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Class of 2013 graduates from Phillips Academy

Graduating seniors urged to “do good in the world” and to “stay in touch”

June 10, 2013 — "You, the class of 2013, will always have a special place in my heart." With those words, John Palfrey paid tribute to the 323 newest alumni of Phillips Academy, the first class to graduate under his tenure as head of school.

In addition to thanking them for welcoming him and his family into the Andover community, Palfrey said, “I am grateful for many things about the Class of 2013. I admire your high spirits and your persistent goodwill. You are a brilliant group of artists, scientists, humanists, and all-around great people. You have found the right blend of respectful and rabble-rousing, serious and fun-loving. You have provoked us to be a better school. You leave us a stronger community."

The school’s 235th commencement, which took place on Sunday, June 9 under blue skies, kicked off in dramatic style to the sounds of bagpipes and drums as the Clan MacPherson Pipes and Drums of Lawrence led a procession of faculty and students around the school’s Great Lawn. As onlookers clapped and cheered, the procession made its way up the campus’s center walkway to the lawn in front of Samuel Phillips Hall where the first half of the ceremony took place. Boys wore blue suit coats and ties and girls wore white dresses.

In a slight twist to tradition, the boys as well as the girls carried red roses, a nod to the ongoing discussion about feminism and equality that this class of seniors spearheaded on campus over the past year. Many of the students also wore pale blue armbands as a way of acknowledging Andover’s 40th anniversary of co-education, initiated by the 1973 merger of the formerly all-boys Phillips Academy and the all-girls Abbot Academy.

In addition to thanking and praising the graduates, Palfrey urged them to remember the lessons they learned from their years at Andover, including the lessons born of failure. “While you’ve been here, you most likely have taken on things that you never thought you would try. I hope that you’ve managed to skin your knees a few times along the way; that you have found in yourself the force of character to pick yourself up; and that you’ve become more confident in yourself as a result.”

“If we’ve done our job right as educators,” he added, “this tension between success and failure should foster in each of you a sense of entrepreneurship. I don’t mean that each of you must found your own non-profit or your own Silicon Valley-based tech start-up … I mean entrepreneurship in the sense that you will take the great gifts that you have honed through your time at Andover, and put them to great use to do well and to do good in the world, to realize your personal dreams and to serve others in the true spirit of Non Sibi, Andover style.”

A passionate advocate of integrating technology into the educational process, Palfrey also noted that there is “much work to do at Andover to continue to provide the best possible education we can for those who come after you, in this increasingly digital age.” Working out the tension between the virtual and the residential characteristics of Andover’s educational structure will be a challenge, he said, and he encouraged the graduates to stay in touch and become a part of that process.

“I hope that you will continue the great work of the alumni who come before you – alumni who help Andover to be every bit the school, the community, and the private school with a public purpose that we aspire to be.”

 Text of Speeches

Also addressing the graduates was school president Hemang Kaul ’13 of Andover, who shared with his classmates anecdotes from his own journey through high school, from his scary first day as a ninth grader to his experiences in student government and improvisational comedy.

Each student’s Andover experience is unique, Kaul said, but what every student shares is a network of people—parents , friends, relatives, teachers, and staff—who have helped them along in their journey. To them, he said, “we owe a tremendous and unquantifiable number of thanks.”

Kaul then took time to thank a number of specific people including English teach Tasha Hawthorne, “for scolding me at times when it was more than necessary,” and associate head of school Rebecca Sykes, “for the generosity and compassion that she spread to each person she encountered here.”

Commencement, Kaul noted, marks the beginning of a new stage of life, the start of “what will hopefully be a long and fulfilling journey for us all.” But while that is exciting, he said, there is no denying the sadness that comes from the realization that “we [will] never again be together the way we are now.”

“So, look to those around you and cherish these last moments that we have together as a class,” Kaul concluded. “Congratulate each other and remember the idea of this purposeful community, the one that held us all closely together during our time here. I am truly proud of everything that we, as a class, have accomplished and the mark that we leave on this Academy. I offer my sincerest congratulations to the Class of 2013, which has given me so much, and wish us continued luck in the many, many years to come.”

As part of the commencement ceremony, Palfey presented five major prizes to the following recipients:

  • Cameron Morose of Haverhill, MA, received the Non Sibi Award, given to the student who has honored Phillips Academy’s non sibi (not-for-self) tradition through efforts on behalf of others.
  • Piper Leigh Curtis of Andover, MA, received the Yale Bowl, given to the member of the senior class who has attained the highest proficiency in scholarship and athletics.
  • Emily Field of Andover, MA, received the Faculty Prize for outstanding scholarship during the senior year.
  • Gabriele Fisher of New York, NY, received the Madame Sarah Abbot Award, given to a young woman for strong character, leadership and outstanding scholarship.
  • Rolando Bonachea of Bedford, NH, received the Aurelian Honor Society Award for sterling character, high scholarship and forceful leadership.

Following the speeches by Kaul and Palfrey, the members of the class of 2013 arose and followed the pipes and drums corp to the Great Lawn, where the graduates formed a giant circle for the traditional passing of the diplomas, a ceremonial tradition begun in 1952.

This year’s graduating class includes 38 students from the town of Andover, as well as students from such other local towns as Atkinson, Boxford, Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, and Windham. Other U.S. cities represented by the students include Chicago, New York, Memphis, Miami, and San Francisco. International students hail from Canada, China, England, Italy, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand, among other countries.

The Phillips Academy class of 2013 will matriculate at 95 different colleges and universities in the fall. Top choices, accounting for nearly 34 percent of the class, include Harvard, 17; University of Pennsylvania, 16; Yale, 15; Georgetown, 14; Columbia, 13; Cornell, 11; Boston College and Brown, 9 each; Stanford, 8.



Watch clips of the full Commencement ceremony.

Vew a gallery of photos from the 2013 commencement.

View the full text of the commencement speeches.

Contact Info

  • Stephen Porter, Director of Public Information & Web Publishing
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