KUA’s 99 Graduates Leave Their Hilltop for the Wider World
Cynthia Howe, left, helps graduating senior Alihan Seyrek pin a flower to his gown before the start of the Kimball Union Academy commencement in Meriden, N.H., on May 24, 2014. "You're like our class mom!" said Olivia Schlanger, right, to Howe, who is one of the senior class advisors. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Adrian Callies, right, shakes hands with Head of School Michael Schafer while receiving the Royal Burnham Townsend Class of 1911 Award during the Kimball Union Academy commencement in Meriden, N.H., on May 24, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Owen Winslow, right, hugs his father, music teacher Dalton Winslow, while receiving his diploma during the Kimball Union Academy commencement in Meriden, N.H., on May 24, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Alana Corrado, center, gets a light from Giorgio Gorini after the Kimball Union Academy commencement in Meriden, N.H., on May 24, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Click here for a photo gallery.
Meriden — As the 197th graduating class of Kimball Union Academy descended the stairs from the campus hilltop to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance on Saturday morning, the sun broke through overcast skies just in time for family, friends and faculty to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2014.
In his charge to the 99 graduates, given shortly before handing out diplomas, KUA Headmaster Michael Schafer spoke of the lessons learned, the friendships forged and the opportunities that lay ahead.
“In addition to your individual growth, what you learned is that you can contribute significantly,” Schafer said, complimenting the class on its contribution toward changing the way KUA will teach “with less content and more contact,” with global outreach and other opportunities.
Schafer said the students are entering a world far more complex and chaotic, socially, politically and professionally, adding that statistics say a college graduate today can expect to have 10 to 14 different careers, some in fields not even considered yet.
“So what I say, as emotional as it is for you to move on, is to bring it on. Write your own script. Make it up as you go if you have to. Grab on to what is coming next. You have the tools, you are prepared and you are ready.”
Valedictorian Victoria Florio Pipas, of Lebanon, said when she was contemplating her speech a classmate urged her not to offer the standard fare about the past or future, but to talk about the present.
“The present struck me as the most important place to be,” she began. “To me, present means awareness of the world around me, observation of myself and appreciation of both,” said Pipas, who will attend Middlebury College in the fall
“This day is commencement. It is hard not to be sad. I’m sad, but I’m also overjoyed in my presence here.”
She said KUA’s greatest gift to students is that of “appreciation.”
“This moment is best moment we will ever have,” she said. “Here we can appreciate and take forward all our own strengths and the strengths of those we love. We can let go and forgive others and ourselves for any shortcomings. And we can chose to create a future where we are not confined by the past but free to be the best of who we are. Let’s give our full gratitude in this moment to all the people and experiences here that have made us, us. And welcome to your next moment.”
Schafer introduced class speaker Bennett Grigull as a “happy man who is engaged, persistent, fun-loving yet serious, and in the classroom, creative, inquisitive and hardworking.”
Grigull then brought some irreverence and humor to the proceedings, thanking his mother for “writing his speech” and poking a little fun at the KUA experience and a number of classmates and faculty members that drew laughs among those in the know.
Though he arrived at KUA fearful about having to conform and change, Grigull said the opposite proved true. His years at KUA have been “the best years of my life,” he said.
“It is the only environment that has given me no pressure to be someone I am not. I don’t think anyone feels that pressure. That is why everyone is so happy all the time.
For all the times he made fun of the school, Grigull said, deep down inside he cherished the experience. “I don’t know if I want to go,” he said choking up a bit.
Schafer opened the ceremony, as he does each year, with praise for the faculty, parents, grandparents, friends and others who were instrumental in inspiring, encouraging and helping students reach this milestone.
To the Class of 2014, Schafer said, “each of you, in your unique way, is part of this very special senior class” that is “full of hope and imagination, full of spirit and devotion and devotion for school.
“As much as you have grown, you have given in return with opportunities seized and those to yet to be discovered. The future is abundant with possibilities.”
Jennifer Kurth Borislow, the commencement speaker, is a member of the KUA Class of 1978, the first co-ed class to live on campus.
She recalled that when her father, a KUA alumnus, spoke at her graduation, he asked graduates “What type of person do you want to become?”
“He was looking for us to dig deeper and look at what the bigger picture was. My father was urging us to use our KUA experience as tool to create meaning in our lives. He challenged us to go beyond ordinary, do something that is extraordinary.”
Borislow, like her father, urged graduates not to forget that KUA has allowed them to bring their own unique perspective to the community.
“KUA has given this class the confidence to be themselves, and more importantly, understand their individuality and respect the differences in others,” Borislow said.
“What will you do with the foundation KUA has given you? Will you stand for something? Will you make a difference? Will you change the world?” she asked. “Go out, leave the comfort of the hilltop and make your life significant.”
CLASS OF 2014
Here are the 2014 KUA graduates from the Upper Valley, their hometowns and plans: Molly Adams, Meriden, Northeastern University; Tyler Anderle, Meriden, University of New Hampshire; Benjamin Bates, Newport, Endicott College; Hunter Braswell, Plainfield, UNH; Marina Cerulo, West Windsor, Wheaton College; Morgan Dewdney, Meriden, Loomis Chaffee Post graduate year; Jesse Dole, Norwich, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Alicia Fairbrothers, White River Junction, Saint Michael’s College; Anna Hadlock, Plainfield, University of Georgia; James Herbert, Plainfield, Bard College; Lion Herfort, Meriden, University of St. Andrews; William Jenkins, Quechee, University of St. Andrews; Spencer Kulbacki, Enfield, Rochester Institute of Technology; Colby Little, Newport, University of Delaware; Charlton Muhlauri, Meriden, Northeastern University; Victoria Pipas, Lebanon, Middlebury College; Alison Pollard, Meriden, Gettysburg College.
Justine Rouleau, Sunapee, Bryant University; Daniel Scherding, Woodstock, Kenyon College; Bailey Sibert, Plainfield, undecided; Connor Skehan, Hartland, University of Vermont; Gib Spilsbury, Charlestown, Union College; Chloe Tyler, New London, High Point University; John Vansant, Thetford, Wesleyan University; Grace Voorhees, Ascutney, UVM; Joshua Weiss, Enfield, UNH; Owen Winslow, Meriden, Dickinson College.