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NCDS News

The Class of 2020 Graduates
The sun shone brightly on Thursday, July 30, as Newton Country Day held its 140th Graduation in the Sunken Garden. Practicing social distancing and adhering to all COVID safety precautions, families living in the same household celebrated the 59 members of the Class of 2020 in person, while extended family and friends watched a live-stream of the ceremony from home.

Following the procession into the tent, Headmistress Sister Barbara Rogers welcomed our guests. Class president Elizabeth Weiss ’20 gave the Invocation before the Mary Quinlan Salutatory Address was delivered by Grace Ryan ’20.

“We always told everyone that 2020 was going to be a special year, and, well, we were not wrong,” Ryan said. “A silver lining to the pandemic is the fact that no one would ever dare to dream of forgetting the Class of 2020. Sisterhood is a term that the Class of 2020 has embodied. Our sisterhood is empathic. We have rooted for our classmates’, our sisters’, successes. We have counseled each other through our failures. Our sisterhood is hardworking. We have striven for excellence in academics, in athletics, and in the arts. Most importantly, our sisterhood is resilient. We have taken the wins and the losses, and now, a global pandemic and financial collapse, in stride. The lessons we learned that created such a strong community here empathy, work ethic, resilience — will be critical to strengthening the various communities along the next stages of our lives.”

Following Ryan, Kate Merchant Snyder ’88, the Mayor of Portland, Maine, delivered the Graduation Address.

“This day marks a significant milestone, and you all deserve accolades. You have made it through Newton Country Day’s rigorous coursework, athletics, arts, theater, volunteer work, work-work, and I have to say, making it through high school in the age of social media ought to be recognized as the accomplishment that it is,” Snyder noted. “For all the benefits of news and information at our fingertips - I will tell you, I don’t think I would have done well with the pressures inherent in that realm. I think it’s worth noting that it can be a stress point to manage -and that - in addition to all you all have achieved, endured, learned, managed and done to get to this day, that counts among the factors that make you all, your generation, unique and resilient. “You all are at the beginning of significant decision making as you move from being a kid at home, to being an adult on your own. The pathways are many. Sometimes this can feel intimidating. Please - I urge you - don’t be afraid of starting, and then starting again anew. There’s great opportunity and value in giving yourself the chance to try, maybe succeed, maybe fail, and then evaluate what’s next. It’s not the failure you’ll regret as much as not trying.

“You are all women who possess the courage and confidence to respond generously, competently, and responsibility to the demands of your lives and to the needs of the world. These words - these NCDS principles - ring particularly true at this time. As eager as you may be to close one chapter and open another, please look around at your classmates, your teachers, this place. These people, and this place, they’re anchors for you. They’re special and they’re reliable. Do what you can to keep them close. Make efforts to keep in touch. Attend reunions. I can tell you, as time passes, you will be happy you did.”

After the conferring of the diplomas, Alice Husson Prize recipient Eliza Durbin ’20 took the stage to thank the faculty and staff. Durbin noted that she and her classmates did not realize how much they would miss their teachers until the school needed to switch to its Distance Learning Term in March.

“As a grade, we only then discovered how much we rely on their daily presence,” Durbin said. “Our teachers truly believe that every single one of us has the capacity to do or be absolutely anything—or to decide the current realm of possibilities are not exactly what we want and encourage us to dream up a new future instead. The teachers convey to us, through their words and actions, that they respect us as capable young women, and I truly hope that we were able to show how highly we think of them, but, if we did not, I am happy to do this now.” Durbin went on to thank the teachers for giving her and her classmates the gifts of compassion, generosity, and confidence, before concluding, “The most amazing thing about our teachers is how much we mean to them. Each day, teachers sacrifice their free time, their lunch, or their own work to help us. During distance learning, they always had our needs at the forefront and taught compassionately and effectively; they provided companionship and empathy when we needed it most.”

Head of the Upper School Kathleen Scully Hodges then distributed prizes before Faith Ellis ’20 delivered the Janet Erskine Stuart Valedictory Address.

Ellis began by expressing difficulty in trying to summarize her NCDS experience in one speech. “When I remembered that I would be doing this with the support of 58 of my favorite people in the world, it felt a lot less intimidating,” she said. “Like all of you, I have spent the last four months in my house. I’ve been thinking about the difference between a house and a home. I’ve realized that ‘home’ is really just people that wholly see, know, and love you, regardless of where you are or the physical structure around you. And that is exactly what the Class of 2020 is to me. It’s one of the best examples of Goal 4—the building of community as a Christian value—that I have in my life. We each made the choice, every day, to show up and be there for each other, to see each of our classmates for all that they are—the good and the bad—and embrace each other for who we truly are. Building a true community isn’t something that can be done with one big event or grand gesture—it takes small, consistent effort all the time. The result of that continuous hard work is a sisterhood: while we may occasionally disagree or bicker, we have each other’s backs no matter what and are empowered to be our truest selves because we know that we are seen and loved by friends we respect and value.”

The Clare McGowan Prize was given to History teacher and Director of Student Life Katherine Spelman before the Sacred Heart Goal Awards were distributed. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Christopher Kelly P’05’07’12’16 delivered the closing prayer. Families then joined their graduates as they were welcomed into our alumnae community.