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Loomis Chaffee Celebrates 102nd Commencement

Connect to view a gallery of photos from Commencement.

Loomis Chaffee celebrated its 102nd Commencement ceremony under the marquis in Grubbs Quadrangle on Sunday, May 27. Not even the damp, chilly weather could contain the ever-buoyant spirit of the 198 members of the Loomis Chaffee Class of 2018 as the gathering of families, friends, faculty, school administrators, and distinguished guests celebrated their achievements and wished them well in their future endeavors.

After a greeting from Loomis Chaffee Board of Trustees Chairman-Elect Duncan A.L. MacLean '90 and the presentation of Commencement Prizes, Senior Class Speaker Sam Goldfarb delivered his address. To warm laughter and applause, Sam made self-deprecating reference to the differences between an immature and socially-awkward "9th Grade Sam," to a more open-minded, more self-aware "12th Grade Sam." He thanked his classmates and teachers for aiding his personal evolution and vowed to pay back their patience and kindness through his interactions with others as "College Freshman Sam."

"We may call this place 'The Island,' but none of us were isolated. Everyone graduating today developed interests through a web of encouragement," he said.

Sam and all the day's speakers touched upon the idea that as graduates of Loomis Chaffee, the members of the Class of 2018 join all alumni in sharing the responsibility of making good use of the many lessons learned at Loomis, and taking an active role in making the world a better place.

Head of School Sheila Culbert introduced Christopher K. Norton '76 as this year's Commencement Speaker. Chris, she noted, is a member of a three-generation Loomis family that includes his father, Nick Norton '48, and four of his five children. With Chris' 21 years of service on the Loomis Board of Trustees, fourteen as chair, and with his advocacy for the establishment of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, the Norton family legacy runs wide and deep, Sheila noted, and the school is grateful for Chris' enduring dedication.

As a Trustee, Chris has, "guided his colleagues through oftentimes complex, strategic decisions that have kept our school on the Founders' path and have strengthened our core values and beliefs," Sheila said.

At the start of his address, Chris noted that while it may seem like a long time ago that he was in the shoes of this year's graduates in 1976, it has been 70 years since his father, Nicholas Norton '48, graduated.

"I am incredibly proud and honored to recognize him today for this remarkable anniversary," Chris said, adding that he is pleased that his father and mother were able to be "present in the virtual sense" and watching the ceremony via livestream.

In order to reach the same milestone, Chris pointed out, this year's graduates would need to return to Loomis Chaffee in May of 2088!

The goal of Chris' address to the Class of 2018 was to encourage students, as they take the next steps into their future, to adopt the word 'why' as a "philosophy — an attitude of life." Because, he said, the word 'why' is a driver of discovery, and invites us to ask fundamental questions about existence, purpose, future, and most importantly, to seek truth which yields courage.

Chris pointed out that the word 'why' comes easy and often to us as children, and reflects a child's curiosity and fascination with life. As we go through school, teachers try to evoke the 'why' to awaken a sense of wonder and inquisitiveness in their students. Truth and wisdom "flow from 'why,'" Chris said.

As we grow into adulthood, Chris continued, we sometimes lose that child-like curiosity — we stop challenging, and become more concerned with "fitting in" rather than "carving out our own unique pathway," he said. Chris credits his teachers at Loomis for instilling in him an understanding of the importance of continuing to ask 'Why?' and for promoting the idea that well-reasoned ideas are worthy of expression.

"In their vocabulary 'why' was both encouraged and respected. That's a lesson that's stayed with me throughout my life," Chris acknowledged.

Chris shared some examples from his professional and personal life when having the courage to ask 'Why?' rather than just accepting the status quo, netted positive outcomes. He pointed to the need to ask the 'why' of others in order to be open to new ideas.

Concern for others and a commitment to becoming engaged citizens is an integral part of a Loomis education, Chris noted, and part of the mission of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good is to empower students to thoughtfully confront divisive issues with the goal of finding common ground.

"So I'd like to challenge each of you ... to have the courage to step up and ask 'Why?' — frequently, and without fear, embarrassment, or reservation of what you might find," he said.

In closing, Chis stressed that November's election will be the first and perhaps most important election of the students' lives. "Please don't forget to vote!" he entreated.

Following Chris speech, the names of all the graduates were read by Director of Studies Timothy C. Lawrence, and the diplomas were presented by Associate Director of Studies Robert DeConinck and Sheila.

Sheila bid farewell to the students, noting that all the people gathered on campus share in the "bittersweet delight" that Commencement brings. She congratulated them on all their hard work, and reminded the graduates to thank the people that helped them get there.

"Come back any time to visit us on the Island — we will be thrilled to see you," Sheila said before the Reverend Charlotte LaForest gave a benediction and the students recessed to celebrate with their family and friends.

Connect to a Commencement Program.

Connect to view a gallery of photos.

Members of the Board of Trustees assisted Sheila in the presentation of the Commencement Prizes:

The Charles Henry and Mary Chaffee Willcox Prize: Yujin "Rosie" Park

(presented by Kristen DeLaMater)

The Loomis Family Prize: (tie) Otto Johannes Laakso and Robert Wang

(presented by Michael Dubiler '73)

The Florence E. Sellers Prize: Nicole Ryckman

(presented by Erik Cliette '84)

The Ammidon Prize: August Spencer Donovan

(presented by Elizabeth Richmond '80)

The Jennie Loomis Prize: Chelsea Nkemdilim Offiaeli

(presented by Pauline Chen '82)

The Nathaniel Horton Batchelder Memorial Prize: Gunnar Rhodes Simons

(presented by Harvey Struthers '60)

Winners of the Sellers Faculty Prizes, awarded Saturday, May 26, during Class Night:

Jacy L. Case

Brener B. DeSouza

Azizza "Jet" Elbualy

Bihan "Louisa" Gao

Leonie M. Kurzlechner

Robert E. Lotreck