Senior Nathan Ko stood at the podium surveying his classmates, who, in their graduation finest, were looking back at him in anticipation of what he might say on this important day, Loomis Chaffee’s 107th Commencement, Sunday, May 28.
Four nights earlier, he was in the Black Box Theater performing a play he had written for his Senior Project called “Some Jazz Was Playing,” and now Nathan was singing the praises of his fellow graduates as the class speaker.
“The main reason why this class is full of winners is not because of the titles we hold, but rather the type of people we are. Ever since my freshman year, I’ve always felt that our class was special in its friendliness,” Nathan told the Class of 2023, which numbered 203 graduates, 10 of them children or grandchildren of alumni.
Nathan recalled how the seniors supported one another in all areas of campus life. He reflected on graduating from not just any high school, but Loomis Chaffee, where education enables students to ask “provocative and probing questions and attempt to answer them profoundly.”
Nathan and the day’s other speakers addressed the Class of 2023 in the dappled sunlight of the traditional Commencement location overlooking the Farmington River and flanked by the Loomis Family Homestead and the Head of School’s House, where the peonies had popped and the rhododendrons were in full color. Before the ceremony, the graduating class had processed from the Grubbs Quadrangle and through Founders Hall before settling into their seats. Duncan MacLean ‘90, chairman of the Board of Trustees, provided the greeting for the day and Pastor Ryan Heckman the benediction.
In her remarks to the class, Head of School Sheila Culbert reminded the graduates that with the privilege of a Loomis Chaffee education “comes a responsibility to live your lives with purpose — to think of others, to care about those less privileged, and to be good citizens. I know you will take the Founders’ charge seriously.”
Commencement Speaker Fred Seebeck, a Loomis Chaffee faculty member from 1983 to 2020, echoed those sentiments by quoting theologian John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Part of the mission of Loomis Chaffee is to strive to be your best self and serve the common good, and part of being able to do that comes from taking care of oneself. To that end, Sheila urged the graduates to seek out the natural world. “There is a lot of evidence for the healing power of nature,” she said. “I know this sounds a little new-agey — or in my case old-agey — but the benefits of spending time in nature are immense. … A walk in the woods, or along the beach, a hike in the hills, time spent outside can make you happier. As Henry David Thoreau put it so perfectly, ‘Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.’ ”
In closing, Sheila invited the graduates to return anytime to visit the Island. “We will always be thrilled to see you,” she said. A walk around the loop, a visit to the Meadows, a glance at the Farmington River might just be what the doctor ordered.
Fred also spoke about the importance of simple moments as he offered suggestions for building a life of meaning, purpose, and joy. “One way to keep our minds active and our souls fulfilled is to recognize and appreciate the awe-inspiring moments in our lives,” Fred said.
And Nathan left his classmates with a similar challenge.
“When I was preparing to write the end of this speech,” he said. “I wanted to include a profound quote, and I realized that there’s nothing better or wiser I could do than include words from a truly spectacular teacher: [English teacher Will] Eggers. During rehearsals for Cabaret, Dr. Eggers would continue to repeat this one reminder: ‘Make a memory, every day.’”
A memory — more than one — had been made on this day. Many of them were captured in group photos before and after the ceremonies. It was a day to linger and soak it all in.
Commencement and Class Night Prizes
The Loomis Family Prize: Alessandro Mocciolo
Established in 1921, The Loomis Family Prize for scholarship honors the Founders and their successors in the Loomis family who have contributed time, energy, and fortune to nurture the growth of The Loomis Institute. It is awarded to the first scholar of the graduating class.
The Charles Henry and Mary Chaffee Willcox Prize: Quan Le
Established in 1961, The Charles Henry and Mary Willcox Prize commemorates the Willcox family’s deep interest in the establishment and growth of The Chaffee School. It is given to the second scholar of the graduating class.
The Ammidon Prize: Sofia Mansilla
Established in 1964 by former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Hoyt Ammidon of the Class of 1928, The Ammidon Prize is awarded annually to a student of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty, has made an outstanding commitment to the common good through concern for others, both on and off the Island.
The Florence E. Sellers Prize: Ignacio Feged
Established in 1955, The Florence E. Sellers Prize is awarded in loving memory of Florence Sellers, Director of the Chaffee School from 1936-1954. The prize recognizes a student of the graduating class whom the faculty has judged to have the characteristics of Mrs. Sellers: a quest for excellence, self- discipline, and a concern for others.
The Jennie Loomis Prize: Kirsten Lees
Established in 1929, The Jennie Loomis Prize, a medallion also designed by sculptor Evelyn Longman Batchelder, honors Miss Jennie Loomis and her mother, Mrs. Jennie Cooke Loomis. Through this prize, the faculty recognize a student in the graduating class for outstanding contributions to the school community.
The Batchelder Prize: Samantha Tishler
Established in 1916, this prize honors Gwendolen Sedgwick Batchelder and her husband Nathaniel Horton Batchelder, who served the school as our first headmaster from 1912 -1949. Sculptor Evelyn Longman Batchelder designed the medallion through which the faculty recognize a student within the graduating class for industry, loyalty, and integrity.
Faculty Sellers Prizes: Inari Barrett and Emily Khym
The Charles Edgar Sellers Prize is given by the faculty in loving memory of Charles Edgar Sellers, beloved teacher and coach, in recognition of personal achievement and service to the Loomis Chaffee community.