“This is the next to last time the senior class will gather with the spirit, energy, and authenticity that this class is known for,” said Head of School Jenny Rao in her opening remarks. “Tomorrow will be filled with pomp and circumstance, but this ceremony is reserved for sentimental reflections and musical tributes, for you the Class of 2022, from those who will dearly miss you.”
The Emma Willard School Choir, with seniors standing front and center, opened the reflections with one of their favorites, Omnia Sol (Let Your Heart Be Staid). The poignant opening lyrics speak directly to moments of moving onward in life’s journey:
Somewhere far from nowhere, I grew both strong and tall
Longing to become, but knowing not the path at all.
But the footprints of the winter melted to fields of spring;
One last embrace before I cross the threshold:
To life we sing!
Class of 2023 Vice President Melisande N. reflected on the journey to becoming close friends with the “extraordinarily more intelligent, experienced, and mature” Class of 2022. As the last class to have experienced a full “normal” year at Emma before the pandemic interrupted the 2019-2020 school year, the Class of 2023 held a special place of leadership in stewarding the traditions of the school. In assuring the graduates that their impact on Emma would not be forgotten, Meli declared, “From the clubs you created to the artwork you produced, know that your legacy will not go unnoticed by the Class of 2026 in the fall.”
As parent speaker, Janneke van de Stadt P’22 reminisced on the years since first touring Mount Ida as a prospective family. “It soon became clear to me,” she recalled, “that what is practiced at Emma Willard is not magic, but a unique, and real, brand of alchemy: the sustained nurturing and tempering of precious human material—its students. I witnessed this in the classroom, on the sports field, and on stage; I saw it on the residential halls and in the countless traditions that shape the academic year, from Morning Reports, to Emmaween, to Revels and May Day; I recognized it in the challenging and intrepid programming that asks students to grapple with vital questions and conflicting points of view, and in the regular opportunities for social, political, and human engagement, both on and off campus.”
In recognizing the contributions of all members of the community—from faculty to dining hall staff to pups to students and beyond—Ms. van de Stadt highlighted each individual’s vital role in creating the special “Emma alchemy.” With a special nod to the frenzied delight that is Revels and its unique tradition of “revelizing” which person would play which character, she encouraged the departing senior class to pay close attention to revelations about themselves and others. “New, and perhaps fundamentally different, priorities, interests, and convictions will invite, even demand, our attention. Sometimes these revelations are about ourselves; sometimes it is others who are more fully revealed to us. Especially in this regard, I hope that the spirit of Revels will serve as a lifelong companion for you.”
As the day’s senior speaker, Izzy Simon shared wisdom from “Katan Aleinu,” a song written by Static and recorded by Israeli artists during the pandemic to instill hope in the world. “The fact that nearly 25 people thought that feelings of sorrow and confusion were present enough to make an entire song, made me feel seen,” Izzy shared. Inspired by that feeling, she shared a Works in Progress speech with the entire student body, talking about her own mental health, hoping to encourage all to look at one another more deeply. Speaking of the past four incredible years, Izzy pointed out that “there is so much you don’t see [...] things that often go unmentioned in moments like these.” She gave ten humorous examples of when situations didn’t work out quite the way she’d planned, proving that “how your high school experience pans out is no reflection of your capabilities, ingenuity, or uniqueness.”
In her closing words, Izzy implored the Class of 2022 to share their own brand of uniqueness with the world. “We are a class of dreamers and thinkers, marine scientists and historians, athletes and artists, but even though I pair these things together, eliciting the intent that they are opposite in their nature, they are not. Athletes use math to plan out plays, artists use science to create their work, scientists use history to understand past equations and theories, and on and on the list goes. Most people live their lives by dividing what they believe should be separate, but not us. We will break down those barriers… That mentality is deeply ingrained in every one of us. It has been since birth; Emma has only bolstered it.”
The final remarks of the day were delivered by the class’s choice of faculty, History Department Chair Katharine Holt, PhD. As she came to Mount Ida at the same time that the Class of 2022 arrived as 9th graders, Dr. Holt shared a special collection of memories with the class. The theme of constant change recurred throughout these past four years, and will continue in the seniors’ future journeys. “Change comes to all of us,” Dr. Holt explained. “Some change is beautiful and liberating, is healing and necessary. Some change is horrifying, tragic, and harmful. Some change we don’t know what to make of. [...] My hope for you all is that you do not become allergic to change.” Dr. Holt shared Octavia Butler’s words from The Parable of the Sower, in which the protagonist believes “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.” To the senior class, Dr. Holt exhorted, “I hope you carry Butler’s words with you, as well as a sense of reciprocity as you leave here, acknowledging your power to remake things, an openness to being remade, and a sense of responsibility to others.”
Head of School Jenny Rao closed the ceremony with a reading of slightly-modified lyrics from the Celtic song, The Soft Goodbye, ending with :
When you leave and take the wind
and find the land that holds destiny,
the brightest star in the evening sky
will be your Mount Ida memory.
Following the ceremony, students and faculty made their way to the brick pathway in Kellas Garden, for the dedication of a new addition of Class of 2022 engraved bricks. The fruit of the parents’ fundraising efforts over the past year was a check for over $145,000 for the Emma Fund, presented by John Buhac, Jennifer Carraher, Colonel Bill Carraher, and Dr. Noriko Ikuni, the Leadership Committee of the Class of 2022 Parents Fund. The brick pathway dedicated in honor of their students will provide a lasting place where families can return each time they visit Mount Ida.
To view the event in its entirety, visit emmawillard.org/live to access our live feed archive. View more photos on SmugMug (NOTE: professional photography will be added to the album at a later date).