Celebrating Our 2020 Graduates: The Class of Resilience and Hope

Our 148th Commencement Exercises was unlike any other ― and the same can be said of the Class of 2020.

The unprecedented circumstances brought about by the global pandemic forever altered the course of their senior year, but did not alter their lion-sized spirit!

Indeed the fortitude, compassion, and resilience shown by our seniors will be remembered for many years to come. We were delighted to honor them at our virtual graduation, during which we reflected on their many achievements, unique contributions to our school and community, and celebrated their final milestone in their Dwight educational journey.

As seniors and their families awaited the start of graduation, they were greeted by digital shout-outs of congratulations and well-wishes from parents, teachers, staff, and fellow students. Pada Schaffner ’20 played several pieces on the piano, including his own composition entitled “Winter’s Afternoon.”

Dean of Twelfth Grade Alexander Cunningham was the first to deliver remarks about the seniors he had gotten to know well, who will be united by coming of age amidst the global pandemic and remembered, more importantly, for how they responded.
 
Head of School Dianne Drew spoke of the graduating seniors’ indomitable spirit, how they had carved their own paths, and how — even before our world was altered by COVID-19 — the Class of 2020 was destined to be agents of change, which our world needs now more than ever.

Chancellor Stephen Spahn shared a poem that he had written specially for the Class of 2020, imparting wisdom about the quest each one will undertake beyond Dwight and throughout their lifetimes, concluding with a reminder that his door and heart will always be open to them.

Three other graduates also shared their musical sparks of genius during the ceremony: Yiqiao (Elaine) Song ’20 and Nicholas Oblonsky ’20 performed a piece together, Daisies and Violets by Stephen DeCesare, on violin and piano, respectively. Annabella Civorelli ’20 sang Our Time by Stephen Sondheim, accompanied by her Dwight Music Conservatory voice teacher, Mary Thombs, on piano.

Eric Dale, Head of Upper School, presented awards to 32 seniors recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in academics, the arts, and athletics, as well as for their leadership and contributions to our community. Click here to see a video of this year’s award recipients.

This year’s Salutatorian Esmé Robson ’20 and Valedictorian Kate Schlein ’20 shared what had made their Dwight education so special, what our school and the IB had taught them, and of course, that they never could have imagined ending their high school experience with distance learning separated from friends and classmates. Virtual or not, they spoke of many wonderful moments together, and as Kate said it quite well for everyone: “The end does not define the journey.”  

Then the milestone moment arrived — the awarding of well-earned diplomas to our Dwight and Dwight Global Class of 2020 by Eric Dale, Head of Upper School. After the last name was read, he instructed them, in the time-honored tradition, to turn their tassels from right to left, symbolizing their transition to our newest alumni!

A virtual cap toss followed, as did a series of congratulatory messages from former alumni and friends of Dwight, ranging from Broadway star Billy Porter to the number-one ranked men’s tennis pro in the world, Novak Djokovich. The final festivities came in the form of a virtual after-party before grads celebrated with their families and loved ones.

As the Class of 2020 moves on to the finest colleges and universities in the world, we wish them all the very best and a giant roar of congratulations!