Jun 1, 2020

— updated Aug 6, 2020

Honoring the Class of 2020

Sixty bold and creative contributors to the common good became the newest MHS alumnae on Sunday, May 31, during the School’s 2020 Graduation.

Because of the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Graduation was held online, with students and their families from around the globe joining via Zoom. The event was also livestreamed, and reached more than 1,000 guests!

Head of School Julia Heaton, broadcasting from the Quad, opened by welcoming guests from around the world and acknowledging the disjointed nature of the current time. Confronting a quiet campus lacking the sounds of its students, and herself missing the three-dimensionality of human connection, Ms. Heaton noted how she found solace and hope in music. In so doing, she created a playlist — 60 songs for 60 graduates. “This spring, it often felt that life was on pause,” Ms. Heaton said, referencing one of the songs, Colin Hay’s “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin,” which greeted viewers as they tuned into the livestream. “The global pandemic forced us to shelter in place, hunker down, quarantine, isolate, and await further instructions. The circumstances made it hard to make plans, harder still to be optimistic about the state of our world.” And, along with a surge in discrimination, bigotry, and hate crimes since the onset of coronavirus, the United States continues to struggle with the epidemic of racism.

“Some might say, there is nothing to do but wait,” Ms. Heaton offered, “But, to the Class of 2020, I say, Miss Hall’s has not prepared you to sit still or be quiet.” She noted the class’s propensity for living by the School’s mission of inspiring and encouraging students to contribute boldly and creatively to the common good. “You have spoken out about sexual harassment, gun violence, and climate change,” Ms. Heaton added. “You have protested and helped to forge a more inclusive Miss Hall’s community. You didn’t create these problems, and you can’t be expected to solve them alone.” Dismantling systems of inequality and oppression, healing from pandemic, and reimagining a better future, will take collaboration from young and old alike, and the world needs what the new graduates can offer. “Class of 2020, you do not need an engraved invitation — or a diploma — to commence your next chapter,” Ms. Heaton added. “You are more than ready to begin your real life.”

In her remarks, Senior Class President Ria Kedia ’20 acknowledged the challenges she and her classmates have encountered, and she advised students to not let setbacks change their values. “I hope that you take the challenges that are presented to you and turn them into your strengths,” said Ria, who shared four suggestions. First, notice what needs to be fixed and take action. Second, don’t be afraid to cross boundaries, work outside the lines, take chances, or change tradition. Third, collaborate, and build of others’ strengths. Fourth, be confident, added Ria, a lesson she learned from her classmates. “You all have so much to offer,” Ria continued. “Despite going through all of the challenges and difficulties, you have all come out stronger, and I’m so proud of you.”

School President Ayla Wallace ’20, noting the challenges of a global pandemic and ongoing injustices, encouraged classmates to reflect on the times. The pandemic, she noted, has proven previous rules to be obsolete. “There is no pandemic rulebook,” Ayla said. “As a society, we have an open opportunity to re-write the rules.” It is something she and her classmates have been doing for four years, noted Ayla, who also suggested that classmates remember their many good times together. She followed by posing the question: What’s next? “In times like these, it’s easy to forget who we are,” she said. “We are Miss Hall’s graduates, which means we are ready to be the change. We are the creators of a future that is so bright, so brilliant, and so revolutionary. So I ask you Class of 2020, can you see it?”

Additionally, actress Jayne Atkinson — “Criminal Minds,” “Madam Secretary,” “House of Cards” — who was selected by the Class as its speaker, sent seniors special words, which were read by Dean of Students Christie Higuera. Ms. Atkinson pointed out that while the world outside their doors may seem impossibly chaotic, MHS graduates are exactly what that world needs. “You are the possible, the probable, and the energy and voices that will re-imagine what we want our world to look like — must look like, will look like — to not just survive but also to thrive!” Ms. Atkinson shared. “We may have another short while of chaos, but when it is through, we need to be ready — you need to be ready — to go and to fly!”

After Board President Nancy Gustafson Ault ’73 pronounced the students graduates, Ms. Heaton read their names as they were spotlighted for the worldwide viewing audience to see. Because this year’s Sending Forth — a traditional event at which faculty and students enjoy dinner, followed by the adults sending students forth with words of wisdom — could not be held, Sunday’s program included a poignant video of MHS adults sharing their parting advice with students.

Following the Alma Mater and a Benediction from retiring Math Department Chair Trish Shuart, the event closed with a recording of last year’s juniors — the Class of 2020! — singing Dona Nobis Pacem, to a slideshow of images from the MHS campus.

Congratulations, Class of 2020!

Celebrating the Class of 2020

All-School Awards

Meus Honor Stat Keys Awarded for Core Competencies

Vision Award — Zhongyin Zhang

Voice Award — Ria Kedia

Interpersonal Efficacy Award — Khanh Nguyen

Gumption Award — Jacqueline Mosley

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Faculty Commendation Award — Jingtong Zhang

Christine Fuller Holland ’33 Prize — Bingqi Wang

Margaret Witherspoon Award — Ayla Wallace

Joseph F. Buerger Memorial School Spirit Cup — Emily Carmel

Department Awards

Elizabeth Gatchell Klein Studio Art Prize — Napasorn Visuthiwat 

Ceramics Award — Soleil Laurin

Angela Kalischer Theater Prize — Emily Carmel, Erica Morales-Armstrong

Susanna McCreath Music Prize — Ria Kedia, Khanh Nguyen, Riagain Wiley

Photography Award — Xuanxuan Song

Doris E. Pitman English Prize — Zhongyin Zhang

Virginia Breene Wickwire ’67 Reading Prize — Yuka Nakano

Monique Jalbert French Prize — Emily Carmel

Mansfield E. Pickett Latin Prize — Ria Kedia

Spanish Prize — Isabelle Lapierre

Horizons Prize — Bingqi Wang

James K. Ervin Mathematics Prize — Ria Kedia

Iive Rouse Science Award — Isabelle Lapierre

Senior Prize in Engineering and Tech Innovation — Linh Chi Tran

Paul C. Cabot, Jr. History Prize — Lomesia Allen

Sylvia “Rusty” Shethar Everdell ’38 Prize — Angela Guachione