretty well that singing was not part of my talents. After auditioning, I got the role of Shermy, a character in the Peanuts comics that soon got taken out, because he didn’t have a personality. However, I took it as a challenge and even got a little solo! In total, those two performances helped me discover a new part of myself, and on another note, also contributed a lot to my diction. Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. 

Coming back from spring break, I was thrown into my first 2k erg test ever, something I will never forget. I remember this feeling of everybody being super nervous, the feeling of accomplishment after it’s over and Tyrus and Luke chanting “SCHMOLZE 303” while I was pulling for my life. However, after my first practice on the water, I realized that literally every second of pain and suffering would be worth the beauty of gliding on Noxontown pond, feeling like a part of something bigger and more powerful than myself. This crew season has taught me so much and even got me a rowing medal! I am so grateful that I was able to row in the Colburn with Eliza as our crazy and amazing coxswain, and seven other guys that pulled for the same goal. I want to say thank you to Coach Gilheany, Myers, and Porter for introducing me to this beautiful sport, and for believing in me. It was an incredible and unique season and I really hope to continue to row when I go back to Germany!

In the past couple of weeks, many people have come up to me and asked whether I was sad to be leaving soon. My answer would always be something like, “Of course I am sad, but I am also looking forward to seeing my friends in Germany again.” And even though this is true, I wasn’t completely honest. Yes, going back to Munich will be great, but leaving St. Andrew’s and this amazing community behind is horrifying. In the little book, The Story of Us, a quote from Azar Nafisi says, “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. You’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you know you’ll never be this way again.” This is exactly how I’m feeling today, because St. Andrew’s and this amazing community allowed me to be my true self, and I will miss every single one of you. 

Now just a short disclaimer: Tyrus and Luke helped me write this last part of the speech.

Thank you, St. Andrew’s, for having me this year. Thank you, Tyrus and Luke, for being so incredibly amazing. Thank you, ASSIST, for making this incredible adventure possible. Thank you, Schmolze, for being the best dorm ever. And, of course, thank you to the best roommates ever, Tyrus and Luke. Thank you to everybody who put up with my whistling and thank you to every single person that was part of my exchange year and contributed to making it the most special time in my life—please stay in contact! I can’t believe we’re all leaving tomorrow, and I can’t believe I won’t be back in the fall. And the worst thing is, of course, that I won’t see Tyrus and Luke again in a long long time. I will miss them because they are so amazingly amazing. 

Ok, but seriously, this year has taught me so infinitely much, and I will forever treasure every single moment in my heart. And even though I ultimately didn’t make it all the way around the pond, I enjoyed every single moment of this journey.

Thank you. 
 

Board of Trustees Welcomes New Leadership and Toasts Departing Chair Scott Sipprelle ’81 P’08

This year’s spring trustee weekend was a bit different than that of years past. The board came together at the end of April to effectuate a long-planned leadership transition and discuss plans and initiatives for the school year to come, but they also spent time celebrating Scott Sipprelle ’81 P’08, who this June will end almost 25 years of service to the board, nearly a decade of which he served as board chair.

The weekend of celebration included a Chapel Talk by Sipprelle, a dinner, student performances, and even a ceremonial first pitch thrown on the Saints diamond by the former St. Andrew’s pitcher himself. 

Scott Sipprelle first pitch

“I sort of recoil at personal celebration,” Sipprelle says. “So, at the outset, I was resistant to the celebrations, as I said at the dinner on Friday night. But somebody much wiser than me said, ‘This isn’t about you. It's about the school, and the process and the celebration and the symbolism.’ One of the hallmarks of St. Andrew’s is very stable and long-tenured leadership, both at the head of school level and at the board level. Pausing to reflect on that, I think the significance of transition is worth celebrating.”

Vice Chair Richard Vaughan Sr. ’88 P’24,’27 will succeed Sipprelle for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Sipprelle says the transition has been a thoughtful, strategic process. “Having done a lot of leadership and management transitions over my years in business, there’s a right time and there's a wrong time,” he says. “The best way to transition is slow and deliberate and planned. This was a two-year process from the time I announced I was going to step down, and I think it has been pretty seamless.”

A critical priority of Sipprelle’s as he prepared to pass the torch to Vaughan has been to help Head of School Joy McGrath ’92 firmly establish her position as the school’s fifth head. “Managing a head of school transition in a really tumultuous environment for all educational institutions—and frankly, for all of society—has required much board focus,” he says. 

McGrath, in her Friday night dinner remarks, thanked Sipprelle for his support during that transition. 

“It is rare for a new head of school to have a board chair who is unfailing in his support of those decisions that will move the institution forward, and unflinching when those decisions occasionally are really tough,” McGrath told a crowd gathered in the Sipprelle Field House. “So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know how lucky I have been to work with you the past three years, and I am looking forward to the next chapter of your deep connection to our school. Your leadership, wisdom, and support—your love of this place and, not least, your love of what is right for this place—have been an incredible bulwark to me during these first three years of headship.” 

Vaughan credits Sipprelle for ensuring both men navigated the transition in close partnership. “The board weekend was a remarkable few days that had been planned for over a year,” he says. “In terms of the chair role, Scott and I have been doing everything jointly while I was vice chair.  He has very much included me in virtually every conversation that he was having. Much of trustee weekend was to celebrate and thank Scott for tremendous leadership during his chairmanship, but also since he joined the board in 2001.”

Vaughan, who joined the board in 2005, is thrilled to get to work as chair. “In five years, we’ll be celebrating our centennial,” he says. “That is a natural time for both reflection on the past, but more importantly, thinking about the future. I think we're going to want to look at the long-term financial sustainability of the school. A lot of that comes from our mission to provide a first-class education regardless of means, which is an even more challenging mission to achieve in an ever-increasing cost environment. We’re going to be very focused on that financial sustainability. We’re also going to have to continue to invest in the faculty experience, both attracting and keeping faculty, and making sure there is a career path and work-life balance that is set for the next century.”

Sipprelle’s three key words for Vaughan as he navigates the next chapter of St. Andrew’s board leadership are “balance,” “growth,” and “sustain.”

“The balance is about keeping an even keel on the school and not reacting too dramatically to any stress or change in the environment,” Sipprelle says. “Grow is just having a growth mindset to always ask, ‘What could we do differently and better?’ And sustain is to never forget the core values and culture that make St. Andrew’s unique.”

Other new board appointments for the 2024-2025 school year include Kellie Doucette ’88, P’18,’18,’21, current chair of the board’s advancement committee, who was named vice-chair. Parent trustee Aaron Barnes P’21, ’24 will become a regular trustee. 

The board offers its deep thanks for the service, contributions, and perspectives of departing trustees Mercedes Abramo P’18, ’22, John Eisenbrey Jr. ’74, P’05, ’05, ’07, and Grace Gahagan ’10.  

The board is pleased to elect the following new trustees, all of whom will join the board in the fall of 2024:

Kiran Kalsi Chapman P’21, ’23, ’28
Charlottesville, VA and Houston, TX

Kiran is the mother of Amrit ’21, Ford ’23, and Hank ’28. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Kiran was raised in the Sikh faith in the diverse National Lab community of Oak Ridge, Tenn. Kiran holds a B.A. in economics from Vanderbilt University and a M.B.A. from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. She started her career in the chairman’s office of Bankers Trust in New York City, and subsequently moved into private client services. After earning her master’s degree, Kiran worked in brand management at Johnson & Johnson on the iconic Johnson’s Baby brands.

She and her husband, Jim, moved from New York to Hong Kong in 2005 where Kiran served on the Hong Kong International School’s development team, managing its annual fund. In 2013, the family relocated to Charlottesville, Va., where Kiran spent many years working as development director and grants manager for a national independent abortion provider.

Kiran sits on the board of trustees for Peabody School, a small independent school in Charlottesville for academically advanced children; and The Emily Couric Leadership Forum, which each year awards $250,000 in scholarships to a graduating female student from each of Charlottesville’s 11 high schools. She also serves as co-head of the Georgetown University Women’s Rowing Team’s parent booster club.

Kiran and Jim regard joining the St. Andrew’s community as unequivocally the best parenting decision they ever made. Kiran looks forward to serving St. Andrew’s, which has shaped their children and their family in countless ways. She and her husband split their time between Charlottesville, Va., and Houston, Tex.

Bruce McEvoy ’95
Vero Beach, FL

Bruce is managing partner of NorthSands Capital. Prior to founding NorthSands, Bruce was a senior managing director in Blackstone’s private equity business, where he worked from 2006 to 2022.  Before joining Blackstone, Bruce worked at General Atlantic and McKinsey & Company. 

Bruce received an A.B. from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Bruce and his brother both attended St. Andrew’s. While a student at St. Andrew’s, Bruce was a member of the soccer, wrestling, and rowing teams.

Penn Daniel ’07 
San Francisco, CA

Penn has spent nearly a decade in the technology industry building and advising early-stage businesses.

Penn joined DoorDash in 2015 and spent over seven years at the company, launching its first major markets across the U.S. and building new products. Penn also pioneered the company’s autonomous vehicle strategy and led its subsequent acquisition of a robotics startup. Prior to DoorDash, Penn was a producer at ESPN’s Emmy-winning show, Pardon the Interruption, and served as a fellow at Bryanston School in the United Kingdom, where he taught history and Spanish and created the school’s first basketball program. 

Penn holds a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in history from the University of Virginia, where he was the recipient of the Gray-Carrington Memorial Scholarship. At St. Andrew’s, Penn served as co-president of Class of 2007, captained the football and lacrosse teams, and was a recipient of the Headmaster’s Award. 

He lives in San Francisco with his partner, Erin, and their dog, Lola. 
 

Commencement 2024

The Class of 2024 said their goodbyes (for now) to St. Andrew’s on Sunday, May 26, at Commencement, which was the culmination of a week’s worth of events celebrating the successes of this special class, a group of Saints that together, overcame first-year pandemic interruptions to forge deep bonds in the classrooms, in the dorms, and on our fields and trails.

Google General Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93 delivered this year’s Commencement keynote, exploring a lesser-known component of success: failure.

“Now if you’re lucky, and I truly mean this with all sincerity, you’ll have been afforded the opportunity of failure during your time here,” said Prado. “Yes, I’m being deliberate with that word, failure. Losing a game, failing a test, letting yourself or others down, some experience in which you didn’t quite hit that mark. But here’s the beauty in that—in that failure, a door of possibility was unlocked for you.” 

From an initial rejection letter to St. Andrew’s to “pretty spectacular fails” in her professional career, Prado noted that failure provided her with resilience and fortitude, the qualities that the Class of 2024 needs to rely on as they navigate a new era of their lives, and a new era of society’s relationship to technologies such as artificial intelligence. 

“While AI will have a tremendously positive impact on society, its power can also be used for malintent,” said Prado. “That’s where you, Class of 2024, come in. You are the next generation of leaders—researchers, educators, politicians, scientists, and artists. You have the distinct advantage of coming of age with this new, powerful technology and you are in the position to dutifully guide where AI and other social and technical and creative innovations will take us. Embrace that opportunity.”

Click here to watch Prado’s entire address, or read the full address here.  

Student body co-presidents Charlie Lunsford ’24 and Riya Soni ’24 reflected on their time at St. Andrew’s in their individual addresses, asking a packed Front Lawn what success really means, and detailing how SAS support systems allowed each to reach their goals. Listen to their talks here, or read Charlie’s talk here and Riya’s talk here

A gallery of Commencement photos can be viewed here

During Commencement, members of the Class of 2024 and underformers were recognized with a number of time-honored St. Andrew’s awards, which are listed below. 

Before Commencement, seniors delivered speeches about academics, athletics, arts, student life, and community service at Awards Night. Members of the faculty also bestowed awards onto VI formers, as well several underformers, for significant contributions to the St. Andrew’s community across disciplines and aspects of campus life.

The following students were recognized at Awards Night and Commencement:

Commencement Awards

Christopher Wilson ’99 Award & Scholarship - Katherine Simonds ’24

Given by his parents in memory of Christopher Edward Wilson '99, the award recognizes seniors who best embody Chris' virtues and personal qualities: a love of St. Andrew’s, a quiet and authentic appreciation of life, friendship, and community; a devotion to service and to children; and a kind and generous spirit.

Cristin C. Duprey ’04 Diversity & Inclusivity Award - Sasha DeCosta ’24, Shawn Li ’24, Zachary Macalintal ’24

Given in memory of Cristin C. Duprey ’04 to the VI Form student/students who have provided exceptional service in the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive St. Andrew’s School community.

John McGiff Fine Arts Award - Elyot Segger ’24, Sophie Mo ’24

Awarded to the student who has made the greatest contribution in the fine arts and demonstrated a depth and quality of talent that demands our recognition.

Henry Prize - Talan Esposito ’24, Channing Malkin ’24

Awarded to a VI Form boy and girl who have been of the greatest service to athletics. It recognizes not only personal athletic skill, but also service to the teams of which the students were members.

Jonathan B. O’Brien Head of School Award - Charlie Lunsford ’24, Riya Soni ’24, Avery Vaughan ’24

The Jonathan B. O’Brien Head of School Award celebrates the brilliant and courageous leadership and vision of St. Andrew’s third headmaster, Jon O’Brien, who led the school from 1977 to 1997. The Award recognizes seniors who contribute to the ethos of the school with integrity, humanity, generosity, and love.

King Prize - Victoria Yin ’24

Awarded to the leading scholar during the VI Form year.

Founder’s Medal - Celina Bao ’24

Awarded to the scholar in the graduating class who, during his or her career at St. Andrew’s, has achieved the best academic record in the form.

William H. Cameron Award - Olivia Costrini ’24, Zoey Honsel ’24

Given to VI Form students who have performed outstanding service to the school.

St. Andrew’s Cross - Marie Dillard ’24

Given in honor of the late Bishop Cook of Delaware, who was associated with the founding of the School, in recognition of the student whose contribution to the school has been distinguished for Christian qualities of concern for others, humility, and high principle.

Robert T. Jordan Award - Claire Hulsey ’26, Abe Perry ’26

Given by his classmates and former teachers at St. Andrew’s in memory of Robert T. Jordan, Class of 1986, who died September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center attack, to the IV Form boy and girl who display the qualities that made Robert so memorable and distinctive: a love of humanity, an appreciation of friendship, a willful perseverance and resolve amidst adversity and opportunity, a unique and refreshing perspective on life and all its possibilities.

Awards Night Awards

Cresson Prize - Frank Nasta ’24, Marie Dillard ’24

Awarded to the VI Form students who have demonstrated the greatest improvement in athletic skill, sportsmanship, and leadership.

Larry L. Walker Music Prize for Orchestral Music - Sophie Mo ’24, Gabriel Day-O’Connell ’24

Awarded to the students who have made outstanding contributions to the Orchestra.

Larry L. Walker Music Prize for Jazz Ensemble - Hugo Butler ’24, Avery Vaughan ’24

Awarded to the students who have made outstanding contributions to the Jazz Ensemble.

Choir Prize - Elyot Segger ’24

Awarded to the student who has contributed the most to the success and development of the choral program.

Drama Prize - Finn O’Connell ’24, Akeelah Romeo ’24, James Owens ’24

Awarded in memory of John Fletcher Hinnant, Jr., Class of 1953, to the students who have made the most significant contribution to the Theatre Program, and have shown exceptional growth as actors.

Hoover C. Sutton Drama Prize (Tech) - Victoria Yin ’24

Awarded in honor of Hoover C. Sutton, drama teacher at St. Andrew’s School from 1980 to 1993, for the greatest contribution to the Theatre Program in technical work.

Dance Prize - Olivia Costrini ’24, Tamia Ferguson ’24

Awarded to the students who have shown exceptional leadership, dedication, and artistry in dance.

Keri J. Advocat Photography Prize - William Lin ’24

Given by the Class of 1991 in memory of Keri J. Advocat, whose love and passion for the arts will always be remembered by her classmates. Awarded to the student of photography who has shown a strong mastery of technical skills and presented a portfolio of creative images.

Film Prize - Will Finch ’24

Awarded to the student who has shown extraordinary creativity, technical skills, and dedication to the study of the moving picture in all of its forms.

Art Prize - Aleah Thomas ’24, Gibson Hurtt ’24

Awarded to the student who has contributed the most to the Art Program in effort, originality, and technique in various art forms.

Purchase Prize - Gibson Hurtt ’24

Awarded to the student who has created an outstanding piece of artwork in either a minor or major plastic arts course. This work is chosen by the school to enter its permanent collection.

Chester E. Baum Prize for English - Hannah Gilheany ’24, Sophie Mo ’24, Angela Osaigbovo ’24
 
Given by the members of the English Department in honor of Chester Earl Baum, for 29 years an outstanding teacher of English at St. Andrew’s School, to the VI Form students who have excelled in English scholarship.

Charles H. Welling, Jr. Prize for Writing - Cy Karlik ’24

Given by members of his class in honor of Charlie Welling ’45, writer and raconteur, to the student who has produced exemplary non-fiction writing in all disciplines throughout his or her career at St. Andrew’s.

Amanda Leyon Prize for Creative Writing - Claire Louise Poston ’24

Given in memory of Amanda Leyon ’95 by her classmates, to the student who has excelled in creative writing.

Louis C. Mandes Library Prize -  Cy Karlik ’24, Rylie Reid ’24

Given in memory of Louis C. Mandes, Jr., school librarian, to the student who has demonstrated a love of books and a deep appreciation for the library.

Sherman Webb Prize for History - Hannah Gilheany ’24

For outstanding work in history.

W. Lewis Fleming Prize for French - Katia Papadopoulos ’24

Given by the alumni in memory of W. Lewis Fleming to the student of French who is most deserving in interest, effort, and achievement.

The Nancy K. Hargrove Prize for Spanish - Tamia Ferguson ’24, Channing Malkin ’24

Given by Joe Hargrove, Class of 1967, in memory of his wife, who was a great admirer of St. Andrew’s. Awarded to the student doing outstanding work in Spanish.

Chinese Prize - Ruth Hilton ’24, Nadia Lee ’24

Awarded to the student doing outstanding work in Chinese.

G. Coerte Voorhees Prize for Classical Languages - Mac Gooder ’24, Elyot Segger ’24

Given by his children in memory of their father, G. Coerte Voorhees, Latin teacher at St. Andrew’s School from 1935 to 1962. Awarded to the student who has done outstanding work in Latin and/or Greek.

Walter L. Harrison Prize for Mathematics - Keizen Ameriks ’24

Given in memory of his mother by Walter L. Harrison, Class of 1966, to a student of high achievement, whose work in mathematics is distinguished for its depth of interest, imagination, and creative thinking.

John Anthony Higgins Award - Celina Bao ’24

The John Anthony Higgins Award is given by members of the Math Department in honor of John Higgins, beloved and legendary Math teacher at St. Andrew’s from 1980 to 2012. Awarded to a student who shares John’s joy for learning, who appreciates the beauty, precision, and utility of mathematics, and who seeks to infuse this passion in others.

The Computer Science Prize - Griffin Patterson ’24

Awarded to the student of Computer Science who has demonstrated exceptional skill, understanding, and depth of interest in the field.

William Day Scott Prize for Science - Hugo Butler ’24

Awarded to the student who has taken at least two science courses and, through performance in these courses, has demonstrated real promise in the field of science.

William H. Amos Prize for the Life Sciences - Kieran Bansal ’24, Sasha DeCosta ’24

Given by William H. Amos, member of the faculty from 1947 to 1985, to the students who have demonstrated exceptional interest and ability in the life sciences.

Virginia Layton Orr Prize - Hannah Gilheany ’24

In recognition of Virginia Layton Orr’s efforts to preserve Cape Henlopen State Park and other natural areas, this award is given to a student who has made significant contributions to the environment.

Walden Pell Prize for Religious Studies - Katia Papadopoulos ’24, Haoyuan (Kevin) Tu ’24, Avery Vaughan ’24

Given to VI Form students whose work in Religious Studies is distinguished by their understanding of the relationship between faith and learning.

Francis L. Spalding Award - Josie Denny ’26, Richard Zhu ’26

Awarded to IV Form students who have achieved a commendable academic record by distinctive effort.

Harry C. Parker Prize - Tristan Kalloo ’24

Given by Harry M. Parker ’64 in memory of his father, Harry C. Parker, to the VI Former who has achieved the greatest academic improvement in their St. Andrew’s career.

DyAnn Miller Community Service Award - Kieran Bansal ’24, Olivia Costrini ’24

Named in honor of DyAnn Miller, exuberant teacher and counselor at St. Andrew’s from 1984-2005, who helped build and develop the community service program, and then by her example dedicated her energies and spirit to the service of others.

Calder Prize - Liam Wilson ’27, Divya Bhatia ’27

Given in honor of Dr. Joseph R. Calder and Virginia Calder and awarded to two III Form students who combine the qualities of good scholarship and a commitment to the service of others.

J. Thompson Brown Award - Bridget Daly ’25, Gloria Oladejo ’25

Given to the students below the VI Form who have made the greatest contribution to community life.

Malcolm Ford Award - Ray Quinones ’25, Lila Lunsford ’26

In memory of Malcolm Ford, given to the boy and girl below the VI Form who best combine the qualities of leadership, good sportsmanship, and a cheerful spirit.

Robert H. Stegeman, Jr. Award - Nelle McVey ’25, Daisy Wang ’25, Chris Onsomu ’25

Given in honor of Bob Stegeman, inspirational history teacher, academic dean, assistant headmaster, and dean of faculty at St. Andrew’s from 1978 to 1999, awarded to students in the top academic ranks of their class who have demonstrated intellectual leadership and who have made exceptional contributions to the life of the school and community.
 

Riya Soni ’24

In her speech at Commencement 2024, Co-President Riya Soni ’24 reflected on growth fueled by failure and the support system of the St. Andrew’s community. 

My dad always says I should not let failure discourage me. I have interpreted his words in two ways: “Failure should not discourage me from being brave enough to try, or strong enough to try again.”

That was a direct quote from my application to St. Andrew’s, which I received last night during the senior wall carving. Upon reading that, I immediately thought to myself, “Why was a 14-year-old version of me kind of smarter than me right now?” 

I go on to say, “Truthfully, whenever presented with a new opportunity to explore an interest, the thought of failing always initially crossed my mind. But now, I know failing is okay and a part of life, and if I don’t fail, how will I learn, grow, or better myself?” 

While this was well said and absolutely resonates with me today, I can’t help but feel that 14-year-old me was simply saying what sounded good in her head, rather than preaching what lived experiences have taught her. 

I can now say with the utmost confidence that during my three years at this school, I’ve reached lofty goals through all adversity by knowing I have an abundance of support through the Class of 2024 and the greater SAS community. 

One moment I felt this immense support was in the winter crew season—if you know you know—where we completed an annual triathlon. 

Now, this triathlon entailed a 4,000-meter erg piece, followed by a two-and-a-half mile run around campus. And if that wasn’t enough, it was met with sprinting up and down 10 flights of stairs in the field house. 

On this particular day, despite going into the triathlon with as strong of a mentality I could muster, I felt defeated in every component of this workout. 4,000 meters felt like 10,000, a typically do-able run had me stopping halfway through, and where I could usually tap into my remaining energy for stair sprints, said energy was nowhere to be found and I ended up stopping immediately after the running portion. 

Now, we’ve all had these moments during which we don’t reach our fullest potential and feel down on ourselves as a byproduct. However, that feeling fueled my motivation in not only wanting to complete the next triathlon, but also shoot for a personal best in each test. 

My teammates on both the Founders and Constellation side saw my determination and wanted to help me reach my goals, so thank you for that. They showed their support by erging next to me, staying with me after practice to supplement the occasional ab workout, and pushing me to load more weight on the bar despite my reluctance to do so. 

In the end, our combined efforts helped me reach the personal best I sought after. 

Judging from my experiences in this community, I find that all of the students here have extremely high expectations of themselves—not just as athletes, but as intellectuals, performers, and role models. What I’ve also learned is that the people in life who have the highest expectations also tend to “fail” the most, especially when being stretched across multiple disciplines in the way we are here. 

That being said, I’ve never considered myself a failure during my time here. Instead, I think St. Andrew’s students, particularly the Class of 2024, are resilient, hardworking, and extremely capable individuals. I urge you all to keep your goals lofty and your expectations high, and to lean into each other’s support when the going gets tough. 

The loyalty we have for one another, as well as the responsibility we feel, is something I truly have never experienced anywhere else, and I want to thank my class specifically for being so willing to accept me as a new sophomore. As we embark in different communities in the fall, I find peace in knowing that over the past three years, I’ve retained little bits and pieces of all of you through our interactions and experiences—such that the person I am today is the person you all have pushed me to be. 

I will always feel close to this class because no matter where I go, I carry a piece of you all with me. And for that, there are no words to express my gratitude.

This day is a celebration of all we’ve accomplished together, and I’m truly honored to be a part of this class. Thank you. 

Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93

Google General Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93 delivered this talk at Commencement 2024

Thank you, Joy. 

Good morning, students, faculty, trustees, family, and friends. Let me be the latest in a long line of folks to say congratulations to the Class of 2024! 

It is truly an honor to be here with you today as you graduate. 

I have fond memories of St. Andrew’s—perhaps, not my alarm clock—but I credit much of my success to my formative years that I spent here on Noxontown Pond. 

As Google’s general counsel, I have the privilege of leading a global team of legal professionals who grapple with some of the hardest legal issues to face us as it relates to technology. That’s a fairly lofty statement, but frankly, it’s a pretty cool gig and I’m extremely lucky to have it.  

Class of 2024, you also stand at an exciting intersection in life—one filled with unknown challenges, twists, and turns that, while they may seem daunting, your time at St. Andrew’s has prepared you with everything you need to not just take on those challenges, but to do so and thrive.

So, what does a healthy dose of preparedness look like? It is a solid helping of failure mixed with an authentic embrace of change. 

Now if you’re lucky, and I truly mean this with all sincerity, you’ll have been afforded the opportunity of failure during your time here. Yes, I’m being deliberate with that word, failure. Losing a game, failing a test, letting yourself or others down, some experience in which you didn’t quite hit that mark. But here’s the beauty in that—in that failure, a door of possibility was unlocked for you. 

For me and my experience with SAS that started on, shall we say, day zero. 

Now taking a step back, if someone had said those same words to me decades ago when I sat where you are and then added the spoiler alert that I would one day deliver the Commencement speech here, I would be a little perplexed. 

And that may be because the first time I applied to St. Andrew’s, I was soundly rejected. 

When I toured St. Andrew’s in the eighth grade, I was instantly struck by the campus’s beauty, the brilliant minds of the teachers and students, and the vibrant community that makes St. Andrew’s the special place that it is. 

So while I was disappointed to have received a thoughtfully worded rejection letter, I do admit, I was slightly relieved. I was terrified to leave the cushy comforts of home. What at that time felt like a rejection I may never recover from, I now see as a pivotal moment in my life. 

After dusting off my ego, I had largely accepted the fact that St. Andrew’s would not be a part of my journey. I entered ninth grade at a different school and tried to forget about what could have been. But just as I was settling into that routine, my mother launched her campaign to reframe that rejection as a challenge to re-apply. 

Buried in the text of my rejection letter was a sentence actually encouraging me to apply again next year—something that I had overlooked, but that my mother saw as an opportunity. 

A quick aside about my mother, who is here with us today—she is tenacious and never takes “no” for an answer. At 17 years of age she left her hometown of Philadelphia to study engineering in Chicago. Now, she didn’t love engineering, and she didn’t like Chicago—sorry to the midwesterners in the house, my apologies. She did love fractions and numbers. She turned that passion into a successful career as an options trader. In fact, becoming the first Black woman options trader on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. My mother has heard the word “no” a lot in her life, and she has made a habit of not letting those moments hold her or her loved ones back.

Now fast forward to 1990, my mother made me re-read my rejection letter and asked if “no” was really the final answer. She then asked if I could see myself at St. Andrew’s, to which I replied “yes” without hesitation. 

And the rest, to embrace the cliché, is history. 

Failure is a part of life. No matter how successful or intelligent you are. We all fail, repeatedly. It is part of the human experience. It is ok to fail. Failure is, shall we say, encouraged. 

How you respond to failure ultimately dictates the kind of life that you will lead. In fact, most of the time failure teaches us more than our successes do. In moments where we have “failed” we are forced into introspection and to learn from these experiences. Now that doesn’t just happen when we’re young. I can chart some of my most impactful achievements as outcomes from some pretty spectacular fails, which I’m not going to get into here. 

Put simply though, there is a profound power and opportunity in failure. Moving through failure generates the kind of resilience and fortitude that will take you far in life. This was the very first lesson St. Andrew’s taught me, and I hadn’t even gotten here yet! 

St. Andrew’s has truly shaped me into the woman I am today. I didn’t take one day here for granted. Whether that was playing soccer, butchering the French language, geeking out about U.S. jurisprudence, sharpening my leadership skills as a prefect, or, frankly, the many nights I spent with my roommates making mix tapes and eating Top Ramen—each experience enabled me to deepen my intellectual curiosity, broaden my understanding of myself and those around me, embrace the academic, athletic, and social changes and opportunities throughout, and, most importantly, continue to seek out the same in college and beyond. 

St. Andrew’s has built you into adaptable, resilient, curious, and empathetic young adults. These qualities will take you far in life and will serve as your guiding principles through every obstacle you face. 

Almost no one takes the exact path that they had originally laid out for themselves, and it is those unexpected bumps in the road that build character, make memories, and teach us to appreciate the little moments, as I hope each of you do when you look back on your time here. 

But it’s important to remember that not only is failure a part of life, so is change. 

On her 65th birthday, poet Nikki Giovanni said, “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it. You still bring to bear all your prior experiences, but you are riding on another level. It’s completely liberating.” 

Class of 2024, you stand at the precipice of a new era—and I mean this in a multitude of ways. 

Not only are you beginning a new chapter of life, but society is grappling with a variety of things that will result in its evolution—from the economy to new technology like Artificial Intelligence. 

Change and innovation can be daunting, but it has the power to lead us to new opportunities that we may have never envisioned as possible. Innovation brings new challenges and, most of the time, new responsibilities. 

Much like my graduating Class of 1993, the Class of 2024 stands at the edge of a technological revolution. 

For me and my classmates, it was the invention and proliferation of the internet. 

For you sitting here today, it’s AI. 

It is hard to imagine life before the internet, Google, and cell phones. How did we look up questions like “What time is sunrise today?” or “Who won the Celtics game last night? ” 

Some of you in the audience will recall flipping through the encyclopedia to find information for your American history paper or using, sorry folks, the Yellow Pages to find the phone number for your favorite pizza place. 

All of this is probably a foreign concept to today’s graduates who grew up in a world where information is at our fingertips and accessible in less time than it took me to read this very sentence. The world is very different from when I was a student here. 

Like many of us cannot imagine a world without the internet, there will come a day, potentially soon, where we say the same thing about AI. 

AI has almost unfathomable potential, and has already done so much good, from powering tools to help medical professionals make lifesaving diagnoses faster to helping firefighters accurately predict the pathway of wildfires. 

While AI will have a tremendously positive impact on society, its power can also be used for malintent. 

That’s where you, Class of 2024, come in. You are the next generation of leaders—researchers, educators, politicians, scientists, and artists. 

You have the distinct advantage of coming of age with this new, powerful technology and you are in the position to dutifully guide where AI and other social and technical and creative innovations will take us. 

Embrace that opportunity.

Your time here at St. Andrew’s has prepared you to be leaders in an ever-changing world and to make your place in the world authentically, with conviction and courage. 

The community, relationships, and lessons learned here will take you far in life. Your teachers and classmates challenged your frame of thinking while you learned to juggle responsibilities and discover your passions. Through each chapter in your journey you have learned how to be more inclusive, engage in civil discourse, become more curious, and lead in a way that is accepting with respect for all. 

These principles have prepared you to lead with grace and bring a set of core values into a changing world that will badly need it. 

All of this being said, trust in yourself, speak up for what is right, and bring your experiences with you and do not be afraid to fail. 

St. Andrew’s has taught you skills that you will take with you long after you leave campus for the last time—from solving complex math problems to building lifelong friendships that will extend far beyond your years on campus.

Remember, change is a constant—it brings new beginnings, experiences, and invaluable lessons. 

As you remember the opportunities that you took advantage of here on this campus and led you to this very moment, reflect about how that happened over time—through family-style meals in the Dining Hall to Chapel to cheering on friends on the field and on the stage. Cherish these moments, as they will soon be but fond memories. 

These time-honored traditions weave a golden thread across generations of St. Andrew’s alumni. It is a common bond. Remember, we all still call St. Andrew’s home long after we’ve departed these halls. I know I do. 

You are about to embark on an incredible journey. Embrace those failures and challenges, tackle them head on, and lean on your time at St. Andrew’s to guide you through your next chapter with grace, faith, and courage. 

As Nikki Giovanni said, and I wholeheartedly agree, that journey will be so very, very liberating. 

Thank you once again for having me, and one more time: Congratulations, to the Class of 2024!
 

Charlie Lunsford ’24

Co-President Charlie Lunsford ’24 explored the meaning of success at St. Andrew’s in his speech at Commencement 2024

I feel so much pride and joy to be standing up here today representing the Class of 2024. 

To all the teachers and faculty who have helped me along the way, my advisor, my friends, my family, thank you for pushing me to be the man I’ve grown into today, and most of all for believing in me. 

To my friends, thank you for teaching me how to laugh so hard that I cry, and for the memories we have made here. 

To my siblings, Liza, Will, and Jordan, thank you for making mistakes first, so I did not have to make them. I love you three. 

And finally to my mom and dad, I love you and truly cannot thank you enough for every single thing you have done for me. 

One of my favorite freshman boys, Barack Tillard ’27, comes up to me every single day with a new question. “Hey, Charlie, is my tennis forehand form correct?” “What's for lunch?” “Can you take me fishing?” He drives me insane, but I still love him. 

One day, though, he asked me a peculiar question that I pondered for a while. He asked me, “Charlie, how do I be successful at St. Andrew’s?” At first, I laughed, not really knowing how to answer, but then I realized the importance of his question. 

How do we define success at St. Andrew’s? Now, I think this may differ for many people, but I will tell you why I’ve found myself to have actually had much success at St. Andrew’s. Being here, we tend to obsess over the numbers or the letters, whether it is ACT SAT scores, quarter grades, passing or failing, As or Bs, or 12% acceptance rates. We might obsess over the numbers and letters that initially we believe define us. I’m guilty of this, as well, as I have found myself many times stressing over these numbers that I think are miniature reflections of myself. 

But when I ask myself, why did I come to St. Andrew’s, I remember it was never for the numbers or the letters. I came to St. Andrew’s to build connections, to find another home, to foster relationships between friends that would last a lifetime. I came to St. Andrew’s to figure out how to be a better man and to take steps to better myself. Numbers never contributed to this. 

I have 78 people who I love with my whole heart, an advisor who is like another father to me, teachers who I think would take a bullet for me, teammates and coaches that have pushed me towards my limits ever since my first practices here, roommates that will be best friends for life and one who will likely be my best man at my potential wedding. 

To me, this is success. I define success not by letters or numbers that are printed onto a piece of paper every two-and-a-half months, but instead by relationships I built here that will last a lifetime. 

So yes, strive to be the best you can be academically and work hard in class, but ask yourself, what does it mean to be successful at St. Andrew’s? Underclassmen, your time here will fly by, and soon enough you’ll be at your own Commencement like us. I hope you are all able to look back on your four years like I have and say success. Thank you. 
 

Joy McGrath ’92

If you missed our Arts Weekend chapel on Sunday, you missed one of the great sermons of the year. Jeremy Day-O’Connell, Gabe’s father, offered a reflection on the connections between art and faith. Many things he said remain with me, but one seems particularly relevant this morning of Pentecost. He said—and I’m paraphrasing his elegant prose—that through both art and religion we find that there is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

“Your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.” There is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

Now, it is Pentecost, and so today’s scriptures tell the story of the visitation of the Holy Spirit, coming “like the rush of a violent wind,” causing the Galileans to speak in many languages. Prior to the arrival of this wind, the Galileans all spoke their own language, which scholars today believe was Aramaic. After the spirit rushed through them, they could speak many tongues, in preparation for spreading across the land to tell the story of the resurrection, the central event of what would become the Christian faith.

Everyone present wonders what has happened. And Peter explains by quoting the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.”

“Your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.” There is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

On this day, we also read from Ezekiel about the Valley of the Dry Bones. The writer is shown a desert valley filled with skeletons, and the wind rushes in, and the bones join together, and are covered with flesh, and yet—they are still dead. But God sends the wind, and says, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” And only then do the flesh and bones come to life, the writer says, “a vast multitude.” Spooky!

“Your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.” There is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

You are more than flesh and bones, you are spirit: divine breath and love and wonder. Over 99 percent of your body—your flesh and bones—is made up of six elements: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, calcium, and phosphorus. But what you are made of is spirit: Love, courage, joy, curiosity, tenacity, humor.

“Your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.” There is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes. What are your visions? When you are old, what will be your dreams? Summer is an incredible gift for you to reflect on these questions. What makes you feel truly alive? What animates your spirit? Is it art, as Mr. Day-O’Connell suggested? Is it faith?

What animates our school relates to our motto, “faith and learning.” And last year, we meditated frequently on a passage from Hebrews 11, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So, as we scatter to the four winds like the apostles for the summer, like the apostles you should pay some mind to your spiritual lives. Some of you practice a formal faith with your families at home in various ways, and many do not. But every one of you has a spirit. You are all filled with breath, with life—there is more to you than what we can see with our eyes. Take time to nourish that spirit, to contemplate what you cannot see with your eyes—“the evidence of things not seen.”

As your teachers, what we cannot see about you is our entire professional concern. Because yes: you are flesh and bone. You are oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, calcium, and phosphorus. But there is a power within you that is not generated by a chemical reaction, and you must never forget that—your power comes from what we cannot see with our eyes—features of life that are just as important as breath, those qualities you have that arise within community and are expressed, refined, and perfected in community.

If you think of some of the ones I mentioned—love, courage, joy, curiosity, tenacity, humor—these are not aspects of your life that exist in a vacuum. They only exist in relationship and community with others. You practice and develop these through art, athletics, chapel, and dorm life. Reading, painting, competing, worshiping, performing, singing, living together is how we get better, and ultimately do better.

Our school is built for this, to practice and develop what makes you truly human. During the year, I think it’s fair to say our plates are very full. I hope this summer you will take advantage of a stretch of unscheduled time and consider those things that matter so much, but which you cannot see. Read widely and imagine other worlds. Look at great art and dream of new ways of understanding. Listen to great music and hear the wordless language of beauty. Consider what is sacred—and believe that what is sacred is around you and within you.

There is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes. “Your young people shall see visions, and your old folks shall dream dreams.”

On this day of Pentecost, of all days, let it be so.  

Halimah DeLaine Prado

A Q&A with Google General Counsel and 2024 St. Andrew’s Commencement Speaker Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93

During an Advanced American History class her senior year at St. Andrew’s, Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93 learned about the inception of the Supreme Court, and was charged with writing a legal brief and arguing in front of her peers. The result of that exercise was a “brain on fire and hurting in a really, really good way,” Prado says. Now Google’s general counsel, Prado considers this classroom moment as the one that hooked her on the law. “Yes, this is what I want,” she says she remembers thinking. 

We spent an afternoon sitting down with Prado, who is this year’s Commencement speaker, across the table of a Silicon Valley conference room (virtually, that is). We talked about entering St. Andrew’s as a new sophomore, her front-row experience to the first Frosty Run ever, the “North Star” of St. Andrew’s, and how she “thoughtfully and authentically” leads a global internet giant.

What comes to mind when you think about your St. Andrew’s experience? 

It was a pretty impactful, formative experience for me. I think anytime a teenager decides to embark on boarding school, it’s a fairly big deal. You’re sort of taking that step of independence that typically folks think of happening when you enter college. 

For me, having the experience of being independent, taking charge of how I approached my academic journey, being able to live in a community in a really unique and frankly stunningly gorgeous environment, it was pretty awesome. A lot of the experiences that I had during my three years there have definitely shaped how I’ve approached new experiences, be it personal or professional.

You came to St. Andrew’s as a IV former. What was that like? 

Entering as a IV former is challenging, right? You’re coming in after a full year of your classmates having had a chance to bond.

There was a weird sense of catching up. You feel a little bit on the fringe or kind of nervous. But what I found is, that [feeling] disappeared fairly quickly. The school did a phenomenal job of embracing the IV formers, and I felt that very acutely. 

About two months into my [IV Form year], I broke my leg, which one might call a tough situation … I had to go home for a week and a half. And then I came back to school on crutches, in a wheelchair. And what struck me was how truly the entire community made space for me to operate through campus, to check in on how I was doing.

For me, that IV Form year was this wonderful sort of ‘aha’ moment, that ‘Oh, right, this place is special. This place is a community.’

Do you have any other experiences that you feel particularly connected to from your time at St. Andrew’s? 

This is super silly, but the year that I was there was the first year of the Frosty Run. T-shirts were made and it was this massive event to watch the school … have an experience completely rooted in fun, but [everyone was] all in. There was a purity in that. There was a wonderful sense of excitement in that which I always loved.

In terms of individual experiences … My senior year, [former English teacher and Associate Head of School Will] Speers had suggested, ‘What would a perfect English class look like for you?’ I said, ‘I want to read a book once a week and then talk to somebody about it.’ He said, ‘Okay.’ And then he set that up for me. I sat in his office, he would give me a book. My goal was to read it, come up with an essay, and produce it. We would sit and have that conversation. That was my English class for half of senior year. What was amazing about that is that anything was possible, you just merely had to ask.

How did you begin developing as a leader at St. Andrew’s?

I think probably the most important thing [I experienced] is the comfort of trying new things and the comfort to fail and not have it work out and keep it moving. That’s been pivotal. 

I applied to St. Andrew’s for my freshman year and I didn’t get in. They encouraged me to apply next year. And even my entry into St. Andrew’s as a 10th grader was a pivotal experience for me because it taught me to go after what I want, even if I don’t get it in the first instance. 

If you are leading now, there is no example of being a leader who is always batting a thousand. It doesn’t exist. And so being able to lead others, to make decisions that embrace a growth mindset with failure and development is critical. I can very much attribute that mindset to my earlier days at school.

As Google’s general counsel, what is it like to work on cases that have such a large impact on the ways that we navigate emerging technologies? 

It’s a huge responsibility at the outset, leading a very large global legal team that’s helping Google launch its products and keeping them running responsibly. I don’t take that lightly. It’s humbling, to be honest, and I look at each day as a privilege, but one in which it’s important to authentically and thoughtfully lead, take the responsibility seriously, be very open and honest about that, and guide the folks on my team to do the same. 

What advice do you have for St. Andrew’s graduates, who are leaving a mostly “phone-free” environment for a world where technology may play a greater and greater role in their life? 

You’re going to have a North Star: the principles behind St. Andrew’s and the notion of faith and learning and how you show up to the community. Those principles remain true even when you walk out of Middletown and go into whatever next chapter of your world, whether that’s with a phone in hand, a computer with AI, or what have you. Really staying true to those principles of stewardship, curiosity, challenge, opportunity, and applying that into your every day. Don’t lose sight of that. That helps you step forth into something that is new or different with a bit more intention and a bit more openness.

What was your reaction to being invited to speak at Commencement, and how are you feeling as time ticks down to the big day? 

I was excited, hugely excited, and then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that old that I can be asked to come back to speak.’ Part of that is because [my time at St. Andrew’s] doesn’t feel like that long ago. There is something very perpetual as it relates to the St. Andrew’s experience. 

Frankly, I am humbled and honored that [Head of School] Joy [McGrath ’92] thinks that something I could say might be of interest to these phenomenal young adults who are about to embark on this next chapter of their career. So I’m thrilled, really.
 

Joy McGrath ’92

I am so grateful to Richard for his remarks and to all the parent trustees and volunteers who are here today. Thank you, Richard. And parents, thank you for all of your support of the school. It is incredibly meaningful to all of us here that our parent body is so engaged and positive. We are so lucky to have you.

Welcome, everyone! Welcome back! It is good to be together at Arts Weekend as we start to feel the culmination of the year.

What a beautiful year it has been—your children should be very proud of themselves for all they have accomplished—and you of them!

The faculty have been absolutely amazing, and I am so grateful to them. Their dedication to the students and the school is unmatched by any group of adults at any school, anywhere. Their teaching, their coaching, their advising and parenting of your children—they have just been exemplary. I especially have to thank our magnificent Arts Department faculty, who have worked with your children throughout the year and brought out their very best in the works and performances we are going to see this weekend. I cannot thank them enough.

And welcome to this beautiful campus, which looks just fantastic thanks to our staff members, and we are so fortunate to be able to gather here this weekend in this setting.

I am looking forward to celebrating the seniors, the class of 2024, at commencement in two weeks—I am so grateful to them for their leadership. Recently, as you know, the seniors decided to have a phone-free weekend and they collected 100 percent of the students’ phones. It was an incredible weekend and on Sunday afternoon, everyone was looking so refreshed and happy and relaxed that I decided to call a free day for the following day. When I announced that we would continue to keep the phones, that decision received the biggest cheer of all.

St. Andrew’s is out of step.

Holly Whyte, Class of 1936, said this at the school’s 50th anniversary and it’s still true today. We are out of step. People visit the campus and always say, “Something is different here.”

And when you are out of step, how do you feel about that? You can experience negative emotions like fear, despair, and anxiety, and let those emotions shape your life and experience. Is everyone looking at me? Should I just join the crowd? The weight of that can be very real, and yet I see our students responding with fearlessness and hope.

I see that fearlessness everywhere this Arts Weekend.

Getting on stage—or for that matter on a boat, court, or field—to perform is terrifying. Putting yourself out there, knowing you are not perfect, is enough to strike fear into anyone’s heart. I don’t care how experienced you are, getting up in front of the school and hundreds of parents is nerve-racking. And in many cases, we see students learning new instruments or taking up new practices entirely, such as dance, or painting, or crew.

Let’s pause for a moment and just say: this is incredibly brave! In fact, it’s no wonder that when we are profoundly stirred by a performance, we shout “bravo!” Literally: brave!

In some respect, this is what the arts are about as part of a liberal education: banishing fear. Knowing that we are not—and never will be—perfect means that we must never fear failure but rather live in the belief that our greatest fear should be of not trying at all.

But like everything else we wish to do well, we must practice fearlessness:

We fear that the world might come apart into tiny bits and so we bring people together.

We fear a breakdown in trust will paralyze humanity in the face of grave challenges, and so we believe in each other.

We fear the destruction of which human beings are capable and so we create.

We fear suffering, which we see everywhere around us, and so our art expresses love and brings joy.

When we talk about “resilience,” this is what we mean. Because when we face a world beset by serious challenges it is too easy to give in and sit on the sideline. The world is, sadly, full of cowards—and in one of the great ironies of our time, many of them are quite powerful, having an “audience,” a “platform,” and commanding the great currency of this era, “eyeballs.” We can retreat into our devices and feel that we are taking a stand, all the while lurking behind anonymity, chaos, and thoughtlessness.

Authenticity and integrity are part and parcel of the arts, and all elements of a St. Andrew’s education, and doing hard things that are not “virtual” and “remote” takes guts. But when we stand up in space and time, in real life, with our bodies, minds, and spirits, and respond fearlessly—yes, we may look out of step, and yes, we may be uncomfortable—but we definitely will inspire others, who might also banish their fear in service to something larger than ourselves.

And the upside? In doing this, we are never alone, we have not retreated into our pods and echo chambers. No, our artists have drawn on this community, worked together, reached out, communicated, asked questions, and spoken. They have found their voices. As artists they command, and touch, an audience. They make us look—really look—and challenge our assumptions and, quite literally, our perspectives. They ask of us, “Really? Are you sure?”

We know a liberal education that features the arts makes our worlds larger and develops our empathy, our openness to new perspectives, and our understanding of the world, other people, and perhaps even the sublime. But I think we underestimate how brave our children have to be to make the most of that education, to practice those skills, and step onto their stages and into their galleries and venues, not knowing how their audience will respond.

So, thank you for being here this weekend: supporters, critics, and cheerleaders—the all-important audience—that gives their performance a meaningful place to land. Let us honor their fearlessness with our awe at their gutsy accomplishments, and our joy in the fires they have lit, the windows and doors they have flung open, in their practice and performance.

May they go forth and do this in the world, using their voices, inspiring others, fearlessly out of step.

Scott Sipprelle ’81 delivers the chapel talk at the Founders Day Chapel Service on April 26, 2024

Outgoing President of Board of Trustees Scott Sipprelle ’81 P’08 gave this reflection at the Trustee Weekend chapel service on Friday, April 26.

Good afternoon.

Did you know that studies show that 47% of you will be daydreaming at some point? Wait. Actually, I decided not to use that as my opening line.

It’s hard to remember that this day will never come again. No, no. Wait, wait, wait. That one’s not right, either.

I remember when I was a student at St. Andrew’s and sitting in the Chapel, sometimes I would pass the time counting … wait.

None of these lines are the opening lines for my talk with you today, and I didn’t actually write any of them. They were all manufactured by a large language model, AI for shorthand, based on the simple instructions to, “Write an opening line for a talk that would grab your attention.” It’s still in its early days, but it works well enough. GPT has trained itself by scrolling pretty much all the texts that have ever been written, and it knows good speeches.

AI outputs often start with a startling fact, an intriguing question, or a relatable anecdote, but there is a massive difference between the texts that a really smart computer regurgitates and the words that flow as the product of your own thoughts and your own experiences. 

Here’s what AI will tell you if you ask AI the question: I don’t have emotions. I don’t have subjective experiences. I don’t have personal preferences, and I shape my responses depending on my instructions. In other words, this incredible innovation expertly tells us what we want to hear. 

Post St. Andrew’s, many, or probably most of you, will spend half of your waking and work hours looking into a screen of some sort, and behind that screen is a really savvy software algorithm. It learns as it watches you and it curates what you see. It creates your lens onto the world, and that feels like reality.

But the world that is presented to you on that little screen or big screen is built on biases, and those are the biases that are evident in your past viewing habits. The results that you see are based on your search history and the people you meet. The stories you hear and the opinions that you encounter in this highly curated world will invariably confirm the beliefs and experiences that you already have. If you don’t actively fight it, you will fall into a world of rigid beliefs and shrinking perspectives. This software wants to map you, and to graph you, and to stereotype you based on your gender or your ethnicity or your age or your demographic profile, or your most recent experiences, or some other crude and limiting characteristic that it discovers about you. 

When I was young, I used to read a lot of science fiction, and one of the genres that fascinated me was the dystopian future when the machines conquered the humans. The reality that we are seeing develop today is only a little different. The machines are actually becoming part of us, like we’ve added a new alien organ to control our five senses. So here’s the punchline of my advice to each of you today. It’s just one word, sort of like the advice that Dustin Hoffman received in the movie The Graduate, which was also one word. It was a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. My word is “plasticity.” (Spoiler alert: In The Graduate, the word was “plastic.”) Neuroscientists now understand that your brain has the capacity to adapt and change over the course of an entire lifetime. It’s called “neuroplasticity.” Every new experience that you have is forming new neural pathways and pruning away old ones. Every time you meet a new friend or develop a new skill or go to an unfamiliar place, you are enhancing your cognitive function and fueling your potential for adaptation.

Every action that you take, that defies routine, that challenges stereotypes, that questions what you thought you knew, is making you more alive and less susceptible to the boring predictability of machine programming. My experiences as a student at St. Andrew’s were hugely impactful in helping me to learn to be plastic and not rigid. I remember my first night at sit-down dinner at Mr. Ryan’s table when he said out loud, “I see that your brother’s baby blue blazer has matriculated back at St. Andrew’s, along with you.” Of course, I was hugely embarrassed to be outed for wearing hand-me-down clothes in front of the other students, but that wasn’t the end of my relationship with Mr. Ryan. I later discovered he was just a lovable curmudgeon. I won the French Prize at graduation and I learned to be slow at taking offense. Sandy Ogilby, who was my advisor, JV baseball coach, and the assistant chaplain, convinced me to join the choir.

In spite of the fact, or maybe because of the fact I couldn’t sing, I think he might have also been a little tired of seeing the marks that I got for accidentally forgetting about Chapel. That’s a different story. I loved stretching my tiny music muscle back then, and sadly, it is still a very tiny muscle, but I learned to enjoy the process of trying things I wasn’t good at. Bob Stegeman constantly goaded me to take dissenting views in his history classes and his eyes grew huge and elated when I expressed an opinion that contrasted with my classmates. I learned that the best arguments are informed by seeing the other side. 

I had the very good fortune as a child to grow up living around the world since my father was a diplomat. Perhaps being exposed to all of these different cultures and having classmates every couple of years helped me to develop my plasticity. But I also believe firmly that this personal trait will be developed in my own life. I continue to try to learn new things and strive to change my habits. I took up yoga this winter. I actually own a yoga mat. I just funded the creation of a new venture capital business in Africa after spending an entire career focused exclusively on investing in America. After many years of feeling very confident in my political opinions, I’ve become active with organizations working to promote nonpartisan election reforms.

Every week, I spend several hours of what I call “stretch time.” It’s like the stretching you do for your muscles before an athletic activity, except it’s for your brain. Sometimes I read poetry or sometimes I read a dense and esoteric journal on something like neurology, which is very unfamiliar to me. Sometimes I will attend a random event where I know nobody. 

Each of you has a unique opportunity here at St. Andrew’s to build your plasticity, to take new risks, and expose yourself to new things just for the experience. You have an incredible faculty here, and they are here to help you with your stretch time. If you’re a three-sport athlete, sign up for a play or take a dance class. If you think your artistic team completely defines you, sign up for a road race. Do the Polar Bear Plunge. When you have a chance to have lunch with someone you don’t know, just take the seat next to them. If you have really strong opinions about something, seek out and talk to someone who thinks differently. Get outside and away from the autopilot of your screens as much as you possibly can. Go explore this incredible 2,200-acre campus, inhale life, and let your senses wander. During one of my recent stretch times, I read a bunch of poems by Wendell Berry. He describes the therapy you get from nature as the “peace of wild things.” I like how that phrase captures the gift we all have to experience a life.

I’m going to close now by telling you that I had no idea when I wrote this Chapel Talk that it would occur during your phone-free weekend, but it certainly is a happy coincidence. 

It’s been a joy to speak with all of you.

National Latin Exam students

Latin- and French-language students receive national and chapter recognition

This year, Latin- and French-language students put their knowledge to the test in two national competitions, the National Latin Exam and Le Grand Concours. 

The National Latin Exam, an annual exam that all Latin students at St. Andrew’s take but don’t specifically study or prepare for, provides a chance for students to demonstrate their vocabulary, their understanding of how the Latin language works, and their critical reading skills. 

“The process of learning Latin or ancient Greek can feel solitary or unremarkable,” says Classics Department Chair Dr. Phil Walsh. “But when our students are presented with texts or questions that they have never considered and when many find success, they are reminded of how far they have come, how much they have learned.”

Le Grand Concours, a 75-minute optional exam for French-language students, evaluates participants’ written, oral, and listening comprehension skills in French. 

“Taking the Grand Concours shows them how they can use their skills beyond the classroom and in real life situations,” says French teacher Dr. Pam Pears. “I hope it inspires them to continue to take French, to study abroad, and to use their French in all the ways they can.”

The following St. Andrew’s students were recognized for their performance on these exams: 

The National Latin Exam 

Cum Laude 

  • Joe Baker ’24
  • Ethan Kim ’25 
  • Oscar Ji ’24 
  • Madeleine Lasell ’25


Magna Cum Laude

  • Margaret Adle ’27 
  • Sam Kwon ’26 
  • Coco Holden ’27 
  • Kayden Murrell ’26  
  • Ben Auchincloss ’26 
  • Julissa Hernandez ’25 
  • Josephine Xie ’27


Maxima Cum Laude

  • Sol Bean Lee ’26 
  • Josie Denny ’26 
  • Mac Gooder ’24 
  • Elyot Segger ’24 
  • Peter Bird ’25 
  • Sofia Golab ’25


Summa Cum Laude

  • Ian McDonnell ’26
  • Alice Fitts ’27
  • Erik Liu ’25


Le Grand Concours


Level 1A (9,445 total participants)

  • Steele Malkin ’27: 18th nationally, 1st in the Delaware chapter, mention honorable
  • Jessica Tian ’27: 21st nationally, 2nd in the chapter, mention honorable


Level 4A test (4,334 total participants)

  • Sades Green ’26: 29th nationally, 8th in the chapter
  • Sophie Parlin ’26: 24th nationally, 6th in the chapter 
  • Finn Waterston ’25: 20th nationally, 4th in the chapter, mention honorable
  • Angela Osaigbovo ’24: 14th nationally, 3rd in the chapter, Lauréat National: Médaille d’argent
  • Eleni Murphy ’25: 9th nationally, 1st in the chapter, Lauréat National: Médaille d’or


Level 5C test (112 total participants)

  • Saskia Hood ’25: 12th nationally, 2nd in the chapter
  • Vincent von der Forst ’25: 11th nationally, 1st in the chapter
     
Yiru Wang ’25 and his science project

How an observation on the basketball courts inspired an award-winning independent research project

Like many budding engineers, Legos and Transformers were the building blocks of a growing passion for STEM within Yiru Wang ’25. The origin, however, of Wang’s engineering project that took him to two regional science fairs wasn’t found within these bins of legos, but on the Sipprelle Field House basketball courts.

Wang has been a presence in the St. Andrew’s basketball program since their III Form year, leading the varsity Constellation basketball team in three-pointers and remaining among the top scorers on the team each year. 

“I’m a basketball player myself, a student-athlete, and I’ve witnessed my teammates and myself and my coaches getting knee injuries really often,” says Wang. “And also my parents, as they get older, they are having trouble getting around, moving around, and being able to exercise their knees every single day.”

He watched as the people in his life utilized different types of knee braces to rehabilitate from their injuries, devices he classifies into two types: a cloth brace, “which is focused more on decreasing swelling in your knee and limiting blood flow,” and a “heavier, bulkier metal brace,” which he says “is mostly targeted on immobilization after surgeries to limit any kind of movement in your leg and knee.” 

Wang began to notice what he felt was a gap in these devices: What about a flexible, assistive rehabilitation device that helps an injured person facilitate gradual movements? 

Wang started to breathe life into their idea by talking to their St. Andrew’s community about it toward the end of their IV Form year. They discussed their concept with their friends on the crew team, their basketball coach, the athletic trainers, science faculty, and anyone else at St. Andrew’s with an ear to listen. 

“What definitely was the most helpful for me was their motivation and also their acknowledgement of how useful a device like this could be if I did carry out the research and manufacturing of this device,” says Wang. 

Emboldened by the community’s encouragement, Wang combed through research on pre-existing devices and materials. The summer after his IV Form year, he crafted his “pneumatic knee exoskeleton,” which consists of three sections of “airbag structures” which inflate and deflate to help the user bend and extend their knee. 

“I worked for around a month over the summer, and I worked really hard,” says Wang. “It was 10 hours per day, so that was a lot of work for me. But I really enjoyed the process. It was just a very independent research process.”

Wang learned by doing. They explored different two-dimensional and three-dimensional design software, and they learned how to sew to develop “a breathable outside layer” for the device. 

“I was able to gain so much knowledge about the medical and orthopedic rehabilitation field in general and also just learn random skills that I know will be helpful for me in the future, too,” says Wang. 

Upon his return home to China for Winter Break, Wang spent all his free time fine-tuning his project for the upcoming New Castle County Science Fair, in which he would be competing in the engineering category. 

As the science fair approached, Wang had to overcome a logistical hurdle, one that only a student attending boarding school would likely confront: How do you showcase a project that was developed on the other side of the globe? 

Wang calls the lead-up to the science fair a “chaotic“ time, as their disassembled project was shipped to St. Andrew’s from China, and they had to reassemble it on top of classwork, homework, afternoon activities, and all of the other responsibilities that come along with the St. Andrew’s experience. 

“It was really hard for me to find the time to put everything together and organize everything before the science fair,” says Wang. “I did have to stay up really late and wake up really early. It was a little bit hectic for me, but it was a really rewarding experience, finally seeing everything.”

Wang also credits his St. Andrew’s community with helping him with the little things as he prepped for the science fair, like running around campus trying to print all the materials for his poster. 

“I couldn’t have done anything without [the faculty who helped me],” says Wang. “Even though it’s an independent project, at the end of the day, it’s all those small things that other people around me helped me with that were really meaningful.”

In late March, Wang traveled to the Staton Campus of the Delaware Technical Community College for the fair, meeting other students from across the region and receiving helpful feedback from the judges. 

“It’s more than just a competition … but more of a socializing event and just being able to form those connections with like-minded people that are genuinely interested in STEM,” says Wang. 

Wang placed first in the engineering category, won the Agilent Special Award for Most Likely to Improve the Human Condition, and the FUJIFILM Special Award for Best in Show, advancing to the April 2-4 Delaware Valley Science Fairs. 

At this fair, Wang won the Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award and the West Pharmaceutical Services Engineering Award. Though this is the final fair that Wang will compete in this year, he says that this is not the end of the road for his research. 

“I still want to learn more about this area from different angles,” says Wang. “For example, maybe the biomedical angle to learn more about what can be done on the nanotechnology or micro-level. And then also more on the medicine, health side of things, like the anatomy of the knee. Knowledge in different areas can definitely help me create a more in-depth research project on top of what I already have. This is something that is going to be an ongoing process for me.”
 

Yiru Wang ’25 and his science project

Amanda Meng ’25 dove into biochemistry and nanomedicine in a Johns Hopkins summer internship and science fair research project 

Amanda Meng ’25 is not afraid to send a cold email. It was one she sent to a researcher that landed her a summer internship working in Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Center for Nanomedicine. 

“You don’t know what life will give you,” she says. “Sometimes [someone will] say, ‘Yeah, of course, come in.’”

She worked under scientists researching Acriflavine—a drug that is used to control Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a cause of blindness and vision impairment in older adults—and how loading the drug into microparticles (MPs) may allow for sustained release of the drug. 

Hours spent in the lab with the researchers sparked questions for Meng about how to improve the efficacy of the microparticles, and those questions informed what would become an award-winning science project at two local science fairs. 

Though she knows that her project, titled “Effect of triethylamine (TEA), homogenization speed, and extended release of acriflavine poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microparticles,” is a mouthful and might elicit a few head-scratches, she says that the project is simple in concept. 

“I had a really good relationship with the project director and I learned a lot about the techniques and the procedure, how they did stuff,” says Meng. “And then one day I was like, ‘Wait, I think we could do better than this. I think we could take this a step further,’ because they were really limited in the drug loading, which means how much drug the particle contains. And I read up on previous literature and asked around the different researchers, and [the research says that] basically adding this substance called triethylamine is able to allow for the [microparticles] to be bigger and contain more of the drug inside.”

Additionally, she considered how homogenization speed in the preparation of the microparticles may affect the size and drug loading of the microparticles. 

Meng collected data on how adjustments in homogenization speed and the addition of TEA may affect the Acriflavine microparticles in her time at the lab. Months later in her St. Andrew’s dorm, she analyzed the data, wrote her research paper, and constructed her trifold poster for the science fair. 

“MP size is found to increase with TEA amount increase,” writes Meng in her research paper. “[However,] MP size and drug loading decreases with an increase in homogenization speed.”

At the New Castle County Science Fair, she says the judges were curious about her project and asked her questions that challenged her. She remembers a particular conversation with one of the judges that touched on a niche interest in science she wishes to pursue. 

“[The judge] majored in chemistry and philosophy, and we had a great conversation about how those different disciplines interact,” Meng says. “That’s what I’m looking to study—biology, philosophy, and chemistry.”

At this fair, she won second place in the Biochemistry Category, and at the following Delaware Valley Science Fair, she received an Honorable Mention in the Biochemistry Category and the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association - Greater Philadelphia Song Li Award.

Aside from the research team she worked with over the summer, Meng extends huge thanks to her St. Andrew’s community and, particularly, biology teacher Adam Toltin-Bitzer, for the hours they spent together in the Mein Common Room and Dining Hall discussing the project. 

“The mountain of love and effort that he gives this community is awesome,” says Meng. 

Ever since her III Form year, Meng has been eager to dive head-first into research. The Curiosity Quest, an ecology project she remembers from that year, ignited her desire for hands-on experimentation. 

“You could pick your own field of study or a question to pursue that has any interest in the environment,” she says. “How do animals interact with the environment? How do plants interact with the environment? I did my study on plants, leaves, and how the cells duplicate … That really got me excited about doing research. I love problem solving.”

Meng says a genuine love of learning, a love that is not just confined to the science laboratories but to all the different disciplines she studies at St. Andrew’s and beyond, motivates her to get her hands dirty with research and learning outside of the classroom. 

“I really, really enjoy the process of getting to learn about something new, getting to just dive into an area I know nothing about and try to piece things together myself,” says Meng. “I’ve had very long conversations with a lot of teachers about how education is not only an end, but it’s also a means to an end. You’re not just learning for the grade, you’re learning for the content. You’re learning for your curiosity. And that’s something that has brought so much meaning to the work I do.”
 

Halimah DeLaine Prado

St. Andrew’s is thrilled to announce that this year’s Commencement speaker is Halimah DeLaine Prado ’93, general counsel at Google. She will deliver the keynote address at the Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony on the Front Lawn on Sunday, May 26. 

Now having served Google for nearly 20 years, Prado joined the company’s legal department in 2006. She became legal director in 2011, vice president of legal in 2016, where she oversaw the products and agreements legal team, and then general counsel in 2020.

After graduating from Georgetown Law School, Prado began her law career as a judicial law clerk for the Hon. Mary A. McLaughlin of the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She then practiced media law and products liability law at Dechert LLP and Levine Sullivan Koch and Schulz LLP. 

She also serves on the board of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organization that aims to build a more equitable and diverse legal profession. Additionally, Prado is on the Leadership Council of the World Justice Project, which seeks to create knowledge, build awareness, and stimulate action to advance the rule of law worldwide. 

We are excited for Prado to rejoin us at the place she made her home as a budding leader. Prado came to St. Andrew’s in fall of 1990 as a IV Former. At St. Andrew’s, she was a residential leader, on the Honor Committee, a contributor to St. Andrew’s publications (see her “Day in the Life” contribution to the Spring 1993 St. Andrew’s Magazine), among many other campus involvements. 

In October 2012, the St. Andrew’s community had the opportunity to hear from Prado in a keynote address at the Women’s Network Weekend. In her speech, Prado reflected on her path as a lawyer, saying that “a practice of principles with fortuitous results” helped her to find her way in the profession. She spoke about rejecting complacency, the need for passion in and out of the workplace, staying flexible as new opportunities present themselves in life, and learning how to be comfortable with and willing to laugh at herself. 

With another decade’s worth of wisdom under her belt, Prado will return to inspire the St. Andrew’s community and the Class of 2024 as they prepare to leave Noxontown Pond and tackle their next adventure.
 

Joy McGrath ’92

Dear Families,

I am the luckiest head of school in the world! Spring is always a time of new growth and opportunities, but I feel that at St. Andrew’s, we have more of that than most places. In the past week or so, we have experienced Easter, an earthquake (I felt it ever so slightly in my feet during a meeting with French teacher Pam Pears), an eclipse.

The important change is not always so sudden or dramatic as the resurrection or a natural phenomenon. Sometimes it is steady and small, but surprises you nonetheless. Sitting in the dining hall at dinner this week, I couldn’t help but see how our students have grown so much this year. I see them changing—as do you—right before my very eyes, all in good and positive ways. Like the emerging leaves and chirping ospreys, it gives you hope.

The school year is circular in its way, with lots of opportunity for gratitude. This week we felt that with a successful Day of Giving (thank you!) and an enrollment deadline that passed quietly on Wednesday with a very full school and a new crop of brilliant and gritty students who are looking for a place that will challenge them and love them and their voices and their stories. During a wonderful session with seniors during one of the Visit Back Days, I found myself getting a little emotional about the departure of the Class of 2024, but “as circular as hope,” I know our newest Saints will arrive and make us all proud, too.

That phrase, “as circular as hope,” is from a poem I’ve been re-reading this week, one of Mary Oliver’s, titled “Spring.” I pulled it out when my little niece and nephew were visiting this weekend and spotted a snake sticking its head above the moldy leaves by Possum Creek behind my house. But I have kept reading it because it captures this season at this school, in ways literal and metaphorical.

 

Spring
by Mary Oliver
From Poetry (April 1990)

And here is the serpent again,
dragging himself out from his nest of darkness,
His cave under the black rocks,
His winter-death.
He slides over the pine needles.
He loops around the bunches of rising grass,
looking for the sun.

Well, who doesn’t want the sun after the long winter?
I step aside,
He feels the air with his soft tongue,
Around the bones of his body he moves like oil,

downhill he goes
toward the black mirrors of the pond.
Last night it was still so cold
I woke and went out to stand in the yard,
and there was no moon.

So I just stood there, inside the jaw of nothing.
An owl cried in the distance,
I thought of Jesus, how he
crouched in the dark for two nights,
then floated back above the horizon.

There are so many stories,
more beautiful than answers.
I follow the snake down to the pond,

thick and musky he is
as circular as hope.

 

There are “so many stories, more beautiful than answers,” that lend their grace notes to our every day here at St. Andrew’s. Thank you for being a part of the St. Andrew’s story. I look forward to seeing you around campus this spring, to experience this season with us!

AK White

Magazine Editor & Advancement Writer AK White gave this talk on Wednesday, April 3. 

This is a story about a box.
 
This box is not metaphorical. It existed in the attic of my childhood home, settled on the floor above my bedroom ceiling. Each night before I’d fall asleep, I’d trace the outline of the glow-in-the-dark stars and crescent moons I’d stuck on that very ceiling, not realizing I was charting an astronomer’s path to a hidden planet orbiting above, a planet that held a secret that would shift the ground beneath me, create a zero-gravity tailspin, and cast me, untethered, into deep, deep, space.
 
But before we get to the box and the hushed history that it contained, here’s what I did know, what I always knew, which is that I am adopted. 

I spent almost the first year of my life in foster homes. I’ve seen photos of myself from then: a kid with a smudged, dirty face; a woeful haircut; wearing red corduroy pants with knee patches and a brown crewneck sweatshirt; standing in an unfamiliar kitchen. The blur of a hand hovered just above my shoulder, as if the person to whom this hand was connected was hesitant in deciding to touch me or not. I remember holding this photo and asking my mother—and by “mother” I mean the woman who adopted me, who is unequivocally my mom—“Why did you dress me like that? Why do I look dirty?” She said, “That was them, that was before.” I wondered who “they” were, these people in the before times with the bad taste in haircuts, these people who didn’t wash my face, these people with hands that didn’t quite know how to reach me.
 
Weeks before my first birthday, I was adopted. I remember nothing of this besides the always knowing that I came from somewhere else.
 
When I was 16, my parents told me if I wanted to search for my birth mother, they’d help. I said no, even though I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything.
 
Around this time, I found the box. 

Sent into the attic to bring down Christmas décor, I was poking around my mother’s vintage clothes as a diversion tactic when I found it, hidden by a fur coat that once belonged to one great aunt or another. As I lifted the lid, I saw a paper with the embossed seal of the Delaware Children’s Bureau. I think I stopped breathing, knowing what I had discovered. My heart pounding so loud I feared it would splinter the roof, I grabbed the box, snuck down the attic stairs, and locked myself in the bathroom.
 
I’d imagined my birth mother a thousand times. If a woman who bore even the slightest resemblance to me crossed my path, I’d think, ‘What if?’ I’d wonder of my birth mother, ‘Does she hate onions? Does she love baseball? Does she read good books? Is she, too, appallingly bad at math?’ My biological father, however, loomed out of focus. I didn’t think about him. Now he’s all I think about.
 
The first document I pulled from the box, issued from the State of Delaware, had less than 10 words. “Child’s Race,” it read; underneath the state recorded, “Half Caucasian, Half Hispanic.”
 
I read this sentence again and again, trying to make sense of it. The walls closed in and my chest constricted. My knees felt jointless as I slid down the wall. I didn’t have the words for ‘panic attack’ then, but that’s what was happening.
 
I thought, ‘This is impossible. This is wrong.’ How could such foundational, life-changing information have been here, all along, and no one told me? How could this be real?
 
The next document was a human inventory: heights, weights, occupations, education levels and, most curious, skin-tone ranges for my biological father and his family. They all had medium brown to dark brown skin, brown eyes, brown hair. They were average height and weight. They were, for generations, farmers in a village on the central western coast of Puerto Rico. 

Another document described my biological father’s temperament: he was smart, seemed concerned about the child’s welfare, had great command of English, met the child’s mother on a trip. The more I read, the more I spiraled.
 
I hid everything under my mattress in an envelope. Every time I’ve moved—to college, to grad school, into my first, second, and current home—I have done the same thing. Talk about an unhealthy coping mechanism. I dug the envelope out in preparation for this talk, and was astounded at how quickly I was back in that bathroom, struggling to breathe. 
 
After the box, I sat with this knowledge for days, until I confronted a rage I’d never tasted before. I wasn’t angry for the obvious reasons you might think—because this was hidden from me. I was enraged because finally—finally—I had discovered one of my core factory settings, and yet … I was unmarked, untouched. It was not written on me. I could not see it in any mirror. I could not feel it in my blood. I could not claim it. I remained unmoored. 
 
I ignored the box for years until, as it happens, a former St. Andrean inspired me to reckon with all of this.
 
I met Giselle Furlonge, a previous dean of diversity, through a local mom’s group in 2018, years before I’d work here. We chatted about babies, books, and somehow, we got to the topic of an ancestry.com DNA test she recently took. I told her, in bits and pieces, why I’d always wanted to take a test but hadn’t found the courage. This woman showed up at my house weeks later with a DNA test. She said she felt compelled to give me this gift. I will never forget her radical kindness.
 
The test results sent me on an ongoing journey. Through Ancestry.com’s “family tree” function, in which the site matches your genetic results with other users’ results to help you find blood relatives, I’ve connected with various cousins in Puerto Rico. I check in regularly with one, Valentina. She’s my age, and she is obsessed with my paternal mystery. In between her island sleuthing, she shares interesting details about our shared bloodline.

I still don’t feel that I can claim this identity, or that I understand what it means, but I continue to work through it by nurturing these relationships I’ve established, asking questions, and listening. Valentina tells me no one in the family has figured out who my father is, and that’s okay, as I’ve finally realized this was never about finding him, but about finding me. 
 
Eight years ago, my husband, Marty, and I welcomed a daughter named Zora, who requires no secret documents to find out who she is. Zora is more self-assured and rooted in herself at 8 than I will ever be. 

But there are moments for her, as the child of a white and Hispanic mother and a Black father, that increasingly require me to never again hide that envelope, and instead, to process it out loud so I can help her navigate her own biracial identity.
 
Zora loves her brown skin but struggles with her kinky hair. Little does she know her curls anchor me to this planet, to this life, to all that is wondrous and good and magical. In those moments when she wishes for hair that moves like mine, or that is straight like mine, we tell the story of her hair.
 
It’s a story of her father, of me.
 
It’s the story of a mother and father I’ll never know.
 
It's the story of the grandparents she knows.
 
It’s the story of the grandparents she will never meet. 
 
It’s the story of the unfinished history of all of us. 
 
But most importantly, it’s a story that will never be confined to a box in the dark. Zora’s story will live perpetually in the golden light, and she will make me brave enough to do the same.
 

The 2024 McLean Science Lecture Competition

Students presented independent research on astrophysics, AI, alternative medicine, and sustainable farming at this science communication competition. 

As a student in Science Department Chair Dr. Ashley Hyde’s astronomy class, Daisy Wang ’25 first became interested in gravitational lensing to detect distant exoplanets. 

“I found that really interesting so I always wanted to learn more about it,” said Wang.

The McLean Science Lecture Competition exists so students can do precisely that: learn more about the science that inspires them. Wang, along with a handful of other budding scientists at St. Andrew’s, entered this year’s competition to explore a complex topic at length and present it in the fashion of a TED Talk. Out of the students who auditioned in the first round of the competition, four students—Wang, Amanda Meng ’25, Ashley McIntosh ’25, and Lindy Black ’25—were selected for the final round of the competition which took place on Friday, March 22 in Engelhard. There, they presented their findings to students and faculty in attendance. 

A panel of science faculty, as well as 2023 finalist Zachary Macalintal ’24, served as this year’s judging panel, which selected one of the students as the overall winner of the competition. Hyde announced at a March 28 school meeting that Wang won this year’s competition. Read about the finalists’ selected topics below:

Daisy Wang ’25, “Einstein Ring: Gravitational Lensing of Distant Celestial Objects”

Daisy Wang ’25

In her presentation, Wang explained how gravity can distort and magnify light. She focused on how this distortion of light can form an Einstein Ring, a phenomenon in which a ring of light can be observed when a light source passes by a massive object en route to Earth. To fully break down the Einstein Ring, Wang explored Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the history of the Einstein Ring, and the different types of gravitational lensing. 

She asserted that the Einstein Ring and other types of gravitational lensing are more than just an interesting observation—they allow scientists to discover more about the universe. She explained that gravitational lensing helps scientists detect distant exoplanets, understand the early universe and the structure and distribution of dark matter, and learn more about the light sources themselves. 

“Because of the magnification effect [of gravitational lensing, it] can help us detect things that we cannot otherwise detect using the technology we have right now,” said Wang. 

Wang says she was honored to be selected as this year’s winner because of just how strong all of the finalists’ talks were. 

“Before the actual talk I was really nervous, but when I actually got on stage, it felt natural,” says Wang. “Going into the competition, I wasn’t really thinking about winning. I just wanted to do my best to present [my research].”

Amanda Meng ’25, “Hey Siri, When Will I Die?: Using Live Events and Machine Learning to Predict Mortality and Extraversion”

Amanda Meng ’25

Do you find AI scary? Do you have a basic understanding of AI?

Meng posed these questions to the student body as she delivered her science lecture.

“I think a lot of our fear comes from our misunderstanding of this technology,” said Meng. “I hope my talk today serves as an interesting way for us to know and interact with the fundamentals of computer science and machine learning. And through this, we’re able to better recognize and reexamine our relationship with technology and machine learning around us.”

Then, Meng ripped her index cards in half. She said she didn’t fully write the introduction herself, but she did with the assistance of ChatGPT, a generative AI chatbot. 

“That just [goes] to show how powerful machine learning models today have become,” she said. “And that this is a topic [that is] more relevant than ever.”

In Meng’s lecture, she went beyond a surface-level discussion of AI and dove deep into applications of AI that can help us learn more about ourselves. 

Meng broke down the definitions of AI, machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing. She used these concepts as the building blocks to discuss the focus of her presentation: Life2Vec, an AI model that attempts to predict human mortality. Meng explained how scientists collected millions of “life sequences” in order to identify the factors that influence mortality and to make predictions about when people might die. She extended the conversation about Life2Vec into other applications of the model, which includes predicting the sociability of a person based on the same life sequences. 

“Now, can we actually predict when we die?” asked Meng. “Technically, no. Because each of our lives are so unique that we encounter so many individual circumstances, we don’t really know what happens to us tomorrow or the day after. And as a result of our uniqueness, the machine is actually not able to produce an estimate on one certain individual. However, because of the good and vast amount of data the machine has been trained on, we’re actually really good at predicting data and mortality on a bunch of people.”

Ashley McIntosh ’25, “Alternative Medicine: How Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Can Mitigate the Use of Opioids”

Ashley McIntosh ’25

Like Meng, fellow presenter McIntosh did not shy away from serious topics, with McIntosh’s presentation exploring a potential treatment for those addicted to opioids. 

“Coming from the inner cities of New York, it is not uncommon to see pill bottles and needles and other remnants of addictive medicines lying on the sides of the road,” said McIntosh.

In her presentation, McIntosh defined what opioids are, how they work in the brain, and their addictive nature. She then introduced TENS, a medical device which generates electrical currents to nerve pathways in order to alleviate pain. 

She thoroughly discussed the neurobiological mechanisms behind TENS, yet also focused on the clinical practice and application of TENS and the future and viability of it as a potential long-term solution to opioid addiction. 

“[TENS] is still subject to ongoing research, clinical implementation, and healthcare policy considerations,” said McIntosh. 

Lindy Black ’25, “Mother Nature’s Solution to Climate Change: The Key to Reversing Post Industrial Revolution Burning of Fossil Fuels”

Lindy Black ’25

In the final presentation of the night, Black tackled what she called “Mother Nature’s solution to climate change”: cover crops. But before she got there, she helped the audience understand the science behind climate change and the dilemma of Taylor Swift superfans: loving her music, but not the massive amounts of carbon emissions caused by the star’s travel. 

Black’s upbringing growing up on a tree farm inspired her to research this topic. 

“The topic of plants and trees and the innovation and the experimentation that’s happening in that field … [comes up] at the dinner table every night,” said Black. 

She defined the greenhouse effect and its impact on the planet and how that relates to the carbon cycle. Cover crops, she explained, help offset carbon emissions by increasing the percentage of soil organic matter in soil, which stores carbon in the ground. These crops are planted in the offseason of cash crops. Black notes that they do not only store carbon in their roots, the soil, and their stems and leaves, but they replenish the soil with nutrients and help to prevent wind and water erosion. 

Black argued that we can all play a part in mitigating the effects of climate change by planting cover crops in our own backyards and educating people about and advocating for this type of sustainable farming.

“All you have to do is look up the word ‘cover crops' and all of the sudden, you’ll have products popping up for you to buy and for you to plant in your backyard so you can take part in the reversal of the warming of the planet,” said Black. 

Watch the full video of the McLean Science Lecture Competition here.
 

On Mentors and Timelessness

Classics Department Chair Phil Walsh gave this talk on Wednesday, March 20. 

For Dave DeSalvo, my mentor at St. Andrew’s; and for the late John Higgins, math teacher at St.  Andrew’s from 1980 to 2012, and Rev. DeSalvo’s mentor once upon a time 

From time to time, folks ask me what my favorite Latin word is. Some of them may know a little Latin, so they expect me to say semper or fortasse or celeriter. All are fabulous adverbs, and in fact my favorite word is also an adverb, but it is underappreciated when compared with semper (always), fortasse (perhaps), and celeriter (quickly). My favorite is one of Latin’s little words – just three letters long – but it’s one of the most powerful and profound words I know. My favorite Latin word is iam – spelled I-A-M. 

I’ve studied ancient languages for a long time, and I have yet to encounter a word that’s so small yet so mighty, so meaningful, so multitudinous. Iam, you see, has a superpower; it’s a word that can transcend time. What I mean by this is that used with a present tense verb, iam means “now, at this very time” (I am talking now). With a past tense verb, iam means “already, a while ago” (I was already talking). With a future tense verb, iam means “then” (after I stand, I will then talk). These are the rules of Latin grammar, and iam – unlike any other little word that  I know – defies human constructions of time and exists in a lofty, ethereal timelessness. Henri Matisse channels the power of iam in The Red Studio (1911), which you will find on the back of tonight’s bulletin. The painting is an experiment in color, perspective, and dimensionality, but it is also a meditation on the creative process. If you look carefully, in a room full of canvases, sculptures, and furniture, Matisse places in the middle of things a grandfather clock with no hands.  

To create art, then, is to escape time, and as a humanist, I’m always thinking about past and present, impermanence and eternity, memory and self-knowledge. This year I’ve been teaching a lot of books that explore these themes: in English 4, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. In Latin, my juniors and seniors are reading Vergil’s Aeneid, and we’ve recently emerged from the labyrinthine  Underworld, where all notions of past, present, and future collapse. In my history class on  ancient Athens, we’ve been considering the project of history as Thucydides writes a narrative not “to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.”1 And, of course, all of us have given time to this chapel space, where, for nearly one hundred years, the rituals of worship and wonder, of service and spirit, of πίστις καὶ ἐπιστήμη (faith and learning), have begun, ended, and then begun again. 

However, the initial logic of this talk took shape on Thursday, October 19th, 2023, the Thursday before Parents Weekend, when I left my home of eight years, St. Andrew’s, to travel back home to Providence, Rhode Island, where I lived for six years. The occasion was a retirement celebration for Professor Arnold Weinstein, who taught comparative literature at  Brown University for fifty-four academic years.2 Arnold is one of my great mentors. I served as his teaching assistant for six semesters, and I watched him lecture to hundreds of undergraduate students, inspiring them to read and appreciate some of the most challenging and fascinating texts in world literature. A brilliant and eloquent communicator, Arnold had the rare gift of engaging the familiar in new ways while making the unfamiliar accessible and exciting. He was also a exemplary teacher. Every week, he would meet with us, his teaching assistants, and in these dialogic sessions, we pressed him to elaborate on his ideas, while he solicited our views. Arnold modeled interdisciplinary thinking, showed us the significance of synthesis, and encouraged us to be unafraid of improvisation. This last point, it seems to me, is an essential component of great teaching, and I am grateful to Arnold for having the chance to develop it in his classes.

So it was my pleasure to drive to Providence on Thursday afternoon, spend Friday at Brown, attend Arnold’s celebration, and then drive back to Delaware in the middle of the night in order to make my first conference at 8:30 on Saturday morning. It was a dizzying, emotional odyssey, and one that has stuck with me ever since. On Friday morning I arrived at Brown to have breakfast with one of my buddies from graduate school, Derek. After we parted ways, I was walking up the street when, to my surprise, someone shouted, “Dr. Walsh!” I spied Gavin Green ’22, one of my former Latin students, who rushed over to say hello. We had a joyful conversation: he told me about Division I rowing and life as a college sophomore. I then went to have lunch with Will Vogel ’22, and we talked about politics, history, artificial intelligence, Sigmund Freud, and Greek tragedy.

By that point the word on the street was that I was on College Hill, and the direct messages started arriving. I met up with Albert Sung ’23, and I listened as he explained linear algebra to me and needing to work really hard to keep up with talented peers. I reminded Albert that he himself is an incredibly hard-working, talented young person, and I encouraged  him to trust his instincts and the learning process. William Yu ’22 was next. We connected and walked up Thayer St., where we bumped into Zach Atalay ’23. Then Andrew Park ’21 messaged to say hello, but by that point I needed to get dinner with Derek and some other old friends.

Long story short, I was visiting Brown to celebrate my dear mentor. I was joined by several peers, a few of whom I hadn’t seen in many years. We spent quality time with Arnold and chatted with other professors and staff. I was gratified to see so many of my former St. Andrew’s students, who were very eager to greet me. However, in the days following, I was struck by waves of sweet-bitter nostalgia and twinges of sadness. I kept thinking about a philosophical fragment attested to Herakleitos: “The river which we stepped into is not the river  in which we stand.”3 Brown, my beloved home, is the same, and yet it is not. Arnold and my old friends are the same people, but they are not. Those St. Andrew’s alumni march on, but they too are different from when they sat in the very pews you’re sitting in right now. I myself am the same person who graduated from Brown in 2008, and I’m not. But instead of wallowing in existential indeterminacy, I’m filled with great joy and optimism because these folks are a part  of me; and I, of them. When I was young professor, I used to joke that whenever I was in a classroom, Arnold’s voice was always in my head. I still use that line from time to time, and as I’ve gotten older, my intention is less to elicit a laugh and more to tell a story of a wise mentor to  whom I am forever fused.

That, I think, is the magnitude of mentorship. One of the insights I gained during my trip to Brown was how dynamic and lasting the relationship between a mentor and mentee is. Mentors teach, advise, coach, and minister; mentees watch, listen, reflect, and learn. At some point the mentee is ready to strike out into the world, or the mentor moves on. Perhaps they are no longer physically proximate, but a timeless bond is established. Arnold, in his most recent book, describes this idea as a “living chain”: for him, that chain includes a high school English teacher, a professor at Princeton, his students, and even the books that he teaches.I’m a part of that chain and so are many folks in this space like Rev. DeSalvo, whose loving spirit always brings me peace and purpose. That chain also includes my students – past, present, and future – who understand the transformative power of words and ideas.

This chain of teaching and learning ensures that Arnold’s voice will continue. It also  ensures that my voice will carry forward, rippling through and echoing back in the years to  come as my students, friends, and colleagues go out into the world and make the change they want to see. They are a part of me; and I, of them, and at this point I should reveal that iam has another superpower – this one hidden in plain sight. Yes, iam is iam (now, already, then), but iam is also “I am”: the English first person singular, a muscular declaration of presence, a miraculous exclamation of existence, a defiant vow of being. “I am,” of course, is inextricably linked to what is past and what is to come: “I was” and “I will be.” In life and in literature, we become “I am” not through an intense focus on ourselves, but through our relationships with others: the communities that we create, the mentors that we seek out, the families that we cherish, and the real and fictional worlds that we explore. In other words, we become “I am” by acknowledging and exalting the influence of others. I am not the center the universe. I am not, as Macbeth once soliloquized, a “poor player, / that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more.”I am because of those in my life who were, who are, and who will be. 

I want to close this talk tonight by asking for your full presence, your complete nowness. This aspect of iam is the most challenging for me, and, I imagine, for most of you. It’s so easy for our minds to be distracted: to go back to last week, last month, last year; or to flash forward to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. We can achieve presence, however, by working  together. If we think hard for the next two minutes, the hands of the grandfather clock will disappear, and we will be iam . . .

On August 31st, 2019, the Saturday before the opening of school, Rev. DeSalvo sent me a quick email of good luck. I’ve modified it slightly to suit this occasion, but the message is intact:

So here it is, the first Wednesday night chapel of the spring. I can feel the blood coursing in your veins, the anticipation, the joy. I can feel the hesitation, the anxiety, the second guessing about the spring ahead and how well-prepared (or not) you are for the challenges you are about to face. My mentor, the late John Higgins, used to write me little  notes at this time of year . . . He would write, “Remember, St. Andrew's is a high school.” He was not putting the school down, but was doing what he could to raise me up, to build my confidence . . . [that] I would be fine. It was a word he used a lot, and not lightly: “fine.”

So as we move into the spring, let us remember that St. Andrew’s is a high school. Ninth graders, you are ready to stretch yourselves as learners, athletes, artists, and ambassadors of the school. We wish you hard things because we believe in your courage, integrity, and excellence. Tenth graders, we eagerly anticipate hearing your chapel talks. Leven us with your signature wisdom, dignity, and ideas. Eleventh graders, this is the time to become who you already are: motivated, serious, and compassionate servant-leaders. You will soon be the keepers of the castle. Twelfth graders, we’ve seen your love of St. Andrew’s in the classroom, in the dining  hall, on dorm, and on the playing fields. You’ve cultivated the old flame of ethos, and you’ve earned our admiration. We are nearing the end of the race. Continue to work, compete, create,  and inspire . . . This spring is going to be awesome. All of you will be fine . . . Thank you.


1Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War 1.22 (translated by Richard Crawley): “In fine, I have written my  work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.” 

2https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2023/10/elegant-suave-sophisticated-professor-arnold-weinstein retires-after-54-years-at-brown

3Herakleitos, 7 Greeks, trans. Guy Davenport. New York: New Directions, 1995, 169.

4Arnold Weinstein, The Lives of Literature: Reading, Teaching, Knowing. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2022, 315-6.

5Shakespeare, Macbeth V.5 (text here).

 

Photo credit: Avi Gold

Bill McClements

Meet Bill McClements ’81 P’12, St. Andrew’s new chief financial officer

The St. Andrew’s community is excited to welcome Bill McClements ’81 P’12 as our new chief financial officer (CFO), effective May 20. McClements brings decades of experience in business leadership and nonprofit management, as well as the invaluable perspective of a St. Andrew’s alumnus and alumni parent who has seen the impact of the St. Andrew’s mission on himself and on his family. 

McClements first experienced life at St. Andrew’s as a V Former, a daunting yet rewarding task. 

“In some respects, I kind of jumped onto a moving train because the culture and the class was already pretty well set,” says McClements. He transferred to St. Andrew’s after being lured by the academically rigorous St. Andrew’s curriculum, and he says his two years at St. Andrew’s lived up to his expectation and prepared and polished him for academic scholarship on the university level. 

Inspired by the transformative Socratic seminars he experienced in former Academic Dean and History Department Chair Bob Stegeman’s history classes, McClements pursued a history degree at Williams College. After graduating, he went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. From there, he spent the first 20 years of his career at Monitor Group, a global strategy consulting firm where he held a variety of positions, including chief operating officer (COO). 

“It was really a remarkable run,” he says. “We built a tremendous culture around commitment to clients, commitment to doing good things for society, and commitment to building relationships with people that are respectful and transparent and willing to push each other constructively.”

From there, he found a new opportunity to work for a growing biotech company, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, which specializes in developing cancer treatment drugs. After six years with Merrimack, McClements began his tenure as CFO/COO of Partner Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company which aims to improve the lives of patients with cancer and other serious diseases. 

McClements says that not only will his commitment to the people side and the financial side of business serve as an asset to St. Andrew’s, but so, too, will his wealth of knowledge about how to tailor that approach to the nonprofit sector. His experience with nonprofits includes his work with City Year, a nonprofit that places AmeriCorps members in schools to support student educational success. McClements saw both sides of that nonprofit—in business school, he served as an AmeriCorps member, and after he earned his MBA, he provided the organization with pro bono consulting work. He’s also helped inspire social change through nonprofit work as a board member for uAspire, an organization that supports high school students in their pursuit of higher education.

“My parents instilled in me that education is the most important tool society has to ensure justice and equity,” he says. “The unifying thread through all that I’ve done has been programs that are focused on helping young people navigate their way into society and through educational opportunities effectively.”

Due to his years-long commitment to driving student success, McClements had an inkling that at some point, he would pursue a job solely in the nonprofit education sector. It was a “fascinating route of serendipity” in which McClements’ personal networks overlapped with that of Head of School Joy McGrath ’92, thus allowing him to discover a role at St. Andrew’s that would fulfill exactly his desire to make important change. 

“I read this job description and it spoke to me on pretty much every level,” says McClements. “I felt like what Joy and the team are looking for is somebody to really deeply engage in the community and become a part of it and to provide sound operational and financial leadership across the institution, but also to help guide and build St. Andrew’s through the next decade or more.”

A key tenet of his business leadership will be his commitment to building and supporting teams at St. Andrew’s. By doing so, he says, St. Andrew’s can continue to further its purpose of providing the best possible learning environment for its students. Stating the core goals of his work as CFO, he echoes St. Andrew’s mission of ensuring the diversity of the student body, providing revolutionary financial aid, and promoting environmental sustainability.

McClements will also engage in the essential St. Andrew’s life: he will live on campus, perform dorm and weekend duty, work with an advisory group, and more. 

“That’s a big part of what excited me about the opportunity,” he says. “This would be a chance to really be connected to a wonderful group of people.”

He says that the perspective he gained from watching daughter Annie (McClements) Montgomery ’12 go through St. Andrew’s allows him to understand what it means to be a Saint today. In her time at SAS, he witnessed a culture of genuine kindness along with high academic standards, each made possible with the hiring of talented, devoted faculty. 

“Having seen [the impact of St. Andrew’s] with my own eyes, it gives me a real focus on what I want to accomplish and help the team accomplish,” he says. “[St. Andrew’s students] are just terrific people who are really striving to do great things, and there’s nothing better than helping that kind of person do those kinds of things.”
 

Beth Halsted speaking at the Hooper Conference

This year’s Hooper Conference highlighted the fight for disability rights

In developing the theme of this year’s Thomas H. Hooper III ’71 Conference on Equity & Justice, a few things came together for Dean of Inclusion & Belonging Dr. Danica Tisdale Fisher. She remembered watching the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, a 2020 documentary that explores the history of the disability rights movement, and feeling touched by the sense of interconnectedness that exists between various campaigns for civil and human rights. She also reflected on conversations she had with Grace Anne Doyle ’25, a consistent voice on campus who educates the school community about issues of access and disability.

“I was inspired to use the Hooper Conference to lift up this topic for our community to consider,” Fisher says.

Titled “Access, Advocacy, and the Fight for Disability Rights,” the conference was held March 1-3 and organized by Fisher, the Student Diversity Committee (SDC), and Doyle.

At the conference, disability rights advocates Beth Halsted ’77, Jenny Kern ’83, and Athletics Aide Mike Rivera P’23,’26 told their personal stories of resilience and the work they’ve done in the struggle for equal access. 

Halsted opened up the conference in a Friday morning chapel talk speaking to her athletic experiences at St. Andrew’s. One of the first girls to attend the school, she played field hockey until a knee injury took her out of play. However, this injury presented her with a new opportunity: to assist close friend Tripper Showell ’75 in the training room, which she ended up doing every following fall and winter of her time at SAS. She recovered from the injury enough to forge what would become a lifelong passion for rowing. The same knee injury sidelined her in her VI Form year, leading her to take on a coaching position for the second boat. 

It was her days in the training room, however, that proved more useful than she could have ever imagined. 

“I found myself a decade later, trapped in a wrecked car on a dark country road, needing every bit of that accumulated knowledge, composure, and skill to stay alive for the six hours it took to be found,” Halsted told students. She knew that her neck was broken, and she also knew that falling asleep would put her in danger. “Tripper’s instruction about spinal injury, concussion, shock, and its treatment revisited me that night as I tasked myself to remain alert through the many hours before sunrise.” 

In the months following the accident, she had to relearn everything she knew about her body, and re-negotiate her relationship with crew. She loved the sport so much that she couldn’t bear the idea of getting back in the boat in a modified way. But her St. Andrew’s community, who remained in her corner, knew to challenge her. 

“I would have never gotten back in a crew shell had I not been contacted by the very same handful of boys who encouraged me to get on the water in the spring of 1974,” she said. 

With her former classmates, they built a rowing club of alumni oarsmen in Wilmington, Delaware, with her in the cox seat. 

“As challenges presented themselves, they would be conquered,” she said. “Every practice, once they put the boat in the water, one of them would scoop me up and put me in the boat … Being back on the water with those guys and finding a way I could be involved with a sport I loved felt like freedom, and I will be forever grateful. They just knew what I needed and they refused to allow any barriers to that experience.” 

Beth Halstead presentation

The discussion about overcoming barriers to access continued that evening, with an all-school screening of the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. The documentary tells the story of Camp Jened, a camp where teenagers with disabilities explored a future not marked by isolation, discrimination, and institutionalization, but by full inclusion and liberation. The documentary follows the activists who migrated from Camp Jened to Berkeley, California, and fought for disability justice. 

Doyle, along with the SDC, spearheaded group discussions following the documentary screening in Engelhard. The V former says that watching the documentary was an eye-opening experience for her and her peers. 

“Last year and this year, I’ve given speeches at School Meeting to explain my experience with disability and what I ask from people around me,” she says. “But I think with this conference … I wanted people to understand that sharing my experience is my experience. And every single person with a disability has different things that they can and can’t do, and their experience and feelings toward their disability are going to be different.”

Doyle says the documentary showed numerous perspectives and identities of people who live with all types of disabilities. 

“That was really good, because there’s a small number of people at St. Andrew’s that live with physical or cognitive disabilities, whether they’re visible or invisible,” Doyle says. “The documentary was an opportunity for people to hear a lot of different perspectives.”

Kern is an expert on the history of the Disability Rights Movement that Crip Camp documents because she was part of making that history happen. In a live virtual talk and Q&A with Kern the following morning, the school community furthered the conversation about the evolution of disability rights. 

Kern’s journey with disability began in the mid ’80s when she sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident soon after she entered college. 

“That May day, I entered a new world about which I knew practically nothing,” she said. “But I knew myself and that despite the many losses, I was intact in the most fundamental of ways.” Like Halsted, she cited the love and support of her friends and family, including her St. Andrew’s community, who sustained her during a difficult time. 

Kern’s experience with disability led her to advocacy. After transferring to Barnard College after the injury, she joined a school committee aimed at increasing access for students with disabilities. She learned how to be creative, how to ask friends for help, and she integrated her experience of being a person who uses a wheelchair into her identity. 

Since, Kern has done and seen it all. She briefly returned to St. Andrew’s to coach crew and teach before traveling to Berkeley to volunteer and campaign for disability rights. She went to law school and practiced public interest law, before founding Inclusive Cycling International to increase access to adaptive cycling. Internationally, she also advocates for access to wheelchairs and organizes conferences on disability.

“What events or places or causes will be your Camp Jened?” Kern asked students. “What in your life will bring together the parts of yourself that you love, and maybe you’ve been taught to be ashamed of? Where is the place and who are the people that you risk turning toward to be your truest self and to perhaps create something bigger than yourself?”

Jenny Kern presentation

The story of Kern’s extensive career elicited numerous questions from the student moderators—Doyle, Zachary Macalintal ’24, and Ashley McIntosh ’25—and the audience. Among questions about her perspective on Crip Camp and her experiences with adaptive sports, Saints looked to Kern for advice on what they can do to identify the “new frontier” for disability activism and be activists and allies themselves.

The conference concluded Sunday evening with a presentation from Rivera. Rivera, who is deaf, had two goals: to educate students on the fight for deaf rights today and on 1988’s Deaf President Now student protest at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., as well as to expand the community’s understanding of Deaf culture. 

“As I interact with students daily in the athletics department, it was a great opportunity to share some basic tips for engaging and communicating with deaf people,” Rivera writes. 

He shared his background, including the barriers and language deprivation he experienced as a child, and his experience going to boarding school. When he learned American Sign Language (ASL), his “world opened.”

Fast forward to his time at Gallaudet, a university designed to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Rivera and fellow students at Gallaudet came together with a shared cause: to demand that the school’s board of trustees appoint a deaf president instead of the hearing candidate they chose to lead the university. Students shut the doors of their buildings, they marched, and they campaigned under the banner of “Deaf President Now” until the leaders of the university took notice, finally appointing a deaf president instead.

Rivera asserted that the battle for deaf rights is not over, citing a need for open-captioned movies at theaters among other challenges.

He also provided tips for the community to communicate better with him and other deaf and hard-of-hearing people: make eye-contact when speaking, write or text to communicate, and learn basic phrases in ASL. 

“I want students to be aware of the Deaf community, American Sign Language, and our fight against isolation and the need for access everyday,” Rivera shares. 

He adds that he was touched to see how many students attended his presentation and engaged with him with excitement, energy, and thoughtful questions. 

“You can see the importance of the event by the way the students interacted with me before the weekend and again after the conference,” Rivera notes. “Everyone internalized my message and are much more willing to engage with me and ask questions about my culture, my language, and my experience.”

Mike Rivera presentation

Fisher says that she was thoroughly impressed by the “intellectual curiosity” of both the student organizers of the conference and the student body as they explored disability rights history and these personal experiences during the conference. 

“For some, this was the first time that they had thought critically about disability issues or even considered the history of the disability rights movement, so in many ways this conference provided a new lens through which to think about equity and inclusion that some had not imagined before,” says Fisher. 

While the conference may be over, Fisher says the campus conversation about access and ability is just getting started. 

“From what we’ve learned about our community through our guest presenters, SAS has come a long way in terms of its physical accessibility for all of us who live and learn on this campus, and in terms of ensuring accommodations are met in our classrooms,” she says. “While we applaud where we’ve progressed, it is always important to think about ways that we can strive to be more inclusive and accessible. I think the conference sparked some of those conversations and encouraged our students to take inventory of our spaces and our culture to find new ways to advance belongingness and equity at St. Andrew’s.”

Students at Mike Rivera presentation


 

The Neave Trio

The Neave Trio’s Haroldson Masterclass Concert opens new ways of playing for students

On Feb. 9, Engelhard Hall was brimming with the rich sounds of the piano, violin, and cello, as the musicians of the Neave Trio moved in sync with the ups and downs of their arrangements. Pianist Eri Nakamura’s fingers danced on top of the piano as she played fast and light, and violinist Anna William perked up in rhythm with the staccato notes she played. 

The passion and skill of the Neave Trio, a piano trio which champions the new and old of classical music, were on clear display at St. Andrew’s annual Haroldson Masterclass Concert. In addition to the all-school concert in Engelhard on a Friday evening, the trio conducted masterclasses with many of our talented music students on campus that afternoon. 

Director of Instrumental Music Dr. Fred Geiersbach said he has been following the “buzz” around this trio for a while—the trio’s 2022 album Musical Remembrances was nominated for a GRAMMY, and the musicians have given notable performances at Harvard University, Kaatsbaan, the Rockport Celtic Festival, and at other venues across the world. 

Geiersbach was particularly impressed with just how well the trio was able to impart their musical expertise to students in the masterclasses.

“They got right to the heart of each student’s technical limitations and helped them unlock better sound production,” Geiersbach said. 

Violinist Gabe Day-O’Connell ’24 took a masterclass with Williams, the Neave Trio’s violinist. 

“I was able to work with her for about 45 minutes on Bach’s ‘Chaconne’ in D minor,” said Day-O’Connell. “Working with her was a really illuminating experience; but at the same time, she was also one of the most easy-going musicians I’ve had a masterclass with. We mostly focused on the technical challenge of the piece, like bow control and chord voicings.”

Violin Masterclass

Josephine Xie ’27, who also worked with Williams, remembers a particular piece of feedback from the instrumentalist: play like you’re singing opera. 

“I worked on Mozart’s ‘Violin Concerto No. 3’ with her, a piece with a lot of rhythmic and phrasing work,” said Xie. “She helped me solidify my playing of a certain piece of music like this by thinking of it as an opera, and after each measure is when I should ‘breathe.’”

Xie said she had a breakthrough during the session: Williams taught her not just to play, but to think like a “true musician.” She said that Williams helped her realize that classical music is not just about playing the notes, but adding her own take to the history and tradition of the genre. 

Celina Bao ’24 had a similar experience playing Fauré’s “Sicilienne” in a cello masterclass with Misha Veselov.

“I played a few lines and he was already able to help me with so many techniques like shifting on the fingerboard and vibratos,” said Bao. 

The trio’s technical prowess and dynamic command of classical music shone through during their evening performance. 

“I was able to see how Mr. Veselov played and how he applied techniques he taught us in his own playing,” said Bao. “This is probably the first time I’ve heard a piano trio performing live. The harmony and dissonance created by the violin, the piano, and the cello are just so powerful and the color of their tones can create so many interesting combinations.”

Bao, Geiersbach, and Xie were particularly taken by the trio’s rendition of Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” and what Geiersbach called the “relentless attention” of the musicians to each other no matter how challenging the repertoire might be. 

“As someone who also plays a bit of chamber music, I loved to see how they communicate through body language and cues in the music,” said Xie. “I was really impressed by the arranged version of ‘La Mer,’ a piece which I thought only the orchestra could demonstrate the musical dialogues within, but they did it with only three people, which is truly spectacular.”

Day-O’Connell said that this performance was his favorite of the three Haroldson Concerts he has attended at St. Andrew’s. He particularly appreciated the “accessible” manner in which the musicians discussed their craft during the question-and-answer portion of the concert. 

During this session, students asked the musicians how they face difficulties and deal with self-criticism, how they approach rehearsal time and practice routines, among other topics of importance to the blossoming musicians. 

One student’s question, “How do you make the choice to keep playing?” provoked interesting answers from the trio about maintaining the love and passion for music, despite the often mundane and frustrating nature of keeping up with practice. 

They said to find the play in playing. Find something to “fiddle around with” (pun intended, they said), and to experiment with just for fun. Once you do that, they said, you will find the love which allows you to connect with your instrument. Nakamura put her connection with her instrument into words, though her close relationship to the piano was already evident from her passionate performance. 

She said the piano is part of her body. And while it may be challenging at times to be a musician, she can’t stop playing piano, because the piano is how she speaks.

Listen to the concert and the question-and-answer session here. 

Clark House

How St. Andrew’s students serve the greater Delaware community through a shared meal

Sharing a meal together: it’s one of the core components of how we operate at St. Andrew’s. The long-standing tradition of gathering every weekday for family-style meals is essential to our school community. 

Saints know the power of dining together, and they’ve incorporated the campus tradition into their service work as a way to get to know and support the wider Delaware community. 

Through a partnership with Friendship House—a Wilmington organization that works to address housing insecurity in the state—students bring meals to one of Friendship House’s transitional homes to share with residents. These residences offer housing and individualized support to people recovering from substance abuse, domestic violence, or incarceration.

Olivia Costrini ’24, co-head of community service at St. Andrew’s, says that engaging in this service has completely changed her worldview. It expanded her understanding of homelessness—which Friendship House defines as a loss of community—as well as how transitional housing works to address this issue. 

“It’s a good, eye-opening experience for us because we go there and we realize different ways homelessness can look,” she says. 

The partnership between the transitional houses and St. Andrew’s has evolved, according to Brooke Estes ’24, who has volunteered for this program for the past few years. As the COVID-19 pandemic surged, St. Andrew’s students would make the meals, but not be able to eat with the residents. However, as restrictions eased, students took the meals, cooked by SAGE Dining Services, to the houses and sat down for food and conversation—which Costrini considers to be the most essential part of the program. 

“I think [the residents] all like it way more, and we like it, when we can sit there and talk to them,” says Costrini. 

“They’re really interested in what we’re interested in,” adds Estes, whose interests span a wide range of everything from leading the Multi-racial Affinity Group to working with the chapel as an acolyte. 

Costrini remembers her first time visiting Epiphany House, the women’s transitional home with which St. Andrew’s partners. “We talked about everything,” says Costrini, and just as she was walking out the door, she got a final piece of wisdom from one of the women. 

“‘Make sure that you really focus on what you want, and you don’t let anyone get in the way of it,’” Costrini remembers the resident saying. 

“I think about that all the time, because coming from her, it was just so touching,” she says. 

It’s often not easy to make volunteering at the transitional houses work, says Costrini, because the time that students are able to be there falls during sports practices and games. However, the challenge has created a dedicated group of student volunteers who aim to surmount it. They visit either the men’s or women’s home ideally once per week. “The people that want to go, really want to go,” says Costrini. 

“I can not tell you the amount of gratitude I have for continued support [and] the meals delivered by St. Andrew’s,” says Shawn Helmick, director of Women’s Housing at Friendship House. “They are always healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals … Also, when the [staff and faculty] and students can stay and join us for dinner, [that] is nice [and] always interesting.”

Often, the relationships formed between the students and the residents live solely in those powerful moments around their shared meal—there is no guarantee SAS students will see the same resident twice as residents rotate out of the homes.

However, Costrini says that the fact that they’ll often only see particular residents once is bittersweet, because a resident leaving the house often means that they’ve found an opportunity. “‘This is my way out,’” she remembers a resident saying when he found a job that would allow him to move out of the transitional house. 

“The next time we go back, I don’t think he’s gonna be there, and that’s really exciting,” says Costrini.  

The VI Formers consider community service opportunities such as this one to be an essential part of their St. Andrew’s experience, and they are determined to continue engaging in service in college. 

“Coming to St. Andrew’s, I heard about community service and that people do it because they want to do it,” says Estes. “Finally, [my] junior year, [in-person community service opportunities] opened up, and I just love helping others and making other people happy. It makes me happy, too.” 
 

The 2024 Winter Athletics Awards Ceremony

On Feb. 29, winter athletes and their supporters across the school community gathered to celebrate the successes of this past athletic season. In his introductory remarks at the 2024 Winter Athletics Awards Ceremony, Director of Athletics Neil Cunningham called the winter 2024 sports season a “historic” one for SAS athletics, with the boys swimming and boys indoor track team winning the Delaware Independent School Conference (DISC) Championship, the squash team winning the Speers Cup, and the girls wrestling team competing in the first-ever DIAA Girls Wrestling State Championships, among other standout moments. At the ceremony, the athletics community recognized these collective accomplishments, as well as the individual athletes who went above and beyond in terms of athletic performance and leadership of their teams.

Watch the full event here.

The following students were recognized at the ceremony:

Boys Basketball

Boys Basketball Awards

Varsity MVP: Darnell Lloyd ’25

Varsity Coaches Award: Talan Esposito ’24

Varsity Most Improved: Jack Myers ’25

Varsity 6th Man Award: Josh Ho ’25

JV MVP: Liam Wilson ’27

JV Most Improved: Widalvis Burgos ’26

Thirds MVP: Austin McEachin ’27

Thirds Most Improved: Mario Dahr ’27

Girls Basketball

Girls Basketball Awards

Varsity MVP: Claire Hulsey ’26

Varsity Coaches Award: Yiru Wang ’25

JV MVP: Lila Lunsford ’26

JV Most Improved: Caroline Ault ’27

Boys Squash

Boys Squash Awards

Varsity MVP: Grey Dugdale ’25

Varsity Most Improved: Amanuel Levine ’27

Speers Award: Charlie Lunsford ’24

Girls Squash

Girls Squash Awards

Varsity MVP: Markley Peters ’24

Varsity Most Improved: Gibby Cronje ’26

Speers Award: Katherine Simonds ’24

Boys Swimming

Boys Swimming Awards

Varsity MVP: Keizen Ameriks ’24

Varsity Most Improved: Kaz Yamada ’26

Rookie of the Year: Tyki Ameriks ’27

Varsity Coaches Award: Will Tower ’26

Generaux Service Award: Cooper Drazek ’24

Girls Swimming

Girls Swimming Awards

Varsity MVP: Connie Kang ’26

Varsity Most Improved: Ceri Phillips ’26

Rookie of the Year: Ines Kossick ’26

Varsity Coaches Award: Amanda Meng ’25

Generaux Service Award: Avery Vaughan ’24

Boys Indoor Track

Indoor Track Awards

Varsity MVP: Peter Bird ’25

Varsity Most Improved: Max Hilton ’25

Varsity Coaches Award: Satchel Barnes ’24

Girls Indoor track

Varsity MVP: Leah Horgan ’25

Varsity Most Improved: Bridget Daly ’25

Varsity Coaches Award: Gloria Oladejo ’25

Wrestling

Wrestling Awards

Varsity MVP: Juliet Klecan ’25

Varsity Most Improved: Sol Bean Lee ’26

Varsity Coaches Award: John Plummer ’25

JV Coaches Award: Madeleine Lasell ’25
 

In Day 2024

St. Andrew’s partners with One Love Foundation for a day of learning about the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships

Going into the group discussions on In Day on Feb. 19, Grace King ’25 didn’t entirely know what she was getting into. 

This was the first In Day ever held at St. Andrew’s, a day devoted to looking inward to learn about and discuss relationships of all kinds, and to identify the signs of healthy and unhealthy ones. King completed training and preparation in advance of being a student-facilitator on In Day, but she wasn’t sure what would manifest in the discussions and how students would participate. 

“My group bought into the discussion amazingly,” says King.

King says that in discussions about how to support better relationships in their own and each other’s lives, students opened up and “took space” and “made space” for each other. 

“People were just kind of sitting with their thoughts, but consistently they were always very engaged,” she says. “And everything that they were saying was very thoughtful.”

Grace King ’25 leading discussion on In Day

Chemistry instructor Greg Guldin and Associate Head of School Ana Ramírez were the driving forces behind In Day, which was held in partnership with the One Love Foundation—an organization with the three-fold mission of educating, raising awareness, and mobilizing people to end relationship abuse and create a world of healthier relationships. 

“In Day is basically a day that the St. Andrew’s school community comes together to talk about being in relationship with each other,” says Guldin. “Ultimately, the idea is we’re all in relationships with each other from birth, [so it’s essential to hear] about what those relationships are, the things to celebrate, and the complications and the challenges and the opportunities.”

Guldin garnered interest among the student body to find students like King willing to take on the responsibility of leading In Day. Once he identified the 26 students who would act as student-facilitators, he planned several training sessions for them in advance of In Day.

King says at the three training sessions she attended, she learned about the One Love Foundation and relationship abuse, and planned out the discussions she and the other facilitators would lead. In addition, she says the facilitators also completed a virtual course through One Love. 

In Day started with a kickoff speech from Amy Altig, head coach of the University of Delaware’s women’s lacrosse team, who reflected on the founding purpose of One Love: to honor Yeardley Love, a Baltimore-native and UVA lacrosse player who was tragically killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2010. Altig spoke to her own personal experiences as a coach who, year-after-year, has helped her athletes navigate relationship issues. 

Afterwards, students filed into breakout sessions where groups watched videos, reflected on what they learned about relationship abuse, and engaged in conversation about the relationships in their own lives.

In Day discussions

“One Love has 10 signs of unhealthy relationships, and 10 signs of healthy relationships, and it can get really in depth,” says King. “It forced me to think about it too, which is good. I didn’t just have other people learn: I was learning too, which I appreciated.”

King says that the experience was not only eye-opening because of the student buy-in, but because it provided her a taste of what being a leader on campus is like. 

“I felt what it would feel like to be a senior and to be a leader,” says King. “I’ve not had a true leadership position at the school before. And I feel like that was a leadership position because I was sitting and leading discussion for underclassmen.”

She adds that students may have felt more comfortable and eager to participate on In Day because it was their fellow students, who could relate and understand, who led the breakout sessions. 

“Hearing about [relationships] from a peer is really what the goal of the day was,” says Guldin. “To talk to each other about what goes well and what the challenges are and what struggles we may face, and then what are the things that we can do to help each other get [to healthier places].”

King, who is eager to continue to step up as a leader in the future, says her biggest takeaway from In Day is just how important and frequent discussion about relationships should be in the St. Andrew’s community. Along with King, Guldin is excited to keep discussion alive at future In Days. 

“There’s always opportunities for us to do things better,” says Guldin. “For the next In Day, there’s different ways we may want to mix up the groups, or there’s different timing we may follow. But for a first go of healthy relationship [building], I think overall the day went really, really well.”
 

Joy McGrath ’92

Dear Families,

It is February but the season is turning to spring. This weekend, as we wrap up squash, swimming, and wrestling in post-season action, we will enjoy the culminating event of winter, the musical. This year’s production is “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and I hope many of you who are able will join us in person—curtain time is 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow! Ty and I are looking forward to hosting the traditional cast party in our home during the late hours of Saturday night to celebrate what I know will be a marvelous performance.

Next week, temperatures will be on the rise. I would say we are moving outdoors, but a lot of our students have been doing nontraditional activities outside all winter. (Like erging outside, which has truly become a winter mainstay by the gym.) Yesterday, as I went out the front drive, I noticed lines on the lacrosse practice field, though—so the shift to spring is happening. By the next time I write to you, I suspect our resident ospreys will have returned to their nest on the southern end of the pond, by the crew starting docks.

As we head toward the spring recess, I am trying to stop my thoughts turning so easily to the end of the year, but I also know how quickly it will be here. Your children have grown and learned so much, and it is such a privilege for us to see them joyful, challenged, and changing every day. I hope you enjoy seeing them during the recess and learning what they plan to accomplish in the last third of the year. Whatever their goals in this upcoming season of growth, I hope you and they know that we are all here in full support of them, and so proud of all they have accomplished this winter.

Thank you, as always.

Roy Foster

Saints spend an evening ruminating on historical memory and the insight of poets

“When tonight’s featured speaker arrived at St. Andrew’s in the autumn of 1966, a striking, long-limbed Irishman, wide of brow, he was our Malcolm Ford War Memorial Scholar—one of two that year, in fact,” said Jay Tolson ’67 by way of introducing former classmate Dr. Roy Foster ’67 to a packed Engelhard Hall on Friday, Jan. 12. 

Foster—former professor at Oxford University, a renowned scholar of Irish history, and noted biographer of 20th-century Irish poet W.B. Yeats—took the stage to deliver the talk “Dead Poets and Live Issues,” this year’s Levinson Lecture. This annual lecture, generously endowed in 2003 by Marilyn and David N. Levinson ’53 and their son Micah ’05, brings experts to campus to enlighten our community in their specialized studies of history, politics, economics, or related social-science fields. In his lecture, Foster, in his signature “Irish brogue,” drew from his study of Yeats and Irish history to illuminate the insight poets have into the future and its uncertain nature. 

“It was a tremendous opportunity for our students to hear from a renowned historian who once sat in the classrooms and dorm rooms they now occupy,” said History Department Chair Matt Edmonds. “As I said to the students in my introduction of Mr. Tolson, ‘I can only hope that some of you, out there in the audience, are in the early stages of a friendship that will span decades, and that you, too, will someday return to St. Andrew’s to share the stage with your classmates and talk about the past.’”

Jay Tolson

Jay Tolson ’67 introduces Roy Foster ’67 at this year’s Levinson Lecture

Earlier that day, Foster brought his historical expertise to daily academic life at St. Andrew’s by paying a visit to “Advanced Study in History: A World at War” classes. 

“I think he is capturing history from one of the most important angles—the angle of humanness,” said Erik Liu ’25 of the perspective he gained from Foster’s visit to “World at War.” “I find this angle often very hard to handle because subjectivity always gets in my way. He, however, makes use of the power of subjectivity in literature and injects it into the pile of historical facts he works with. As a result, he presents us with a more human, comprehensive, and interconnected set of ideas about the flow of history.”

Like her classmate, Jayda Badoo ’25 was also struck by the classroom visit. “Having dedicated his life to the study of history, what he really sought were our thoughts on the nature of history and those who preserve it,” Badoo said. Finn Lorentzen ’25 added that Foster “recognized the students in the class as peers.”

Not entirely unlike the Saints of today, Foster came to St. Andrew’s from his specific corner of the world, Waterford, Ireland, amidst “large events in the world beyond Noxontown Pond”—the war in Vietnam and the protests in opposition to it, escalating Arab-Israeli conflict, and the developing civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. 

Foster remembered his time at St. Andrew’s in these historical contexts, and how these social and political events and movements were characterized by people acting in anticipation of the future—a future that never materialized. 

“We thought we knew the future, but much later I wrote that the most illuminating history is written when we realize that people act in expectation of the future that never happens, an idea inspired by the moving last lines of the poet W.B.Yeats’s memoir, Reveries over Childhood and Youth:

‘…when I think of all the books I have read, and of the wise words I have heard spoken, and of the anxiety I have given to parents and grandparents, and of the hopes that I have had, all life weighed in the scales of my own life seems to me a preparation for something that never happens.’”

Foster pointed to the 1960s as a time in which expectations were raised and ultimately unfulfilled. To be young in the 1960s, he said, meant to believe that “the received values and structures of religion and nationalism” were on the way out, and to feel starkly different from the generations before. 

“Napoleon … said that to understand a person, you’ll have to look at what was happening in the world when they were 20,” Foster said. “That puts my generation born around 1948 to ’49 firmly in the historical moment of 1968 to ’69.”

In trying to understand the unexpected, unanticipated fates of historical moments like the 1960s, Foster said that he was called to a mode of studying history known as “revisionism”—a study of the gray areas in a country’s history, which complicates simplistic narratives and also calls attention to the study of the ordinary, everyday life. Ultimately, he said, he saw through such a lens the power of the poet, who can provide guidance in the midst of uncertain futures. 

Foster again pointed to the insight of Yeats into events such as the aftermath of World War I and the Irish War of Independence. He called to mind the poet’s illustration of the world being exposed to “recurrent cycles of violence” through imagery of the choreography of American dancer and choreographer Loie Fuller.

Returning to the idea “that examining and interpreting history depends upon an odd mixture of memory and anticipation,” Foster touched on how history is often viewed as a product of collective, “social” memory. With that, he said, history too is shaped by what people “forget” as a result of traumatic episodes in the past. 

“As the search to re-imagine ‘experience’ takes over, so does the exploration of feeling and sensibility, and this can be problematic,” Foster said of the intertwined nature of history and memory, later adding that skepticism of the reliability of memory is essential to the study of history.

He also called attention to his fascination in historical research with how revolutionary generations—like those of the Irish War for Independence, which he studied in his book, Vivid Faces—often change their minds, and thus, the historical memory of the revolution.

“Generations, as [German sociologist Karl] Mannheim put it, are made, not born,” Foster said. “Indeed, they’re effectively self-made and they’re self-made in memory, and memory, as I pointed out earlier, is not always consistent or reliable.”

In the question-and-answer portion of the lecture, students engaged with Foster on topics such as memorialization, combating book banning, and if it is possible to escape the “cycle of war.” Kayley Rivera ’26 asked Foster if the students’ generation is one of those special, self-made generations (to which Foster responded that the fate of their generation is yet to be determined, and asked Rivera, “What do you think?”). 

Before the evening concluded, Foster mentioned the film Dead Poets Society, well-known by Saints, which inspired the title of his lecture. He recalled the scene in which the “maverick teacher played by Robin Williams” made the class stand on their desks and get a different view of the world. 

“A change of perspective can come in many ways,” Foster said. “I would argue that some of the most potent routes are through poetry, history, and even that troublesome concept of memory: a creative mainline into the ‘music of things happening.’”

Student asks Roy Foster a question

Mac Gooder ’24 engages with Roy Foster ’67 during the question-and-answer portion of the Levinson Lecture


 

Sophie Forbes ’25

Sophie Forbes ’25 receives recognition for pen-and-ink drawing and years of dedication to the craft

Journeying through Cheung Chau this past summer, Sophie Forbes ’25 was immediately struck by a particular street lined with clotheslines and the shadows of locals’ balconies. The composition of the street would not only make for an interesting drawing, the artist thought, but would represent the overall experience of taking in the sights of Hong Kong.

The pen-and-ink drawing this V former subsequently created based on this street in Cheung Chau, Hong Kong—titled “Old Street”—recently received a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the highest regional award given by this art and writing recognition program for teens.

“Hong Kong, for me, makes up a big part of my identity,” says Forbes.

Ever since Forbes delved deep into art in middle school, the pen-and-ink medium has stood out because of how the technique can create a variety of strokes in terms of size and shape.

“[I can] pick up a pen and then suddenly it’s all these lines that I make from these pens, which have an image, they have a story,” says Forbes. 
Navanjali Kelsey, visual arts faculty member, says that while Forbes is especially skilled in the pen-and-ink medium, she is consistently impressed with the student’s strong proficiency across media. 

“In Painting I, Sophie was bold in terms of color usage with oil paint,” says Kelsey. “Having been well-versed with pen and ink prior to St. Andrew’s, Sophie wielded sophisticated rendering capabilities in Drawing I, with detailed and sensitively depicted charcoal and pastel images. Sophie has an incredible capacity for presenting detail, and I am so thrilled that the Scholastic Arts Awards have also recognized Sophie’s talents with a Gold Key.”  

Forbes had the opportunity to see the piece on display at the Delaware State University Arts Center/Gallery. The experience of seeing the personal artwork in the gallery wasn’t exactly normal for this artist. 

“It definitely felt a little weird,” says Forbes. “But it felt very [fulfilling], seeing my own work of art and seeing … something that represents me and my identity just displayed on the wall for other people to see.”

This wasn’t this go-getter’s first time submitting work to the Scholastic Art Awards. However, it’s the first time that Forbes’s submitted work has received a Gold Key. It was rewarding to finally have fulfilled this accomplishment, which has been a long-time coming, says the artist. This award is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. 

“I don’t like using the word ‘talent’ to describe art, because I feel like artistic skill does not come to you naturally,” says Forbes. “It’s something that I feel like you have to spend a lot of time building, and it is not something that you can just … wake up with one day and do. It is just practice and practice and practice. And I felt like all these skills that I’ve been practicing since seventh grade have really shown to pay off.”

“Old Street”


 

Joy McGrath ’92

“Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books...”

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Dear Families,

This week, we reconstituted a St. Andrew’s tradition that goes back a little way, a full school trip to Washington, D.C. I am thankful we can take this trip now, at the start of a presidential election year in the United States. As global citizens, we have a duty to be informed, to listen carefully (especially to those with whom we disagree), to debate and discuss ideas, and to vote. This trip offers opportunities for students to inform and inspire themselves, gather new perspectives and points of view, and prepare themselves for full participation in democracy.
 
In addition to having the run of the National Mall, our alumni offered students 13 different meetings and tours with alumni in their places of work—from the offices of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) to the executive offices of Deloitte to the State Department to National Geographic. The IV Form went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and 100 students had the opportunity to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Mall itself afforded students endless opportunities for awe and discovery in the realms of art, architecture, engineering, culture, literature, and science, to name a few.
 
Why should an entire school go to Washington? We started the calendar year gathering after the winter break in Engelhard, where I reminded the students that St. Andrew’s is a nonpartisan school by its constitution—like any nonprofit in the U.S. we do not participate in partisan politics or campaigning. However, as a school we certainly have an obligation to prepare our students for citizenship in a democracy. Here, our students develop their own voices, their own principles, their own ways of expressing themselves. And their expressive freedom is fundamental to their education.
 
At all times I hope we are engaging in the debates and issues of the day, that we are seeking out news from reputable sources, that we are testing our ideas against each other. We recently brought back print copies of major U.S. newspapers to the dining hall each morning. And, a group of students and faculty have volunteered to organize programming for the election year, to help us understand multiple sides of critical issues as well as the unfolding of the electoral process itself. If you have any suggestions about topics or speakers, I would welcome them!
 
We are a pluralistic community by design: we are not monolithic, and we all bring our own experiences, opinions, and values to any question. As I shared with our students, I do not expect that we agree on crucial issues. In fact, as a school as diverse as we are, I would be disappointed if we did. Political conformity and ideological orthodoxy are counterproductive in a school. We could not learn much without debate, without sharpening and improving our ideas against other ideas, and sometimes even persuading others or changing our own minds. And we are here to learn.
 
I do expect, however, that when we disagree that we see the humanity in each other. In my experience, people often want the same things. But we may want the same things and see different ways to get from here to there. That is to be expected and encouraged, and that is why debate and dialogue are necessary in a democracy. We aim to model and practice that at St. Andrew’s. And when we fall short or hurt each other, I hope we learn from that, we apologize, we give each other grace, and we assume good intent. But we must also be courageous in continuing the conversation.
 
When I was growing up, I had a VHS tape recording of a televised broadcast of Frank Capra’s 1939 film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I watched it so many times that it finally wore out.1 As our school traveled to Washington this week, I recalled Jefferson Smith’s timeless reflection on the importance of children learning to prize and defend their freedom. He said, “Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books... [People] should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t, I can, and my children will. [Children] ought to grow up remembering that.”
 
I hope our trip this week was fun and joyful for the students, but I also hope it brought to life the special responsibility we have as citizens to think for—and express—ourselves, and how closely that is tied to our education.


1 As I type this, I realize this is material I can only use in a parent email—examples involving VHS tapes and broadcast TV would draw only blank stares from our students!

National Geographic photography session

National Geographic photographer Becky Hale P’27 gave a crash course in photography to a group of students. 

DC Trip

Students conversed with Michelle Madeley ’03 about her work as drinking water grants lead for the EPA.

Capitol Tour

Saints took a “greatest hits” Capitol tour with Ella Yates ’08, director of member services and coalitions at the House Judiciary Committee.

Dr. Joel Fish

Sport psychologist Dr. Joel Fish works with winter athletes, coaches, and athletics and administrative staff on the mental part of the game

Akeelah Romeo ’24 stood on the stage in Engelhard Hall with a lacrosse stick in hand (akin to a foreign object, as she isn’t on the lacrosse team). Dr. Joel Fish, the visiting sport psychologist who spoke to the entire student body in Engelhard on Jan. 30, told Romeo to try to balance it in her hand for ten seconds while keeping her eyes glued to the bottom of the stick. The brave VI Former, who volunteered to come on stage for this demonstration, tried to do so, but to no avail. 

Then Fish told her to make one change: look only at the top of the lacrosse stick while trying to balance it.

She put the lacrosse stick in her hand, lifted her chin, and suddenly, she could balance the stick for the full ten seconds and then some. 

One small change, said Fish, can make a world of difference. Athletics is the same way, he said. Making one positive, small mental or physical change in your game can improve performance over time if you stay consistent. 

We brought Dr. Fish—a nationally recognized expert who has worked with the Philadelphia Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers, and the USA national women’s field hockey and soccer teams—to campus for a two-day visit to talk and put into practice all-things sport psychology with our coaches, athletics staff, counselors, and athletes. This lecture was the first event of his visit, in which he introduced sport psychology—the study and improvement of “the mental part of the game” utilizing the principles of psychology—and shared with students the tools they can use to enhance their mental game. 

Fish spoke about the “big five skills”: confidence, composure, concentration, communication, and teamwork. Then he led students through a game plan for gaining a “mental edge,” introducing concepts such as positive self-talk, mental and physical self check-ins, and prioritizing a “choose to” versus “should do” mindset. 

But Fish wasn’t just all about theory: he got students involved, showing them just how powerful their brain can be in terms of performance, playing a game that illustrated how the mind can often cut corners and make assumptions. 

Fish concluded his talk by encouraging the student body to think about the change they want to make to their game so that by the end of the school year, they can look at themselves in the mirror and feel like champions. 

Outside of the lecture, Fish continued the conversation about mental edge in small groups, meeting with student leaders of our athletics program, individual winter sports teams, athletics staff, counselors, and coaches of all sports. 

During his meeting with coaches, Fish posed the question: “What percentage of your sport do you think is mental?” Responses varied, as coaches across sports identified the differing mental demands and challenges particular to their disciplines. 

Dr. Fish working with Matt Harris

Fish said he expected a lack of a consensus, but he encouraged the coaches to discuss ways to explore attitude, mental performance, and the specific needs of their program with their athletes. If we all agree that part of the game is mental, Fish said, we should be willing to schedule time and create space during practice to mentally prepare athletes in order to help them succeed. 

Amelia Browne, head coach of varsity volleyball, plans on taking Fish’s advice and putting it into practice with her athletes. 

“What I most appreciated about Dr. Fish’s visit with the coaches at St. Andrew’s was his openness and eagerness to collaborate,” said Browne. “His insight and advice reflected a deep understanding of the life of athletes at St. Andrew’s. I left with concrete ideas about what to implement into my practice plans to better connect with and support my athletes.”

Will Rehrig, assistant coach to boys cross-country, felt similarly about Fish’s visit.

“Dr. Fish’s ability to personally connect with coaches and athletes was incredible,” he said. “He helped provide themes related to mental resilience for the school’s athletic programs to begin to build on. His suggestion to focus on mental training for at least 15 minutes a week to help start developing our athlete’s confidence, perseverance, and ability to focus during high-pressure moments will hopefully begin to lead to strong resilience and tenacity late into games, when often mental focus during crucial plays is the difference between winning and losing. … He was able to help us start to think about what it looks like to develop athletic mental fortitude across multiple seasons and sports.” 

When he visited with the girls varsity basketball team, Fish answered a few questions that his lecture raised the previous night: How do I lead yet also continue discovering the sport individually? How do I look at the larger picture for the team? How do I use body language to improve my game? Fish also considered the team’s performance throughout their season to analyze patterns and to develop a game plan for how to break free from the patterns that may be holding them back. 

“The biggest lesson I took out of Dr. Fish’s visit was that success is all about your mindset,” said girls varsity basketball player Ahilya Ellis ’26. “Instead of doing things because you think you ‘have to,’ it is important to change that to ‘I choose to.’ It has been helpful for me to make this change of perspective because it allows me to feel more in control and gives me a real sense of autonomy.”

Fish ended his stay at St. Andrew’s by attending afternoon practices, observing how the teams work, helping them put into practice the skills and concepts he introduced, and continuing to answer the questions of individual athletes. 

Dr. Fish working with students

With Fish, we’re playing the long game, as this isn’t his last visit to St. Andrew’s. We’ll see him again in the spring, when he will work with our spring sports teams, as well as check in with our athletes to see if they are feeling more like champions. 

“It was an honor and privilege to have Dr. Fish on campus working with our coaches and student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Neil Cunningham. “His knowledge and ability to connect to people on a personal level is why he is simply the best in the business. We are thrilled to continue the partnership with him and look forward to implementing some of his practical tips and strategies with our teams.”
 

Dr. Fish working with Neil Cunningham
John Plummer ’25

John Plummer ’25 on finding himself through wrestling

When John Plummer ’25 opened his eyes, he saw a trainer checking his pulse. 

“Do you know where you are?” asked the trainer. Yes, Plummer replied, at a varsity wrestling tournament. He had momentarily passed out after giving everything he had to win—which he did. 

He got himself partially up, and extended his hand to shake the trainer’s. 

It’s customary at a wrestling tournament to shake the hand of the other wrestler’s coach, and Plummer, without a clue what had just happened to him, managed to remember that he didn’t shake anyone’s hand yet. Even as he was regaining consciousness, Plummer had one thing on his mind: good sportsmanship. In a haze, he settled for the hand nearest to him. 

Plummer’s qualities add up to everything that makes for an ideal wrestler: his strength, his determination, and of course, the spirit of sportsmanship that marks every great athlete, regardless of the athletic arena. 

“John always gives 110%,” says wrestling Head Coach Phil Davis, who calls Plummer a “true team player in an individual sport.” 

Plummer has always played different sports, but the pieces didn’t come together for him until his IV Form year when he found himself in the wrestling room. 

He grew up playing ice hockey and sailing competitively. Ice hockey ran in the family, as his father was a semi-professional hockey player. 

“I was always expected to be good at hockey,” says Plummer. “I’m an incredible skater, but I really struggled with puck skills.”

As a III Former, he tried his hand at swimming and rowing, but he didn’t get the rush of adrenaline he was looking for from the pool or the pond. (It didn’t help that the shoe literally didn’t fit—rowing shoes were particularly uncomfortable for Plummer to wear.) 

But something clicked when he found wrestling. 

“The first thing I noticed about the team is it was very warm,” says Plummer. “It was like a family.” 

That family feeling didn’t lessen the anxiety he felt about starting the sport, particularly after witnessing the strength of the other wrestlers on the team. But Plummer put his doubts away, and went all-in.

He dedicated himself to the challenge, especially with the help of coach Davis and coach Donald Duffy. Plummer says that he has ADHD, and that the coaching staff on the wrestling team individualizes a coaching approach to suit his needs. 

“They know exactly how to coach me,” says Plummer. “I’ve never had a coaching experience like that where they know how to get my attention, how to keep my focus.”

The coaching staff takes the extra step each practice by not just telling, but showing. Plummer says they’ll put themselves fully into it, demonstrating how to do a move, which fits his preference for a more physical style of instruction.

Plummer and the coaching staff’s diligence paid off last season. He remembers his first win at a tournament at Polytech High School. 

“I wasn’t expecting to win at all that day because I had this mindset of, ‘I’m a beginner so what can I do?’” says Plummer. “I went out, and I don’t know what I did, but I came out on top.”

He has continued to come out on top: Plummer said he went 7-3 last year and this season, as of Jan. 26, he is 22-1, including JV, varsity, and exhibition matches. Even with such a great record, he sets the standard high for winning graciously and staying humble. 

“Because I’m so new to [wrestling], it’s easier for me to have a good mindset. I know that I will win some and I will lose some,” says Plummer. “Humility is important in this sport because there are people who have been wrestling since they were three.” 

But his success has given him a sense of accomplishment and confidence that he never really knew before.

“As soon as I started doing well, I immediately got a confidence boost and it has tremendously helped me,” says Plummer. “The person I am now because of wrestling is completely unrecognizable from the person I was before.”

Plummer’s love for the sport has become so deep that even in the off-season, he goes out of his way to develop his skills and get more practice at tournaments he finds on his own. 

“On the school’s first long break John didn’t just sit around, he attended a large wrestling tournament in Pennsylvania with over 1,500 wrestlers,” says Davis, who adds that Plummer also attended wrestling camp over the summer to better his skillset. “John represented himself and the school very well. This was not just a wrestling tournament, this was a test of John’s will to win.”

After taking the time to truly find himself in the sport, Plummer says showing up at wrestling meets and tournaments feels completely natural to him. 

“I think that it’s really easy to give it your best effort in wrestling, more so than in other sports,” says Plummer. “The adrenaline you get from what your body thinks is a fight takes care of any lack of effort.”

Davis sees no lack of effort when it comes to Plummer. “I can teach anyone to wrestle, but I can’t teach heart,” Davis says.  “John has plenty of that.” 
 

Richard Zhu ’26

Richard Zhu ’26 on forging his own melodies and announcing them to the world

For Richard Zhu ’26, while music may be something he creates, it is also something with a mind of its own that has molded him into the singer, songwriter, and student he is today. To him, music is a living, breathing being.

Zhu first started singing at the age of three, and has played piano since five. “I found myself so interested that I kept on diving into it,” says Zhu of developing his love of music, which goes so deep he considers music to be a “best friend” that has accompanied him for as long as he can remember. 

From the moment he stepped on the St. Andrew’s campus, Zhu deeply immersed himself in the school music scene—from the music classrooms as a member of both the Noxontones and the Jazz Ensemble, to the stage of Forbes Theater where he shined in the winter musical performance of Sister Act, to his dorm room where he can be heard humming original melodies. Now a IV Former, he continues to pursue his passion for music in just about every corner of campus. 

As he technically improved as a musician over the years, he also developed a complementary passion: one for songwriting and music production. 

Before coming to St. Andrew’s, then-14-year-old Zhu released his first original album, Village of Dream (Journey), on Spotify. During his admission interview, Richard met Quinn Kerrane, director of the choral music program, and at her encouragement, he sang one of his original songs to her. Enterprising, talented, and bold, he already had all the characteristics of a Saint. 

“I think [it’s] definitely not a coincidence,” says Zhu of this fortuitous moment with Kerrane and his admission into St. Andrew’s. He was destined to pursue his passion here. 

During the fall of his freshman year, Zhu launched his second album, Village of Dream (Youth). He bravely decided to tell the world about his music, announcing to the school his release of the album during lunch announcements. 

“I am not the most confident person in the world, I do doubt myself a lot of the time,” says Zhu. “It’s definitely a huge step for me to tell others that I have music.” But each time he shares his work, it gets easier to spread the word and to be his authentic self, he says. 

The support he has received from the Saints community has helped strengthen his confidence. It is this encouragement and feedback that he says is one of his main motivations for further pursuing songwriting. 

Hailing from China, Zhu calls music a “worldwide” language, noting it as the constant in his life when moving from one country to another. To him,  music is universal, and therefore, one aspect of adapting to a new culture that feels natural. “But you can also keep that part of yourself of where you came from and employ that into the music,” Zhu says of blending several cultures into one song. 

Though Zhu is a self-starter, he acknowledges just how grateful he is for the music opportunities at St. Andrew’s, and he hopes to give back to the Saints arts community as he becomes an upperclassmen by stepping into student leadership positions. 

While many know Zhu as the student who is all-things-music, and he is proud to be known for this passion, he also hopes people see the other sides of him. 

“Music is definitely one of my most important things here, but … coming to boarding school, I also want people to realize that I am more than just a person who loves music,” says Zhu. “Besides being on stage, being in the studio, I also want to be a friend, a classmate, a good person, a good player on the soccer field ... [I want people] to really know me as just me, every aspect of me.”

See Zhu live on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 as Snoopy in the upcoming winter musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and check out his Spotify page and YouTube account.

Richard Zhu ’26 at Fall Family Weekend
Football award

On Dec. 1, we celebrated our victories, cheered each other on, and reflected on a season marked with growth, joy, and gratitude at the Fall Athletics Awards Ceremony. Organized by Director of Athletics Neil Cunningham, this was the first time in recent school history that we’ve had such an award ceremony as a stand-alone event. Athletes across forms were recognized for their hard work on our fields, courts, and trails, and for demonstrating the virtues we value in athletes: perseverance, good sportsmanship, positivity, and mental and physical toughness. 

Watch the full event here.

The following students received recognition at the ceremony: 

Girls Cross-Country

Girls Cross-Country Awards

“Saints runners, you have incredible potential. Put in the work, log the miles, build the strength, and come back next season ready to chase after new goals, new personal bests, new titles. But do not lose the fun or the joy or the gratitude, for they are what set you apart and they are key to your success.” Head Coach Jennifer Carroll

  • JV, Coaches Award: Hannah Gilheany ’24
  • Varsity, Coaches Award: Caroline Meers ’24
  • Most Improved: Amanda Meng ’25
  • MVP: Leah Horgan ’25

Boys Cross-Country

Boys Cross-Country Awards

“In my mind, every time a Thirds runner runs a bunch, an angel get its wings.” Head Coach Dan O’Connell

  • JV, Coaches Award: Shawn Li ’24
  • Varsity, Coaches Award: Chris Onsomu ’25
  • Most Improved: Cy Karlik ’24
  • MVP: Peter Bird ’25

Field Hockey

Field Hockey Awards

“The most significant contributor to our team’s progress was the collective effort and each individual showing up to work hard and have fun.” Head Coach Kate Cusick

  • JV, Coaches Award: Magnolia Mullen ’25
  • JV, Most Improved: Sophie Forbes ’25
  • JV, MVP: Catherine Phillips ’27
  • Varsity, Most Improved: Emma Hunter ’25
  • Varsity, MVP: Channing Malkin ’24

Football

Football Awards

“[The resiliency of the team] is a true testament to the character and the selflessness of the types of individuals we have on the football team and to the character of the team as a whole.” Head Coach Patrick Moffitt

  • Robert M. Colburn Award: Frank Nasta ’24
  • Virginia DiGennaro Award: Kim Murrell, Jr. ’24
  • Dedication and Commitment Award: Luke Ketzner ’25
  • Most Improved: Juelz Clark ’25
  • MVP: Yasir Felton ’24

Boys Soccer

Varsity Boys Soccer Awards

“Take pride in the preparation. Accept responsibility in the setbacks and celebrate the opportunity to develop further.” Head Coach Matthew Carroll

  • Thirds, Most Improved: Ronit Goyal ’27
  • Thirds, MVP: Tre Lazar ’26
  • JV, Most Improved: Charlie Round ’27
  • JV, MVP: Ethan Williams ’26
  • Varsity, Most Improved: Alvin Xie ’26
  • Varsity, Coaches Award: Talan Esposito ’24
  • Varsity, MVP: Porter Read ’25
JV Soccer Awards
Thirds Boys Soccer Awards

Volleyball

Volleyball Awards

“We raised our expectations. We asked players to change positions. We changed practice. Every single time, [the team] stepped up to the plate.” Head Coach Amelia Browne

  • Thirds, MVP: Julissa Hernandez ’25
  • Thirds, Most Improved: Olivia Ike ’27
  • JV, Most Improved: Kayley Rivera ’26
  • JV, MVP: Lila Lunsford ’26
  • Varsity, Most Improved: Ahilya Ellis ’26
  • Varsity, MVP: Catherine Foster ’25
Michael Giansiracusa to Join St. Andrew’s as Head Chaplain

Earlier today, Head of School Joy McGrath ’92 announced to the community that the Reverend Michael Giansiracusa has been appointed as St. Andrew’s head chaplain, effective July 1, 2024. She thanked the dozens of community members who participated in the search, including members of the student vestry, the student interfaith council, and a faculty search committee of Ana Ramírez, Terence Gilheany, and Dave DeSalvo.

As head chaplain, Michael will lead spiritual life at the school, direct the school’s chapel program, and be responsible for defining, preserving, and promoting the school’s Episcopal identity to all constituencies. In overseeing the school’s chapel program, Michael will preside at services three times each week, and manage the student-led chapel guilds and vestry, as well as the chapel team.

Michael joins St. Andrew’s with extensive experience in spiritual leadership and campus ministry. He currently serves as chaplain at Doane Academy, an Episcopal K-12 school where he also teaches World Religions, and as vicar at St. Gabriel’s, a mission church in Philadelphia. Prior to Doane and St. Gabriel’s, Michael spent 13 years leading urban and suburban parishes, including Episcopal Community Services (Philadelphia, Pa.), where he engaged in a variety of nonprofit work; the Romero Center (Camden, N.J.), where he led college and high school mission retreats; and St. Mary’s (Ardmore, Pa.) where he served as rector.

Earlier in his career, Michael taught religion, English, and film at various secondary schools including St. Mark’s (Wilmington, Del.), Malvern Prep (Malvern, Pa.), and Bishop Eustace Prep (Pennsauken Township, N.J.). It was during this time he spent teaching that he discerned a call to the Episcopal priesthood, attended Episcopal Divinity School, and earned a doctorate in Ministry. Michael is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Michael attended LaSalle University, where he studied communication arts with minors in philosophy and English; and Villanova University, where he earned an M.A. in religious studies. Michael is a rabid Philadelphia sports fan, enjoys film and cooking, and is an animal rights advocate. He is father to a son, Michael, who attends Villanova University as a VUScholar.

“Of course, I knew of the excellent reputation that St. Andrew’s has for academics, the chapel program, and the varieties of sports and activities available,” Michael said. “What was eye-opening to me was the honest effort not to rest on reputation, but to actively look to create opportunities to be better. Although this is a community that is firmly rooted in faith, St. Andrew’s does not forget that, in the end, beyond any accolades and traditions, a community is about relationships and the care and concern community members have for one another. There is no substitute for the support, safety, and love of a community. This is what convinced me that St. Andrew’s is where I wanted to be.”

Joy wrote in her announcement to the school that, “Michael stood out in an impressive field of candidates as a person with both a lively Christian faith and a calling to serve adolescents in a religiously diverse Episcopal school setting. Students and faculty alike identified him as the next person to lead St. Andrew’s chapel program and spiritual life.”

Michael was identified as St. Andrew’s next head chaplain from a field of outstanding candidates in an exhaustive and inclusive national search. He succeeds The Rev. Jay Hutchinson as chaplain. Jay Hutchinson retired from St. Andrew’s in June 2023 and joined St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts. Previously retired St. Andrew’s Head Chaplain Rev. David DeSalvo P’00,’04 has returned to lead the school’s chapel program in the interim.

The Fall 2023 Football Team

Frank Nasta ’24 reflects on a triumphant end to a football season full of ups and downs

The last two games of the football season were emotional for quarterback Frank Nasta ’24. Nasta and his two roommates and close friends, wide receivers Griffin Patterson ’24 and Yasir Felton ’24, were finally back on the field together, a moment Nasta had been waiting for after an injury during the season opener took Patterson out for the rest of the fall.

The three VI Formers had eagerly anticipated this season ever since they realized the previous school year that they all would likely end up as co-captains for their final season of Saints football. The trio spent time discussing what they envisioned for their future team, and how they would build team culture to make their dreams happen. 

“We had a lot of conversations about it. Over that time, we kind of realized the wins and losses are nice, but what matters in high school sports is the relationships you form,” says Nasta. “There are a lot of people who might not be really passionate about football, but they’re going to be passionate about their friends, and their friends on that team, and that’s what will push them to go the extra mile.”

One of the co-captains’ mantras was that mistakes and challenges are building blocks for growth. 

That growth-mindset came to use almost immediately during the season, after Patterson and other starting players went down in the first game of the season against Tower Hill. 

“What are we going to do? Just what’s going to happen?” Nasta recalls thinking the night after that first game of the season. “That adversity ended up becoming our story.” 

Once Nasta and his teammates processed the injuries, the co-captains made a game plan for getting through the rest of the season, and refused to lose their focus on building a tight-knit team. They planned to protect their remaining athletes, with many newer and less-experienced players rising to the occasion, while also getting Patterson and the others back on the field after a full recovery. 

Patterson made his return to the field in the second-to-last game of the season against Seaford High School, and Nasta says the field felt more alive than ever. 

“There was a different energy,” says Nasta. “Everybody on the team knew that he was back and you could feel it kind of in the air. It was an under-the-lights game, and it was a game that we needed to win to keep our playoff hopes alive, and you could feel it.”

He says that the team was all but unstoppable in that game, taking Seaford by surprise with the return of one of the Saints’ strongest players. 

“Pick your poison: We’re going to hit you somewhere,” Nasta says of the situations that Seaford faced from the Saints. “We had 361 passing yards, five passing touchdowns … you could really feel it. You could feel [Patterson’s] presence back on the field.”

The team kept the momentum going in the following game against Brandywine High School, a team with a strong record. 

“We crushed them,” says Nasta. That game showed the Saints that if they did make the playoffs, they would give the other contenders a run for their money. It showed them they were the team that they knew they could be. 

“The team showed a lot of resiliency,” says Head Coach Patrick Moffitt. “There were times throughout the season where both individuals and the team as a whole could have packed it in, but everyone really bought in and kept pushing forward. They are one of the toughest teams I have coached, and should be proud of all they accomplished throughout the season.”

Though the team didn’t make the playoffs, with Glasgow High School pulling out a win that sent them to the promised land instead, Nasta says that the team felt at peace with their season’s ending. 

“I did what I wanted to, and I’m not talking about a statistical standpoint or scoring touchdowns,” says Nasta. “It was the relationships that I built and the impact that I had on people. That was really the win from the season. There were a ton of people who I think looked up to me on the team, and I think it was my goal to give them somebody to look up to and to be the person they think I am.”

Nasta’s career isn’t over yet, as he heads to Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota next year to play Division III football. But he says that nothing will be quite like Saints football, and he wants next year’s team to take the time to enjoy the journey. 

Throughout the season, Nasta stayed in touch with several St. Andrew’s alumni who he played football with last year. They told Nasta that sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night, they think about how much they miss playing football for St. Andrew’s, and that Nasta should cherish this season while it lasts. 

“There were a couple moments in the year where I sat there and I thought, ‘There is going to be nothing else like this,’” says Nasta. “And I’m glad that I got the ability to take that in. I hope that the seniors next year … can kind of take it in themselves and realize that high school football is really special. You get some great friends and real brotherhood.”

Joy McGrath ’92

I hope everyone had a good break – we have so much to be thankful for. 

The coming three weeks are some of my favorites here at St. Andrew’s. It’s a crazy toboggan run to our departure and we have a lot to do between now and then—starting winter sports, attacking a short leg in the academic schedule, preparation for holiday artistic performances. It’s all about the joy. Let’s have fun with it!

I know Mr. Rehrig spoke to you at the last school meeting about our decision no longer to use Grammarly because the software is predatory and counterproductive. The built-in grammar and spell checks in your word processing software are more than adequate to the task. We also do not think the software serves our educational objectives at the school. Over the break, I was thinking about the best way to capture what those objectives are so I can explain to you the “why” behind this decision and, most likely, future decisions about generative AI. 

As adolescents, your brains are developing and solidifying. You are learning habits of mind, developing neural pathways, at the one time in your life when these pathways will take root and grow. Later in life, down the road, these pathways are formed. No longer plastic, they will not change easily. 

The purpose of a St. Andrew’s education is, during these literally brain-forming years, to prepare you for a life of meaning and purpose, one in which you are able to solve problems—big, seemingly impossible ones—communicate clearly, work in teams, work independently. To do this you will have to be incredibly gritty and resilient, curious, brave, humble, relentless, and moral. Your education here—in the arts, sports, classrooms—is designed literally to open your minds and develop these tendencies. As your teachers, we believe in the power of ideas. Specifically, your ideas. The world needs you to think big and dream big, and to be prepared to fail, possibly many times. 

Looking around, it seems to me, the world needs you to be heroes. 

Speaking of heroes, I was at a conference right before the break and saw this video I am going to show you. One of the people on the NASA Psyche Mission team, Dr. David Oh, went to boarding school. And he explained to us how his boarding school experience led to his role on the Psyche Mission team, building independence, curiosity, and teamwork. Let me show you: 

NASA’s Psyche Mission to an Asteroid: Official NASA Trailer

This video spoke to me as we were making this decision, because I am certain AI has been deployed for many if not most aspects of this project. For sure, AI will be used to analyze the loads of data the craft collects if and when it reaches Psyche. But is that what has made this project, which is one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors of this generation? 

Here is what struck me: It’s a group of people, teammates, who have done something previously thought to be impossible. And crucially it might yet be impossible. The mission could fail, much could go wrong. Yet, it is daring, heroic. These people had multiple, connected, enormous dreams and the creativity and curiosity and work ethic to make them real—to ask the right questions, to search out answers through experimentation, debate, modeling, testing. They have a certain restlessness and drive, but we also know they have consistency, courage, discipline, and patience. Only human intelligence can do all this, something completely new and original and breathtakingly bold and potentially devastating and disappointing. No matter what, at the end of this mission, I can promise the main discovery will be that there is more to learn. This attempt is wildly ambitious and yet it is still just practice. 

The world needs you also to think big and dream big. That means everything won’t come out exactly right as you practice and work your way through problems. Nothing worthwhile ever goes smoothly, but you always learn. As I’ve said to you before, if you are not practicing, which oftentimes means struggling, then you are not getting an education. You have to work through draft after draft, attack problems from one angle to another, share your results, learn to make progress both individually and how to ask for help and work in teams. 

Artificial intelligence can stand in the way of all this at this time in your education. I understand the power of AI. You will use it in life, and it will help you accomplish great things. But these four years of high school are a precious time in the development of your brains, and I would not be doing my job if we were permitting tools to blunt your words with the ordinariness of the hive mind. 

I have to write a lot for my job, and there are many moments when I am staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page in Word. I’ve been there! Look for inspiration or take a deep breath. In these moments, I always turn on Yo-Yo Ma’s recordings of Bach’s cello concertos. Know it will not be perfect. Like, for example, this speech. I’ll do better next time.

But when Grammarly says chirpily, “make your paper better!” It is not making your paper perfect, or usually even better! I installed it last year for a while, to see what exactly the program does, and its suggestions were uniformly awful. What I am saying is the point of your education is to learn to generate your own ideas, test them, and learn how to express them clearly and in your own voice. You must learn to do this—really learn it, not have it done for you—because your ideas and your voice are so important. And it’s necessary to learn to do this so that people take you seriously! And this is the time in your life when you can and will find your own special, distinct, beautiful voice.

It will not happen right away. Like the Psyche mission—think about working for years, putting this thing into space, and waiting six more years to get to the destination—like the Psyche mission, your education has a long horizon. Heroes do things today and tomorrow, that won’t land for 10 years, or maybe even longer. I actually say this each year to our new faculty—as the adults working with you, we are not on a day-to-day or week-to-week, or even year-to-year time scale. Your minds and your potential are worth so much more than that. Maybe this is what the faith means in “faith and learning.” The rewards of our work now will be reaped in the distant future. And if we’re lucky we’ll hear all about it at your 25th reunion.

While I was writing these notes, I thought of the poem Ithaka, by Cavafy. Referencing the heroic Odysseus’ journey home, the poem is a metaphor for our lives and for our educations, and it reflects the principles we have for your education. Let me read it:

Ithaka, C. P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

 
So as the poem says, “hope your road is a long one.” Be patient, be brave, enjoy yourselves, do not hold yourself to an impossible standard. Remember our heroes of the Psyche Mission or Odysseus himself: the journey here is not about an outcome or a quick answer. It is a journey for your lifetime, not for an assignment, or a term, or a year. And enjoy that journey, enjoy your own accomplishments and your own breakthroughs. The riches are not at the end of the journey—the wealth is found in wisdom and experience along the way. For me, it’s why I love being here with you—it is such a joy to witness your work and ideas, curiosity and teamwork, independence and courage, all come to life each day. To watch you becoming heroes, just like Odysseus, like the Psyche Mission team, like yourselves. 

We only have three weeks here, Saints. Let’s make them good ones! I know you will. 

Thank you, good night, godspeed.
 

Everett McNair ’73 delivers the chapel talk at the Founders Day Chapel Service on November 29, 2023

2023 Distinguished Alumnus Recipient Everett McNair ’73 gave this reflection at the Founders Day chapel service on Wednesday, November 29.

Nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility, consider others more important than yourself. Everyone should look out not only for their own good, but also for the interests of others.

But also for the interests of others. In 1929, Felix duPont, the founder of St. Andrew’s School, wrote:

The purpose of St. Andrew’s School is to provide secondary education of a definitely Christian character at a minimum cost consistent with modern equipment and highest standards.

Now almost 100 years later, I am honored and privileged to be here in the heart of the school to share a chapel talk. One of my greatest blessings—and I have a lot of blessings—is experiencing the sustained benevolence of the founders. I’m both proud and humbled to be a St. Andrew’s alumnus.

Before arriving at St. Andrew’s School, I had attended 12 different schools. St. Andrew’s was my lucky number 13. After visiting the campus and getting excited about the possibility of coming here, I prayed all through the applications process. When I received my acceptance letter, it was good news and bad news. The good news was that I had been accepted. The bad news was that admissions wanted me to repeat the ninth grade. Now you have to understand, I came here at 6'1", 202 pounds; all through my time at St. Andrew’s, all through my academy, all through the Marine Corps, and now, I’m 6'1", 202 pounds. So I told my mom and dad I wanted to come to St. Andrew’s, but not if I had to repeat the ninth grade. They supported me and I was allowed to matriculate with the Class of 1973 as a IV Former.

Near the end of my V Form year, I met with the head of school, Mr. Moss. It was part of the college applications process. And over the years, 50-plus years, I distinctively and vividly remember two things from that conversation with Mr. Moss. He asked me what did I want to do? What did I want to be? And I remember my answer. I told him I saw myself as being the guy who would help the boss be successful. Now, later I’ll come back to why it’s easy for me to remember that over 50 years later. But first I’m going to take you down a rabbit hole.

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What is my purpose?” 

What is my purpose? During my junior and senior years at the Naval Academy, I reflected on this question a lot. But before I answer the question for myself, I first asked and objectively answered the easier question, “Who am I?” I am a product of many environments that I have experienced from childhood through my ongoing adulthood. These environments contributed to and shaped my values, my beliefs, my biases, and much more, all of which make me me.

Before I share with you what I considered my purpose to be, I’ll first provide insight into the me I know myself to be. That is, who I am. My father served in the United States Air Force for over 20 years, so to say that we moved a lot is the epitome of an understatement. In 1960, I lived in Japan where I attended kindergarten. I was the only Black kid in my kindergarten class—not because I remember this, but because the photos of the class pictures my mom kept. I’m the only one in the picture. Upon returning to the United States, I was bussed off the Abilene Texas Airbase to segregated elementary schools for first and second grade. I was actually color-blind until 1963, the year I entered the third grade. That was when my brothers and I were allowed to attend the on-base school that had previously been for whites only.

I recall the conversation at the dinner table the first night of my third grade day. My older brother asked me, “How many Black kids are there in your class?” And I said, “Everybody’s Black.” And at the time I didn’t understand why my parents and my older brothers were laughing. The next day in class, I was surprised to find that I was the only Black kid in the class. I was no longer color-blind.

We moved off-base when my dad was transferred overseas for a one-year unaccompanied tour. So my fourth grade year was at Central Elementary in Abilene, Texas. My brothers and I were the first and only Blacks—actually, not just Black students, we were the only Blacks in the whole school. For the most part, my fourth grade year was pretty positive, but that was the year I lost a lot of my childhood innocence and began to quickly grow up. Early that school year, I was summoned to the principal's office. Now as I’m walking from the classroom to the principal’s office, my little fourth grade mind was excited and I was feeling special because of all the kids in the classroom I was the only one that had been invited to go and see the principal.

That feeling was short-lived because when I walked into his office—and this is the vivid memory from a fourth grader—he was sitting behind this big desk and on the left front of the desk, this small white kid was standing. The principal looked at me and said, “Is that the one?” And right then and there, I knew I was in a lineup of one and whatever came out of this kid’s mouth was going to have a major impact on me. Fortunately, the kid said no. Phew—literally, phew. But that right there was eye-opening and years later, I remember it. That was the year that nine-year-old Everett became woke.

I started my fifth grade year at Central, but a few weeks into the school year, the school administration determined that our address disqualified us from staying at the school. So we left and re-enrolled at Locust Elementary School, a much more inviting and welcoming environment. When my dad finally returned from his overseas unaccompanied tour, we packed up and we moved to Marin County, Calif., where I experienced my third racially blatant incident. My fifth grade teacher was augmenting the reading assignment with a movie from Huckleberry Finn. I had already read the book and had no interest in seeing the movie. On the screen was a scene where Huck Finn and Jim, the freed slave, were floating down a river.

I was in the back of the classroom reading a book, Big Red—I was really into dogs, still am—and I was just reading through the light that was seeping in through the closed blinds. My teacher comes up behind me. Now you have to understand I’m the only Black, not only Black, I’m the only non-white kid in the class. California, mid-sixties. The teacher comes up behind me and in an irritated voice, she looks down at me and she says, “You should be watching this. It’s about you.” So quietly I look up at her, I point to the dog on the cover of the book and I say, “You should read this book. It’s about you.”

She made no other denigrating racial innuendos for the balance of the year. She knew she was wrong. She knew she was wrong, and I didn’t do it in a mean way. It was just that’s who I was, maybe who I was or who I was becoming to be.

I skipped over it, but my second memorable racist encounter occurred in Texas during my rising fifth grade year, rising summer of that fifth grade year. A white security guard held my brothers and I at gunpoint while he disparagingly let us know who and what we were.
One spring evening during my first year here at St. Andrew’s, I was summoned to Amos Hall. That’s where the faculty and staff meetings were held. Having no idea as to why I had been summoned, I was totally surprised when I was presented an award recognizing me as an outstanding IV Form overachiever. I graciously accepted the award, but I was also more than a little upset as I walked back to the dorm.

Throughout my IV Form year, I had participated in three varsity sports. I had maintained honors grades throughout the whole year, and I was in the band. I felt that I had been given the award only because I had surpassed the low expectations of the admissions process. From my perspective, admissions should have acknowledged and addressed the possibility of flaws in their placement process, instead of validating and upholding the process by giving me an overachiever award.

Years later, after leaving the Marine Corps, I adopted the practice of sharing my management philosophy with my prospective boss or bosses. I would also meet with everyone in the organization or the department for which I had operational responsibility and share my philosophy with them as well. And it’s a simple philosophy. Three tenets, three corollaries. The tenets: Honesty is the only policy; do unto others as you would have others do unto you; and, because it’s the business, meet the requirements at the lowest cost. The corollaries: Teammates do not blindside teammates; and teammates give teammates the benefit of the doubt.

When I would interview for a new opportunity, I shared these tenets and corollaries with my prospective boss, after which I would add that my job is to make my boss's job as easy as possible. My boss's job is to give me what I want. And then I would ask this question of all my bosses after I got out of the Marine Corps—Marine Corps is a little different. You don’t talk like this in the Marine Corps. But I would ask him this question. I'd say, “If I’m making your job as easy as possible, I’m adhering to my tenets and my corollary, is there any reason you can think of why you would not give me what I want?” And no one ever said yes.

By the way, in case you hadn’t picked up on it, when I was sitting with Mr. Moss as a V Former, I had told him my job is to make my boss’s job, to make him be successful. So it’s easy for me to remember that 50 years later because I incorporated it into my management philosophy. Who knew as a V Former 50 years later, ... yeah.

What I’ve shared with you represents a small few of the defining moments that I have encountered along my life’s journey. I’m a product of the many environments that I’ve experienced from early childhood through ongoing adulthood. These experiences contribute and shape my values, beliefs, biases, and much more. For me, my St. Andrew’s experiences, they’re an inextricable part of me, an important part that supports me in being consistently me. I have long been very comfortable with who I am, well before arriving here in 1970.

But it was not until December of my senior year at the Naval Academy that I was able to comfortably answer the question, “What is my purpose?” That’s when I to join the Marine Corps. By law, not more than one-sixth of each graduating class can opt to go Marine Corps. It’s the Naval Academy, not the Marine Corps Academy. I had labored over the decision for months, and not because the Navy had some positive that way going into the Marine Corps. In fact, the thought of being in the Navy and spending all that time at sea was a major downside. The reason for my hesitancy to commit to the Marine Corps was because in 1977, the Marine Corps as an institution was not managing diversity within its ranks with a level of commitment and results comparable to the other military services. Matter of fact, it was deplorable.

But ultimately my decision to go Marine Corps was based on the simple fact that in 1977 there were a lot of Black Marines, but very few Black officers. I decided my presence was more needed and would be of greater value in the Marine Corps. So—as I bring you out of the rabbit hole—consistent with who I am, I comfortably share with you my purpose. My purpose is to live a life that helps those who are far from God be raised to life in Christ. To live a life to help those who are far from God be raised to life in Christ.

Now in Philippians 2:1-5, but really verses two through four, Paul tees it up.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility, consider others more important than yourself. Everyone should look out not only for their own interest, but also for the interest of others.

And then he goes,

Make your own attitude like that of Christ Jesus.

Wow. Talk about setting a high bar. In fulfilling my purpose, I know that I’m limited only by my commitment, my level of commitment, my initiative, and my imagination. Here are some constants that are consistent with my purpose. My daily lifestyle and business practices are aligned with my purpose. For example, I shared with you my management philosophy, community serving and community giving.

Decades ago—pretty much, I was here decades ago—I learned how to not complain and how to not worry. I know I’m blessed, and I appreciate my blessings. The people in my inner circle are like-minded. I know there are thousands of people who would switch places with me in a heartbeat, no questions asked. No questions asked. So why would I complain? My focus is consistently on balance—mental balance, physical balance, and spiritual balance. Chesa has arranged for me to work out tomorrow at six o'clock. I normally get up between 3:30 and 4:00 to work out. So I get to sleep in tomorrow.

When I encounter something that’s not right the only option that is not an option is to do nothing. Tacitly ignoring a wrong is loudly championing that wrong. Now, there’s 1,000,001 things I could do, but doing nothing is not an option. In my world, every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast. It’s a state of mind. If you ever receive an email, a text message, or a letter from me, you’ll see my tagline: Always positive and balanced. These constants assist me in fulfilling my purpose to live a life that helps those who are far from God be raised to life in Christ.

I leave you with this. We who are St. Andrew’s School—that is the students, the faculty, the staff, the parents, the administrators, the alumni, the friends, and all the families of the aforementioned—we who are St. Andrew’s School are blessed and privileged to include the St. Andrew’s experience in our ongoing life’s journey. But with privilege comes responsibility. That’s not me; that’s President Kennedy. With privilege comes responsibility. So as you reflect on your purpose, give equal consideration as to how you will responsibly help maintain and sustain this living legacy that is our St. Andrew’s. May each and every day of your life be blessed with peace, love, and happiness. Thank you.

UNITED panel

This year’s UNITED paid tribute to the first and early girls of color at St. Andrew’s

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of coeducation, St. Andrew’s will embark on two years of events that seek to amplify the voices of the first and early women who in 1973, forever changed the culture of our school. We seek their truth and their stories; we wish to celebrate their journeys and hold space for their struggles. After our first coeducation panel event, this year’s UNITED Conference—an event designed to honor families, students, and alumni of color and deepen bonds between communities—honored those early women.

On November 10th, UNITED: “We Speak Your Names” brought to campus five of the earliest women of color to attend St. Andrew’s—Joan Woods ’76, Tami Maull ’77, Treava Milton ’83, Viviana Davila ’85, and Anita Pamintuan Fusco ’86. Co-Dean of Residential Life (and friend to many on stage) Stacey Duprey ’85 P’04,’10 moderated the panel.

“The stories of the first and early girls at SAS are important for our community to hear and reflect upon, regardless of race or ethnicity,” says Dean of Inclusion and Belonging Dr. Danica Tisdale-Fisher, who, in partnership with others, orchestrated the event. “What is important about hearing the stories of women of color who were among those first cohorts is that we are acknowledging how intersecting identities impacted their experiences here. It was wonderful to learn more about how diverse their individual experiences were, which made the conversation even more dynamic.”

UNITED kicked off with a Friday chapel with Milton, who delivered a talk on the importance of building authentic human connections. Drawing on the story of Noah and his ark, Milton suggested the community draw on its “inner Noah,” as she did as a faculty member at SAS from 2007 to 2016, in which she embarked on a journey to “build and create rooms where students could breathe, where they could be confused or unsure or angry or vulnerable or exhausted by being a brown kid in a beautiful yet overwhelmingly white space.”

Treava Milton ’83 at Friday chapel

Treava Milton ’83 

“People are desperate for authentic connection,” Milton said. “So I'm going to ask you all to have a conversation with someone who might be on the arc with you, find out about how that person might live, or what they may need to survive or thrive. … Understand that during your attempts to build, there will almost always be the possibility that giraffes will argue with elephants. Or the rhino will use water from the shark tank to hydrate himself, or the eagle won't be concerned about dropping waste on the tigers. But don't let that stop you from building. Build with passion, build with intentionality.”

Later in the evening, an intimate dinner in the Warner Gallery allowed current parents, alumni, and faculty to come together in conversation and community. St. Andrew’s students were also on hand to share their cultural gifts. Riya Goyal ’27 performed a traditional Indian dance with poise and grace, resplendent in a shimmering, crystalline sari. After, the Saints Steppers—a relatively new addition to St. Andrew’s that has wasted no time becoming a school powerhouse—commanded center stage with their bold, fiery choreography and affirming passion. Both performances brought attendees to their feet, and inspired thoughtful discussion about the power that comes with being a young person who can intimately share of themself in their community.

Riya Goyal ’27 performing at the UNITED dinner

Riya Goyal ’27

The whole school then gathered in Engelhard Hall for the panel. The five women discussed their paths to St. Andrew’s, which included being inspired by the school after visiting as an athlete on an opposing team, being recruited as an athlete, or being identified by A Better Chance, an organization that seeks to put high-performing students of color into national leadership pipelines via the conduit of top independent and public schools.

The conversation allowed for the women to reflect on some hard truths, like navigating their cultural identities at a time when they couldn’t find many in their school community who looked like them, while also balancing the fact that they were in the minority as women, too.

“I don’t know that I felt like an early girl as much as I felt the racialization of my identity,” Milton said. “I felt like I was drowning all the time. In my situation, it was a lesson in not what to do: I just kept it in because I didn't know where to go. Looking back, a lot of that was shame. That’s why it’s vital for us to know that as people of color, you have earned the right to be here.”

Woods was astonished by the student body. “I’m sitting here in this auditorium and cannot believe the diversity I see,” she said. “This was not the school I went to. Tammy and I were here, and another Black woman, Diane, and we had to find places of refuge, which was usually Tammy’s home in Lewes [Delaware]. We found a place to come together where we could be ourselves.”

Tami Maull ’77 at the UNITED panel

Joan Woods ’76 (left) and Tami Maull ’77 (right)

Duprey spoke to the importance of finding your person. For Duprey, that was Milton. “Once I found my person, there was nothing I couldn’t do,” she said. “And I know there are some freshmen here who are saying, ‘I haven’t found my person yet.’ They’re coming. I promise. And they don’t have to look like you to be your person.”

The panelist offered sage advice to students. Davila urged them to accept that the pace of becoming for all humans is not the same, and that to give grace is a gift. Woods urged Saints to have the courage to ask curious questions. “There were members of my class that had enough courage to ask me questions, even though they sometimes went about it obnoxiously,” she said, laughing. “I do believe that’s part of the reason why so many years later, these relationships persist. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Viviana Davila ’85 at UNITED panel

Viviana Davila ’85

Milton advised that we “dig deep into our communities of care and let them carry us,” and to not waste the opportunity to truly engage in the diverse St. Andrew’s community. “Learn how to live and interact with the people right at your doorstep,” she said. “It is a rich and powerful experience.”

To close, Duprey called upon celebrated civil rights leader Diane Nash, who visited St. Andrew’s years ago. “Diane stood on this very stage and said, ‘I'd like you to know that although we had not yet met you, we loved you, and we were trying to bring about the best society we could for you,’” Duprey said. “So I say to all of my first and early girls that you've done that for us without even knowing that's what you were doing. You are the shoulders that we stand on, and we treasure you and we're so grateful for you.”

Before the attendees gathered in Warner Gallery post-event to meet the panelists, a group of current students took to the stage to offer a moving rendition of “We Speak Your Name,” the poem by Pearl Cleage that inspired the theme of the event. After each refrain, each panelist’s name was spoken aloud, as well as other alumnae of color:

Because we are magical women,
born of magical women,
who are born of magical women,
we celebrate your magic.

Tami. Joan. Stacy. Anita. Viviana. Treava.

We are here because we are your daughters
as surely as if you had conceived us, nurtured us,
carried us in your wombs, and then sent us out
into the world to make our mark
and see what we see, and be what we be, but better,
truer, deeper
because of the shining example of your own
incandescent lives.

We speak your name.

Students reading poem on stage at UNITED panel

(l. to r.) Celina Bao ’24, Angela Osaigbovo’24, Sophie Mo ’24, Akeelah Romeo ’24

Diwali celebration on the shores of Noxontown Pond on Wednesday, November 8

Last weekend, we set our clocks back, entering a season when nature’s light is golden but fleeting, afternoons are dark, evenings darker still. Darkness overtakes the light, but we know that by the winter solstice, light will gain a foothold and once again triumph over the winter gloom.

Now, in a week’s time, most of your children will be coming home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. This season of gathering darkness is also a season of gratitude here in the United States. Day to day, we all have many occasions to thank another person for something they did to help us. At St. Andrew’s, we begin our weekly School Meeting with “appreciations”: students raise their hands eagerly to thank a teacher for a special gesture of kindness, another student for making an extra effort at a community event, a staff member for decorating the dorm, or a senior for helping them through a tough time. These one-to-one expressions of gratitude are important. They are the stuff of community living and a way to say to someone: I see you, I love you, you matter.

There are other occasions when we express gratitude for greater forces at work in our lives. We recognize the blessings of light, love, opportunity, and community that emerge from a greater design. People of every faith and people of no faith at all have explanations for this connection we feel to a larger purpose, a pull to that which is good, even when the path comes with sacrifice and effort.

At chapel on Wednesday night, the South Asian Affinity Group led our annual Diwali chapel. Diwali, Ahilya Ellis ’26 shared in her remarks, is a holiday to acknowledge, “the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.” Following the brief gathering in the chapel, hundreds of residents of the campus ventured from the chapel to the grass docks along a path illuminated by candles, kneeling and releasing innumerable paper lanterns onto the pond. Viewed by a stranger, this act of devotion might have seemed an exercise in futility—after all, what could be the purpose of floating a hundred candles on the smooth and quiet pond in utter darkness? 
 
And yet, the moment was freighted with purpose. The acknowledgement that we seek and move toward what is light and good—what is larger than ourselves—and send it into the world—is an affirmation of our humanity in times that are often, metaphorically, dark. That light and good are the opposite of ignorance in Diwali seems a sentiment especially appropriate for a school. ​We believe in and move toward what is true.

Our lives at school are thick with gratitude​. I would define gratitude in this case as a sense that alone we can do nothing, but together and with a purpose greater than ourselves, we can do anything. That the circumstances and humans around us might unconditionally lift us up—it is a staggering, humbling, and awe-inspiring state of affairs. And so, each day, we gather for a family meal and a blessing. An expression of gratitude and a communal statement of hope and wonder. This year, I have loved that students have begun a new tradition of offering grace for our evening family meals, usually on Wednesdays before chapel. For the school’s entire history, these words of thanks have been offered by the head of school or the chaplain, but our students have felt the pull of gratitude—the pull of what is light, good, and true—and have begun to share their own blessings each week. I am collecting these for all of us to have at the end of the year, but here I will share the one offered by Ronit Goyal, a member of the III Form, on Wednesday:

Dear God, we thank you for this day,
for the food on the table,
for the shelter over our heads.
We thank you for the opportunities that you give us to be ourselves.
We pray today for those in crisis around the world,
for those who need help at St. Andrew’s,
and for our alumni.
We pray for everyone who needs it, O God.
Happy Diwali everyone!
Amen

May the light of Diwali, the light of Thanksgiving, the light of children, and the light of truth and knowledge that triumphs over the night, be with each of you in this season of darkness and hope.
 
In gratitude,

Joy McGrath
Daniel T. Roach, Jr. Head of School

Diwali celebration on the shores of Noxontown Pond on Wednesday, November 8
Treava Milton ’83 in the Memorial Chapel for UNITED Chapel Service

Alumna Treava Milton ’83 gave this reflection at the UNITED chapel service on Friday, November 10.

I would like to thank Dr. Tisdale-Fisher, Ms. Duprey, UNITED, all my colleagues, laborers in the vineyard, my co-laborers in education, Emily, everybody. It's really good to be home. Thank you for taking the time to recognize and uplift my experiences here at St. Andrew’s and those of my fellow St. Andreans. I’m humbled and grateful for the audience because hopefully for the most part you chose to be here. This talk is dedicated to my nephew. He’s four years old and he loves animals, and he has taught me about 15 different types of dinosaur. I took a text from the book of Genesis that’s fun for me to explore, and I hope you’ll take a closer look when you have an opportunity on your own. So my goal is to read the text, paraphrase it, and then share a few points that were salient for me. In the interest of brevity, I’m asking that you allow me to bypass some supporting points that I would normally make and just suspend disbelief for a moment. Let your mind believe that anything is possible. I’m in the book of Genesis 6:5-14a.

5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

6And it repented the Lord that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

8But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

9Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

...

11The Earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

...

13And God said unto Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

14Make thee an ark of gopher wood ....

Mankind was described as corrupt, evil, and violent, and God’s heart was broken about that. And so God established a response using natural elements. That response was a flood designed to destroy all living creatures of land, sea, and air, except for Noah and his family. And Noah was given a job building a structure designed for salvation of his family and, by extension, mankind. I want us to notice if we read the text on our own, that God facilitates the issue and the answer simultaneously. When we look more deeply at the text, we will see that in the original language, evil was not restricted to shocking, heinous behavior. Their understanding of evil included subtle behavior that was mean-spirited or designed to cause a rupture between people. So evil could actually be designing a system that would pilfer pennies at a time from millions of people over time, or it could be walking in the dining hall and seeing something that you don’t understand and saying that it’s funny or laughing at someone or making disparaging comments.

The original language is meant to convey that corruption and violence were coursing through the earth in the way that blood rushes through our veins. Jonathan Cahn, in The Josiah Manifesto, lists several institutions that seem to be infected by this kind of corruption. He talks about the media, entertainment, the public square, corporations, schools, and governments. I want you to also know that Noah’s name means comfort, consolation, and rest. And he was chosen because he lived antithetically to destructive, corrosive behavior. He was a countercultural individual, described as righteous, meaning he lived in a way that cultivated authenticity, vitality, and strength. Whatever character traits Noah possessed, God’s plan was to preserve and multiply them. And Noah answered the call to become a willing participant in God’s plan for the preservation of mankind. But yet Noah’s commitment to building posed its own set of challenges. In an enclosed space under stressful times, Noah was tasked with housing herbivores and carnivores, wolves and lambs, clean animals and unclean animals.

He had to shelter leaf-destroying insects in the same space with giraffes who needed leaves to survive. He had to house lions and crocodiles who feast on elephants. He had to house squid and clownfish and zooplankton and crows, hyenas, vultures, and Tasmanian devils. And we don’t know if Noah had allergies, if he despised the smells, if he was afraid of lions or grossed out by caterpillars. But we know that he accepted the challenge. We know that he accepted the responsibility to build, and he built a structure he had never seen for an event that he had never experienced. So Noah did not have all the answers, but he must have had passion. He had the intestinal fortitude, the strength of conviction, it took to build a vehicle of salvation, moment by moment. I want to suggest that Noah accepted the responsibility and the challenge of building and became a willing participant with God and the universe because he understood that the survival of mankind was at stake.

UNITED is designed to deepen connections between alumni, parents of color, students, and identify mentors to learn strategies to navigate academic, professional, and personal challenges. UNITED is designed to build.

As I consider these objectives, my goal is not to give you three points or three ways to become successful—whatever that may be—but it’s to really draw your attention to some of the ways in which relationships can be built and managed and maintained. As I consider the objectives, I want to lean on my work with iChange Collaborative, with coaching organizational founders, small business owners, and high tech leaders, as well as research coming from Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan, McKinsey Global Consulting. I want to tell you that there’s a common thread.

People are desperate for authentic connection—connection to themselves and to other people—and it seems to be that tethering has replaced assembling together in the spirit of authentic connection. One of the tragedies is that with all of the pressure around innovation, neuroscience suggests that our brain is most likely to innovate when it knows that it is safe, loved, and that it belongs. I want to lean on the work of Glennon Doyle, who is a podcaster and author of Untamed, to tell you that we can be better at authentic relationship when we understand that even acute disconnections are inevitable in our relationships.

When ruptures are acknowledged, and when there are apologies, moments of injury offer the most profound opportunities for growth and deeper connection. Again, the issue and the resolution in the same gift box. Problems occur when injuries to connection are rarely acknowledged, and they are rarely acknowledged in relationships where there are power differentials. The work of storyteller and researcher Dr. Brené Brown reminds us to rethink the ways in which we experience and think about awkward moments and vulnerability. When we strengthen our internal locus of control, we can fortify ourselves against behavior that is designed to shame us. These are the things that we need to keep in mind when we think about how relationships are built, developed, and maintained. I entered St. Andrew’s six years after the first class of girls in 1979, as the only black female student in my graduating class. I was from an underserved community called the Bronx—the place that on one hand brought hip hop culture to the world, and on the other hand, bore the scintillating, undignified marks of scarcity. I was from a place where weakness, vulnerability, and asking for help was a death sentence.

As a result, I was the product of a fragile family system. Fragile partially because both my parents were born and raised in the segregated South and bore the battle scars that come with survival and a racialized society. I was from a place where it was very uncool to be intelligent or smart, and it was often unsafe to go outside and play. And then I found myself in Noah’s Ark. And while I was a lamb and there were wolves, there were spaces that were deliberately and intentionally created for me where I could find reprieve. And I’ll talk more about that tonight.

I found a lifelong friend in the ark, and we have lived, loved, laughed, grieved, and celebrated together. The entire SAS community held us up while we buried our family members in the same week. Twenty-four years after I graduated from St. Andrew’s, I returned to SAS as a faculty member. That career move became my opportunity to connect to my inner Noah—to build, to create rooms where students could breathe, where they could be confused or unsure or angry or vulnerable or exhausted by being a brown kid in a beautiful yet overwhelmingly white space, or where they could be a neurodiverse kid in a space that overwhelmed their senses.

Jordan Bonner, class of 2016, recently said to me, “I didn’t know what I needed, but you knew that I needed a place where I could just sit down, eat spaghetti, and breathe.”

I’m going to ask my students to come on up with your baskets and just pass [the items] out. So as they pass out your identities on the ark, I’m going to ask you all to have a conversation with someone who might be on the ark with you. Find out about how that person might live, or what they may need to survive or thrive. Talk about the ways in which Noah had to go about facilitating peace.

And I’m going to leave you with this charge. Understand that during your attempts to build yourself, your family, your career at St. Andrew’s, there will almost always be the possibility that giraffes will argue with elephants over leaves. Or the rhino will use water from the shark tank to hydrate himself, or the eagle won’t be concerned about dropping waste on the tigers. But don’t let that stop you from building.

Build with passion. Build with intentionality. Build people every opportunity that you get. Build them so they know that they belong, and they stop contorting themselves to fit in every action. Every word, every glance, every moment is connected to an outcome that we cannot see. You can choose to be a willing vessel of strength for someone every single day. And when you do this, may you find grace in the sight of God, for the survival of mankind is at stake.

Thank you.

Talan ’24

How Talan ’24 transformed an injury into an opportunity to lead 

Talan Esposito ’24 vividly remembers the tumble he took last basketball season that he thought might end his athletic career at St. Andrew’s.

“I think it was our second- or third-to-last basketball game. I went up for a routine shot, came down, landed weird, tore my ACL and both [menisci],” says Esposito. “I was devastated at first.”

What followed was a surgery at the end of March, and a summer of recovery for the VI Former from Odessa, Delaware. 

He didn’t think he’d get the opportunity to get back on the field for his final season of varsity soccer once the school year rolled around, but Esposito refused to let his injury take him away from his love of the sport and his team. Instead, Esposito took on a new role: he showed up at practice and games, doing what he could to support the team from the sidelines.

“Talan handled all of this in stride and never complained about his situation,” says Matt Carroll, head coach of boys varsity soccer. “He could have taken the easy route and focused solely on his own recovery, but he never missed a practice and always made sure to support his teammates along the way. As a two-year captain, Talan has earned the admiration and respect of his teammates, yet never rested on his laurels—he challenged [his teammates], pushed them to be better versions of themselves, and continuously supported them throughout a difficult season.”

A captain since his junior year who has previously been named to the All-DISC 1st Team, Esposito stepped up to the challenge and took on more of a coaching role within the team. “Being vocal” and “getting the guys together, getting their energy up, getting them on the same page” were his guiding principles as he navigated trying to advise the players as a teammate and peer. 

In the second game of the season, Esposito was put to the test—Carroll was not at the game, so Esposito seized the moment to help lead.

“That was probably the most vocal I’d ever been, yelling out to guys, giving them advice,” says Esposito. “And I like to think that they appreciate it. I like to think that they take it all in. I think they do.”

He was a natural fit for such a leadership role as soccer has always been at the center of his life. His father played soccer at the collegiate level, instilling in him a passion for the sport, and he played on travel and school teams growing up. 

“He likes to push me and I really do appreciate that,” Esposito says of his father’s mentorship. “I feel like that’s definitely helped me grow as an athlete, as a person, as a young man.”

With his identity so tied to soccer, he took the injury hard, even though he was able to find a new way to fit into the team. That’s why he didn’t wait a moment, or miss an opportunity, to begin the recovery process. He largely credits his recovery from the injury to Assistant Athletic Director Al Wood. 

“The beginning of the season, I didn’t think I would be able to play soccer at all,” says Esposito. “But our athletic trainer, Al, did a really great job, and I really appreciate him for helping me get back to shape. I went in there every day, he gave me the workout plan, gave me advice, helped me do drills when I got back out [onto] the field.”

But Wood says that Esposito’s recovery wouldn’t have been possible without his strength of character.

“Talan approached his rehab the same way he approaches everything at St. Andrew’s: [with] a focused determination, toughness, and a will to win,” says Wood. “Returning from an ACL [injury] is a day-to-day grind that can leave even the best athlete frustrated and feeling sorry for themselves. Talan never wavered in his work ethic or attitude and the result is that he was able to return to playing sports months before any of us expected him back.”

Esposito spent any spare moment in the semester following a plan to build back quad muscle and stability—with squats, leg extensions, and deadlifts on repeat. Finally, on Oct. 17, he returned to the field in a game against Sanford. 

Adrenaline on high, Esposito and the team celebrated a 3-0 win. This moment stacks up to other highlights in his playing career, which include matching up against Caravel in the 2021 DIAA boys soccer D2 championship and his favorite small moments, like getting advice from Carroll about life on and off the field and staying up at night talking to his two roommates/teammates about soccer. 

“I hope to have kids in the future and I hope to coach them … so, getting that experience [to help coach] was definitely cool,” he says. “But obviously I would rather be on the field playing with my teammates more than anything. And getting back on the field, that was the best moment for me all season.”

With his final St. Andrew’s soccer season behind him, Esposito is looking forward to his next challenge: not just returning to the basketball court, but doing so and learning from last season’s injury. 

“Looking forward, I will be a bit more cautious because basketball, that’s where I got hurt, and hardwood is a lot different than grass,” he says. “I think I’m going to ease my way back into basketball.”

Greta Vebeliunas ’25

Greta Vebeliunas ’25 on her transition to Saints field hockey and finding the freedom to experiment on the pitch

Now part of a field hockey team with a more flexible approach to the game than she has encountered before, Greta Vebeliunas ’25 is using her newfound freedom to find out how she wants to play. She’s learning fluidity on the pitch—finding openings, moving and passing the ball up the field, and using strong stick skills to defend when necessary. 

A V Form transfer to St. Andrew’s, Vebeliunas came out of the gates as an “immediate impact player,” according to varsity Head Coach Kate Cusick. She quickly emerged as a leader and role model for the team, adds Maggie Harris, assistant field hockey coach. 

“Her energy, poise on and off the field, and her work ethic are consistent at both practice and games, and her teammates look to her for her quiet leadership on the field,” says Harris. “While she may be one of the top goal-scorers on the team, Greta is such a humble and selfless player and her presence has helped the team become more dynamic and more cohesive.”

We sat down with the student-athlete to understand her experiences this season with Saints field hockey, and what inspires her to keep up the daily grind. 

Greta Vebeliunas ’25

Were you nervous to join a new field hockey team?

“It was definitely a switch [coming here]. I noticed [how different it was to play with the team] in our first scrimmage … I was kind of nervous. I didn’t know if there was a structure, if they already knew how to play with each other and I didn’t. But everyone was very welcoming and open, and by our second scrimmage, I already felt like I fit in and that I was able to play with them. It just felt natural.”

How is Saints field hockey different from the teams you’ve played with before? 

“On this team, I feel like I'm given the opportunity to just go on the field and do my best, try new things. I’m able to shine more just because of the team itself and how everyone’s really uplifting.”

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered this season? 

“I find that after a long day, a challenging day, mentally, it can be hard to play when you’re thinking about your assignments or your other commitments. And sometimes mentally it can be hard to push those things aside and focus on field hockey. But I find that when I just push everything aside and have fun, that’s the most rewarding experience.”

What have been the most rewarding moments for you? 

“It may be cliché, but anytime we score a goal in a game. Everyone jumps up, hugs each other, everyone is cheering for us. And I feel like [these are the best moments] because sometimes practice can be difficult and it can be like, ‘Why am I doing all of this? My body hurts, my brain hurts.’ But then moments like that, when we’re celebrating each other and hugging, it’s just so heartwarming.”

How has working with the coaching staff been? 

“They’ve been very supportive. They’re always there to hear my concerns or my insights. It’s obvious that they’re there because they want to be.”

How have you branched out in other ways since coming to St. Andrew’s? 

“Here I’ve noticed everyone does whatever they want to. You can be an athlete and a performer without anyone thinking twice about it. I really like that. Right now, I’m in [the Andrean Ensemble] and I’m really enjoying it. And I like how I’m able to do field hockey and sing without having to have a label.”

What’s your ‘why’ behind athletics? 

“I’ve always loved to try new things. I started field hockey in seventh grade, which was a new thing [for me]. And I loved it. I feel like trying new things is often a way to find what you’re passionate about. This year, I’m trying track for the first time in the winter.”

Anything else you’d like to share? 

“This field hockey team is probably my favorite that I’ve played on. Every day when I go to practice, it just feels like a treat. Everyone’s so welcoming and it’s just a really fun time.” 

Greta Vebeliunas ’25


 

Vivian Snow

Vivian Snow ’27 on finding home and stability at boarding school 

“The people make the place.”

That sentiment strikes a particular chord with Vivian Snow ’27. A self-described “Army brat” who has lived in nine different states over the course of her life, she has always considered her family as her home, rather than any house and picket fence.

When she visited St. Andrew’s for the first time, she got the sense that the people were what made the school special, too.

“Everyone smiled and said hello to each other,” says Snow. “It felt like everyone wanted to be here, and everyone chose to be here.”

Boarding school wasn’t on the radar for Snow until two years ago, when her brother received funding to attend boarding school in Colorado from Orion Military Scholarships, an organization which provides merit scholarships and financial aid to the children of military families. Snow’s eyes opened: she saw an opportunity to find stability in education and to, for once, take a deep breath and stay a while. 

Snow applied to 10 schools, and eventually narrowed her choices down to St. Andrew’s and another boarding school. The close-knit culture of St. Andrew’s and the connections she formed on Visit Back Day were the deciding factors for her. 

Vivian Snow getting her school photos taken

Her impression of the school has lived up to her experience so far. 

“It’s not even like you [just] get really close with your group of friends, you get close to everyone,” says Snow. “No matter who’s outside after dinner, or who you’re sitting with, you’re friendly with them.”

From the Front Lawn to the field hockey pitch, Snow has stepped out of her comfort zone to forge new friendships and make St. Andrew’s home. This is her first year playing field hockey, because her frequent seasonal moves growing up made it difficult for her to join a fall sports team. 

“It was daunting at first, but within the first 20 minutes of the first practice, everyone was just excited that you’re trying,” says Snow. 

Though Snow is used to hopping around from state to state, she does miss the integral people in her life that followed her no matter where she went: her family. However, she says her whole life has felt like “training” for boarding school, in terms of learning to keep up with long-distance friendships and travel on her own. 

“When someone is in their best place, [that’s] when you are closest to them,” Snow says of how being at her happiest has strengthened her relationships with her parents and siblings, despite living far from home. Her siblings are already buzzing to attend St. Andrew’s when the time comes. 

Vivian Snow at Frosty Run

Though she acknowledges the challenges that come with having parents in the military, she says she would not trade her childhood for anything. “It’s a part of me that has made me who I am and it has prepared me for my future,” she says. 

Snow spends her free time writing for Bloom, an online resource where military teens can connect with and empower each other. She heard about the group through Orion Military Scholarships, and jumped at the opportunity to use her interest in writing to share her story about attending boarding school as a military teen. 

“I found a home after so many years of houses,” writes Snow in her latest blog post about her first week at St. Andrew’s. 

Beyond classes, athletics, extracurriculars, and the blog, Snow is also trying to focus on being present in her friendships, because she knows that for the first time, she’ll have the opportunity to connect with classmates for longer than a couple of years. 

“I feel like I have … a time bomb in my brain, where I want to get all my memories in, all my pictures in, because I know I don’t have forever with these people,” she says. “I kind of have to slow myself down, [because now] I have a long time with these people. It’s the most amazing feeling.”
 

Vivian Snow at football game
Head of School Joy McGrath ’92 Delivers Fall Family Weekend Remarks

Click here to view Joy’s remarks on Youtube.

Good morning, everyone! Welcome back to St. Andrew’s! Welcome to Family Weekend. My husband Ty Jones, and the entire faculty, join me in welcoming you back here. And I would like to thank those faculty, who are just doing an incredible job with your children, for their tremendous efforts this weekend. Thanks, too, to our parent trustees, for all you do as volunteers for St. Andrew’s, and our Saints Fund parent co-chairs, the Dillards and the Halls. We truly couldn’t do it without your support. I know you are tremendously excited to see your children and so I thank you for coming to hear me for a few of your precious minutes on the campus.

I hope this weekend, you will discover that your child’s education is turning out to be a defining experience in their lives. My St. Andrew’s education was the most precious and valuable time in my life—and I am lucky enough that it continues to be, thanks to my teachers, my friends, my colleagues, and your children. I hope you are finding that your child is making the most of this opportunity for a great secondary education, one that is opening their minds, making their worlds larger. That growth, I hope they recognize, is to fulfill their promise and potential as free people.

Emily Pressman recently reminded me of a touchstone essay on liberal education that William Cronon wrote in the late 1990s, in which he defined this as the purpose of education: “to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom.” I am mindful of this definition, which hearkens back to the roots of the word “liberal” in “liberal education”—not a political reference, but derived from the Latin, Greek, Old English, and Sanskrit roots for “freedom” and “growth.”

St. Andrew’s students are brilliant and gifted—we have no doubt of that. But we—all of the adults in this room—dream of something more for our children: when they leave here can they stand on their own two feet? Are they decent, unselfish, independent people who can do hard things—who WANT to do hard things? Will they look around them, pay attention, and figure out how to help. In short: what will they do with their freedom? How will they continue to grow and stretch as individuals and in turn grow and stretch our world? We—all of us who are looking after these children, together—hope our students leave here seriously engaged with the questions: What is my life for? Who am I responsible for? What are my moral obligations? What will I do, give, sacrifice—to lead a meaningful life?

This education is as necessary as it is bold. It is an enormous commitment. But the mechanism for this growth is simple. We practice.

You know the old joke: a woman runs out of Penn Station in New York with her cello case and rushes up to a hot dog stand, late for an audition. She asks the hot dog guy, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?!” His answer:

Practice, practice, practice—we are practicing practical moral habits—to learn to use our freedom—how to be strong people of good courage—people who have a moral compass, people who are other-centered, who can listen and learn.

It is a truism employed by educators everywhere that our students will change the world. Of course, they will. What matters is that they change it for the better.

***

You have wonderful children. We love them so much. In the last week, they have gone, as a school, to two night games. One was football last Friday, and another was field hockey on Tuesday. I know you will be as proud as I was that at BOTH games, the adults working the snack bars at these two different schools crossed the field after the game to share with our faculty that our kids were “the most amazing students they have ever seen.” At one game, a few of these boosters from our opponents’ schools actually sat with us because it was more fun.

Folks, I am sorry to tell you, all they did was say please and thank you, clean up after themselves, pay attention, and let home fans cut the line when our groups were large, and generally, they were polite. How did the polite behavior of children become so odd that adults walk across stadiums to applaud it?

I recently re-read the keynote address given at the school’s 50th anniversary in 1980 by an alumnus from St. Andrew’s first graduating class, 1935, Holly Whyte. I was struck by how durable our school’s DNA is, and how fortunate we are in that. Holly was one of the original boys to enter the school in 1930, and by 1980 he was a trustee, noted author, and public intellectual. He begins the speech, “St. Andrew’s is a school that is somewhat out of step.” He then lays out the ways in which the school was out of step in that anniversary moment of 1980, all of which remain true to this day: we are small, with strong connections between students and faculty; we are in Delaware; we are an Episcopal school and cleave to those roots. To his list I would add a few modern additions that Whyte could not have anticipated, such as eschewing cell phones and preserving childhood through the high school years.

Whyte concludes his talk saying, “The face we turn to the world when we try to describe St. Andrew’s is often that of a well-rounded school. But it is not a well-rounded school—certainly not in the sense that the term is generally used. We are much more asymmetrical than that. At some things St. Andrew’s is not particularly good. At some things it is utterly superb. We should make the most of these excellences. We should assert them, reinforce them.”

Out of step. Asymmetrical. I thought about Holly Whyte’s idea this week because what our students did at those away games met my basic expectations. I am sure politeness, thoughtfulness, and situational awareness are also your basic expectations as parents and guardians. Yet elsewhere, these behaviors are earth-shattering, out of step. We must continue to practice them—as Whyte said, assert them and reinforce them. In these little decisions we make every day, we create a moral ecosystem with our choices. In the dining hall, the chapel, the dorms. At away games, even. We try to be generous, selfless, driven. We are other-centered, we greet each other, we work and compete with our whole hearts, we care, we leave our cell phones behind. Sometimes, we mess up. So we are humble. We apologize. Sometimes progress seems invisible, but we focus on the process, not the outcome. We are patient—with ourselves, with others.

Bishop Kevin Brown was here on Wednesday on the Feast Day of Saint Luke. He captured this idea beautifully when he noted, “Saints are not perfect but they are dedicated; Saints are not flawless, but they are faithful.” If we live consistently with these principles, we naturally come together in all our glorious differences. Everything we do is premised on people in proximity: togetherness. Together, we cannot be divided or distracted. Together, we cannot feel disconnected or lonely or angry for very long. We bring our full selves, all our identities, everything we are, all our potential, to each challenge.

The whole point of this place is to bring together people with disparate and diverse backgrounds and points of view. Those are shared in an environment insistently non-partisan, free, inclusive, and open to all points of view. I hope our students debate openly, learn to persuade others, and are capable of changing their minds.

Is there a better definition of a free person than one who can change her mind?

This is how we grow and how we stretch. Cronon in his essay identified a few characteristics of liberally educated people—I am always struck by how they are other-centered: educated people listen, understand, persuade in writing and in speech, practice humility, tolerance, and self-criticism, they nurture and empower people around them, they connect.

We do not live for ourselves. It is the essence of a St. Andrew’s education, it is the foundation of our faith, and it is what it means to be human. And maybe this is why more often than not, you hear laughter and see smiles in the halls around here. It’s because oddly enough, the science tells us that thinking about ourselves makes us unhappy and fragile. When we forget ourselves, are part of something larger than ourselves, when we know that larger why—even if we are doing hard things, impossible things—we are happier, more grateful, and more resilient. 

If this is out of step, so be it. I am comfortable with that. But, how do we keep it this way?

Well, we need you, as families and partners in this work. You will be meeting with teachers, coaches, and dorm parents throughout the weekend. I will give you the same advice I always give your children:

  • Focus on the process, not the outcomes.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Ask for help.
  • Be yourself—you are here because of exactly who you are, we need everyone! Not a performance, not an avatar, but your authentic and genuine self.

In other words: the fundamentals matter. Let’s not make this more complicated than it needs to be.

Your support and participation make our work even more joyful. You raised these powerful young people! Thank you! We welcome you as you are and we are excited to keep going, by your side, as we see these children stretch and grow. There is no doubt the world needs these Saints to be great and strong, to leave the world better than they found it.

Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for seeing the possibilities in your children and in this school—this out of step, asymmetrical school—and for believing in what we can all do together.

Enjoy the weekend and please say hello when you see me! 

Coco and Reese Holden

Meet two of the school’s newest Saints: Coco Holden ’27 and Reese Holden ’27

Coco Holden ’27 and Reese Holden ’27 came halfway across the world for their first year of high school. But just over a month into the school year, St. Andrew’s already feels like home for these twins from Australia. 

Coco and Reese have a typical sibling banter, poking fun at each other often. “She’s a bit more nerdy than I am,” quips Reese. Coco responds that she “embraces” her nerdiness. 

But the sisters value their relationship and sticking together, which is why they took the leap and decided to attend St. Andrew’s as a duo. Coco, never having been to St. Andrew’s before she arrived for International Orientation, even trusted Reese’s impression of the school enough to apply and commit. 

“We came for International Orientation, so we were just driving in, and it didn’t feel real,” says Coco. They remember their first day on campus, when all the faculty already knew their names and the seniors kindly moved all their belongings into their dorms. 

Reese had made that drive down the main road once before. About a year ago, she joined her mother on a work trip to America. Her mother, who grew up in Arlington, Va., remembered a school that came up again and again amongst her childhood friends: St. Andrew’s. Reese, who knew she wanted something different than her current school, called St. Andrew’s to schedule a tour—a tour with Dean of Admission & Financial Aid Will Robinson ’97 that ended up being three hours long. 

Reese returned to Australia and shared a glowing review of St. Andrew’s with her sister. After thinking it over—and receiving more than a few emails from Robinson—Coco and Reese carefully crafted their applications and sent them in. 

They both found out they were accepted in the middle of watching Hamilton in the theater. The moment the show was over, they bolted out of the doors to celebrate—these two weren’t throwing away their shot.

The pair complements each other well: Coco considers herself to be STEM-oriented while Reese is interested in creative writing and the arts. However, both share a love of field hockey (which, they note, is just referred to as “hockey” in Australia). 

They made the JV field hockey team, though Reese is unfortunately unable to play due to a concussion. She still savors going to the games and vibing with the team’s energy. 

They have also already fallen in love with the community service opportunities that St. Andrew’s offers. The sisters value getting to know Middletown and its people through this program: Reese volunteers at the MOT Senior Center, and Coco has been involved with Adaptive Aquatics, a St. Andrew’s program that offers swimming lessons to local special-needs students.

Reese says that fitting all these activities into her packed schedule has been a wonderful antidote to missing home. “I thought I’d be more homesick than I am,” she says. “I’ve been keeping myself really busy over here, so I don’t think I’ve had very much time to think about it.” 

The sisters say that they do think of home when they see classmates making plans for long weekends, or when they hear them on the phone with their families—something that the time difference makes challenging for Coco and Reese. When they start to miss home, they’ve found comfort in the different support systems at St. Andrew’s.

The duo says the international community has been essential to their transition to the States. They gave particular kudos to Ruth Hilton ’24 for helping them adjust to their new lives. 

Coco and Reese can be found on campus doing some of their favorite pastimes: soaking in the sun on the Front Lawn and dreaming about pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce as they count down the days until their first Thanksgiving.