An event sixteen years in the making, the first graduating class from The Stanwich School accepted their diplomas at a standing-room-only commencement ceremony after hearing a call from the school’s founder to, “Keep tight to your Stanwich heart. It will serve you well. It will fill your soul, and, indeed, there are journeys you might not have realized also waiting for you.”
The graduates comprised the inaugural class from Stanwich, which was founded by Pat Young in 1998 as a Grades K through 2 school which quickly expanded. Stanwich is now Greenwich’s first coeducational, PreK through Grade 12 independent school. Each of the school’s seniors have been accepted to attend 4-year colleges this fall — many of them schools of their “first choice.” It is extremely impressive to note that more than 40 schools offered our students merit-based scholarships totaling more than $500,000.
After receiving commemorative gifts from the school’s kindergartners, the graduates walked across the stage at the school’s Stanwich Road campus during the May 29 afternoon commencement ceremony.
The day before, an accident involving thirteen students and a driver, brought a sense of reflection to those gathered. “As you know, we had an accident in our community yesterday. Our sincere prayers and thoughts are with all the children and those impacted,” said Paul Geise, Head of School. “It reminds us that the character of a community lives in the moments of celebration as well as challenge. Such is the learning environment we have created at Stanwich; it is what sustains and strengthens us yesterday, today and every day.”
Mr. Geise went on to say, “I am both filled with joy and humbled by the collective accomplishments of so many and the immense commitment, compassion and courage it has taken to make this day a reality.”
Echoing the Head of School’s comment, Jerome Murphy, Head of Upper School, asked the rhetorical question, “Would we all be here right now if it were not for Pat Young? We are all here because of a dream that Pat Young had 16 years ago.”
Stanwich’s founder addressed the graduates, and the 500 in attendance, introducing the ceremony’s keynote speaker, US Senator Richard Blumenthal. Mrs. Young said the Blumenthals of Greenwich were among Stanwich’s charter families in 1998. The two youngest Blumenthal children, David and Claire, attended Stanwich’s Primary House. “Mrs. Blumenthal was our library volunteer,” Young said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal said it was an honor and thrill to speak at the ceremony. “I have been a longtime admirer of Pat Young,” he said, before thanking the school founder for her leadership and perseverance.
“This is the best graduating class, ever,” Blumenthal joked. “I can also tell you as a parent of four children, that there is no way today that you would be graduating without your families and loved ones. But you have earned it,” he said.
“You are trailblazers and ceiling breakers,” Blumenthal said, describing the seniors as part of a generation obligated to leave this world richer – culturally, ethically and morally. “That bond of shared responsibility is all important,” he said.
Because the melodic sounds of students raising up their voices in song have served as a signature of Stanwich since the school’s founding, three groups performed during the ceremony. Following Senator Blumenthal, the Lower School Choristes group sang, Tous Les Chemins (All Paths), the Intermediate House Voice Class sang Child of Tomorrow, and the Upper School Advanced Vocal Ensemble performed Graduation; Friends Forever, all to rousing applause.
After much pride and exuberance, the crowd of faculty, family, dignitaries and alumni heard from two of the school’s trailblazers, Garsy Presumey-Leblanc, valedictorian, and Caroline Drennen, salutatorian.
Ms. Presumey-Leblanc, who will be studying medicine at Vanderbilt University in the fall, said, “This isn’t the time to make permanent decisions. Now is the time, in fact, to make mistakes. Take the wrong train, and get stuck somewhere. Fall in love — a lot. Major in philosophy because there’s no way to make a career in that. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because these experiences will shape and hone your pursuit of happiness.”
A Stanwich student since kindergarten, Ms. Drennen, who will be attending Washington and Lee University, said, “We have reached a glorious ending … I am not in a position to offer life advice, especially to a group of my teachers who have collectively taught me everything I know. I am here to pause and recognize the moment.”
Recognizing that she and her fellow graduates were pioneers, Ms. Drennen said, “The road was clear, but the path was unpaved. Our impact has laid the groundwork for something great. We were blazing a trail and leaving a legacy.”