Upper school students, faculty, families, and friends gathered May 30 on a warm, sunny evening to congratulate the 23 Wakefield Country Day School seniors on their accomplishments and present students with awards and honors they earned during the academic year.
The program began with a procession of the faculty and graduates to Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” Honoring a longtime Wakefield tradition, the senior girls wore white dresses, and the boys sported navy blazers, white pants and straw boaters.
Father Paul Dudzinski of Saint Peter Catholic Church delivered the invocation and the benediction. The audience rose to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and, when the keyboard malfunctioned, one of the seniors, Suzanna Toske, stepped forward to say, “I’ll do it.” In her beautiful voice, she led all present in an a cappella version of the anthem.
After welcoming all present, Head of School Kathleen Grove took the opportunity to speak about each of the seniors, sharing remarks from the faculty and identifying accomplishments and contributions.
Salutatorian Stephanie Stryker told those assembled that “Since the fourth grade, Wakefield has been a major and influential part of my life.” She recalled the many life lessons learned at the school, from meeting deadlines to growing in that rare combination of humility and self-confidence. She identified the “common passion” shared by her classmates: “Wakefield.”
Then, many prep school students who excelled in particular subjects or made special contributions to the school received awards.
This year’s commencement speaker was Charles Cowherd, a beloved government and history teacher who now lives and works in New Orleans. The identity of the speaker was kept a secret until the moment of his introduction. Mr. Cowherd lived up to expectations with a speech that only someone who knows the school so intimately could deliver.
He recalled his own entry into Wakefield and then described the uniqueness of the Class of 2010.
He extolled the education the students have received, saying, “Thus, paradoxically, the exacting standards and antiquated traditions and adherence to conformity . . . you don’t turn out the way we want you to, but the way that you wanted to in the first place. Everyone can look around and say, I earned this thing.”
He concluded with three things that make Wakefield so special: “The friendships, the academic rigor, and, finally, you will never feel as safe or at home as you are in this place.”
Following Mr. Cowherd’s commencement address, the school’s college adviser, Marsha Dowell, and Mrs. Grove presented the seniors with their diplomas.
The last speaker of the evening was Adrian Wassel, who gave the valedictory address. He spoke about the nature of “home” which need not be a physical location but a place within oneself, “remaining entirely and wholly” oneself. He said, “Wakefield is not the walls, or the gym, or sports fields, or classrooms, Wakefield is the people within those walls, and I do, very genuinely, love Wakefield.”
He advised his classmates to maintain their identities, built through their relationships and experiences, as their “homes” even as they travel to colleges and universities.
All three speakers shared themes of love for the school and appreciation for the admirable uniqueness of each individual who graduated this year. Graduates and guests then photographs, conversation, laughter, embraces, and tears.
Wakefield holds 7th grade ceremony
The Wakefield Country Day School Lower School closing ceremony, held on Friday, May 28, celebrated the accomplishments and recognized the achievements of the grade seven students as they left the lower school to become members of the upper school. The ceremony was attended by parents and friends as well as by all students in the lower school who wore their dress uniforms.
Jon Heddleston, pastor of Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church (and a WCDS parent), gave the invocation and the benediction. Two seventh graders, Lily Lauben and Willow Lynn, shared reflections on their schooling at Wakefield and their anticipation of the next steps in their advance toward college. Both Lily and Willow shaped their speeches around quotes.
Lily began with the well-known quote from Henry Brooks Adams, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Using details about the subject matter and approach of each teacher of grade seven, Lily described the “greater wisdom” of each faculty member. She concluded, “No matter what shape our lives take, your wisdom will stay at the center.”
Willow quoted “The Builders” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, expressing appreciation for her and her classmates’ teachers who helped their students build impressive knowledge and skills.
Head of School Kathleen Grove then spoke about each grade seven student, sharing descriptive words about them supplied by their teachers and reading the titles of their research papers. She then presented each grade seven student with the leaving certificate, recognizing the achievement and mastery of skills and knowledge.
Knowing what joy it would give the seventh grade, Mrs. Grove invited the newest “owlet,” Brendan Griffin, less than a month old, to “ring the bell” to dismiss them from the ceremony. (His older brother, Douglas, performed the actual ringing, as the grade seven students cheered the infant of their beloved teacher, Mrs. Welby Griffin.) Following the procecession of faculty and seventh grade students, all assembled in the lower lobby for a reception.
Wakefield kindergarten and pre-K students celebrate
Wakefield Country Day School celebrated the promotion of the kindergarten students and the achievements of the preschool and pre-kindergarten students in a ceremony May 19.
The students processed into the auditorium, walking slowly and proudly in their finery. The kindergarten came in last, all the girls in white and the boys in white shirts and ties.
Tara Johnson used a crystal ball to “see” adjectives about each of her kindergarten students, spelling out “Kindergarten rocks!” Each child took a turn to jump up and hold each letter representing his or her unique aspects.
Then the preschool mounted the stairs, sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” took bows, and left the stage. They were followed by the pre-kindergarteners who recited the poem “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” with each student individually saying two lines. Each kindergarten student then went to the stage and recited a particular poem, from William Blake to A. A. Milne to William Wordsworth. Each student received a diploma or certificate. Each teacher coaches each child to accept his or her certificate from Head of School Kathleen Grove while shaking hands and making eye contact.
All the children next sang the “Grand Old Flag,” and a student invited all the families back to the classrooms for refreshments and pictures. Then the kindergarten processed out, each girl carrying a long-stemmed rose and each boy wearing a boutonniere.