On Saturday, June 12, during a memorable and joyful in-person commencement ceremony, the Masters community celebrated the 128 members of the Class of 2021 as they became alumnae/i.
The students faced many challenges this year — remote and hybrid learning, masking, social distancing, and the emotional and social toll of the ongoing pandemic and social unrest among them. But as they processed down the Senior Steps, their beaming smiles and confident strides made clear that they had emerged stronger and more resilient.
Life trustee and former board chair Edgar M. Masters H’98, who is retiring from the Board of Trustees after 51 years of service, opened the celebration by encouraging all attendees to “Let this be a moment when we pause to take in our many blessings.” Describing the graduates before him as “amongst our greatest blessings,” he noted that they “have taught us resilience, adaptability, vision, openness and, above all, hope.”
Reflecting on their tumultuous final year of high school, class co-president Carolyn Hohl said that “Zoom calls, pass/fail classes, and learning from all corners of the world cannot and will not define us as a class. Instead,” she continued, “we are using these experiences to move forward, entering our world as strong, passionate adults. Class of 2021, we are the ones that are going to make a better world.” Fellow co-president Zachary Battleman optimistically shared a simple and timeless charge with his fellow graduates: “Go find happiness.”
Building on the class speakers’ words, Head of School Laura Danforth challenged seniors to consider the question: “What do you hope your legacy will be?” Invoking Edgar Masters as an example, Danforth explained that in his decades of service to the School, Masters was dedicated to “charting a course for [the School] that would not only adhere to its founding mission but also advance it.” By making difficult decisions, such as introducing coeducation in 1998, “Half of the senior class is present today only because [Edgar Masters] believed we could retain the soul of our School while admitting young men as students.”
Dean of the Class of 2021 Eric Shear, who mentored the class since freshman year, expounded on how the students have “gone from separate individuals to a collection of individuals whose legacy on each other and this place is both profound and meaningful.” As they head off into the wider world, Shear appealed to the newly minted alumnae/i “to use the knowledge, connections and privilege of graduating from this place to better our world. I challenge you to build on what you have learned at Masters to make this world more sustainable, equitable and just. I know you will, because that is who you are.”
The importance of improving the world was front and center during commencement speaker Van Jones’ remarks. The Dream Corps founder, CNN host and social entrepreneur spoke about the School’s mission — to be a power for good in the world — and how today’s young people, who are passionate about forging a more just society, can create change. The answer, Jones explained, lies in one word in Masters’ mission statement: power.
“You don’t need any power to identify a problem,” Jones said. “You don’t need power to post about a problem. You don’t need power to hashtag about a problem. But you need power to solve one.” He explained that the most important skill students can foster to gain power and bring about change is “the ability to partner authentically across lines of difference.”
He encouraged the graduates, despite any barriers, to work hard and aim high. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve gone through, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter how low you start or how low you feel,” he shared. “Only one thing matters in this world: How strong is your springboard, and how hard do you hit it? Hit the springboard, get as high as you can. Do good, and hit it with all thy might.”