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My final words to the Dwight Class of 2015 during graduation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were woven together with a single over-arching message in mind: Find a mentor or mentors on your path through college, graduate school, and in life.
 
My own early experiences were shaped dramatically by inspiring mentors. In turn, having served as a mentor to countless Dwight students over the last half-century, I have been reminded time and again that this particular role is among the most gratifying for me as both an educator and as Chancellor.
 
With pride in their numerous accomplishments at Dwight and unbridled enthusiasm for what lies ahead for our newest alumni, I bid them farewell with the following remarks:
 
As graduating seniors, you have shared a common Dwight experience built on our school’s three pillars of personalized learning, community, and global vision. At the same time, each of you has taken your own, unique journey based on your personal talents and spark of genius. Guiding you along both paths have been administrators and faculty members who have cared deeply about your growth and success, and who have served as inspiring mentors along the way.
 
With this support, you have embraced your passions, found your purpose, and persevered. Now, you must challenge yourself to think and to dream even bigger ― and to make the impossible possible.  
 
This next step requires that you find a mentor for the new path that you will walk at college or university...for the path that you will walk in life. Sometimes, a mentor arrives unannounced, but more often appears when a student is ready. Dwight graduates who found such mentors have achieved many noteworthy accomplishments. Among them are young alumni, who only a few years after high school with mentors by their side, are already leaving their mark on the world. One launched a company to increase the efficiency of commercial solar energy systems. Another is leading an avant-garde movement in architecture by merging the monumental works of great artists into design projects. There is a young entrepreneur who built a pharmaceutical testing company that is dramatically reducing the time needed for FDA drug approvals. And another became the youngest American director to win the student category at the Cannes Film Festival.
 
What do they all have in common? All were willing to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and had mentors to light their way. 
 
Class of 2015, your collective caring spirit, singular achievements, and strong work ethic will leave their mark on Dwight for many years to come. During the past year alone, with your insights, we launched the Spark of Innovation Program. The Dwight School Foundation will now be providing innovation grants to students and teachers who are envisioning exciting new pathways for the future, bringing the stars closer in reach. You will always be a part of that.
 
I encourage you to make the impossible possible. Keep your spark of genius alive. Be true to yourself…and remember that you’ll always have a home at Dwight. 
Sixteen-year-old Dwight student Daniil Frants is making headlines as one of New York City’s young innovators. Seen on campus wearing his signature Google Glass, Daniil points to this device as the inspiration behind his winning entry into the inaugural “10 Under 20: Young Innovators to Watch” competition: The Live Time Closed Captioning System (LTCCS) — a device also worn on one’s head designed to help people with a hearing disability “hear” a conversation as it’s happening.
 
“The school is in good hands and I can move on,” said Willie Summerville on his last day at Dwight. He is moving on by moving back to his home town of Aliceville, Alabama, and leaving a host of students, faculty, and administrators sad to see him go.
 
After 42 years of dedicated employment, Willie will be missed by the entire community. A fixture on campus for generations, he was the first to open the doors in the early morning and wish everyone a great day with a smile beneath his signature hat — or hats — 50 of them! His favorite among them is a black Kangol with a brim.
 
Willie first donned a hat when he arrived in New York City and found the weather to be “cold, cold, cold! So I got a hat and just became used to wearing it,” he reports. The year was 1969. Willie had left his small town, where he grew up rising before the sun to work on a farm before heading off to school. Upon arrival in New York, Willie found employment at the Bentley School, an elementary and middle school, which merged with Dwight in 1974.
 
“It has been a pleasure working here and I’m sorry that I can't do more,” Willie says, remembering when he first met Chancellor Spahn. “He welcomed me right away and I’m so appreciative of him for everything he’s done. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and many changes, but Mr. Spahn has always been here.”
 
Willie’s days at school began at 6 am. Working as a member of the Maintenance team, he saw the campus change and grow over time and cited the brownstone at 22 West 89th Street as a wonderful addition. “It's beautiful now and I’m happy for Dwight. Maybe next year, we’ll see another brownstone open up!”
 
When asked about the best part of working here, Willie said without hesitation, “seeing all the students. They say hi, ask if you’re ok, and wish you a great day. That’s the best. And when I see alumni at class reunions, they always ask, ‘Are you still here?’ I’m happy to say, ‘Yes, yes, I’m still here.’ The next question, he says with a laugh is the inevitable: ‘Is that the same hat?’!”
 
Known for his loyalty, positive outlook, and dedicated work ethic, Willie is a man of few words, but he has many, many friends who can’t imagine a Dwight without him.  
  
“Dwight is my home. I spent all of my life here. I will miss it. I might get a computer, so I can keep up with everything going on at Dwight and hope to come back for alumni reunions.”
 
After a send-off celebration, where Chancellor Spahn, Director of Facilities Joe Dowling, and colleagues shared personal memories of working with Willie and wished him a relaxing, well-earned retirement, Willie did the unexpected: He took off his hat. For good. Willie is retiring his hats.
 
Check out this video bidding farewell to Willie!
Class of 2015 Valedictorian, Madeleine Reid, attributes much of her growth and success at Dwight to personalized learning and to faculty who encouraged her to pursue her sparks of genius — in both art and math — and inspired her to reach her full potential. And she most certainly did!
Founded in 1872 and located in New York City, Dwight is a leading private international school. The first school in the Americas to offer all four International Baccalaureate programs

for students in preschool through grade 12, Dwight is dedicated to igniting the spark of genius in every child.
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