“Today we have not a commencement, but a tribute to all of you. A tribute traditionally was an act of homage from one tribe to another, a showing of respect, of honor and of deference,” said Head of School Dr. Meera Viswanathan’s at the start of her remarks during Sunday’s “Tribute to the Class of 2020.”
On what would have been the weekend of Walker’s 108th commencement exercises, due to the continuing restrictions on large gatherings, the community instead gathered virtually to honor and celebrate the 2020 graduating class of 47 young women. Students, their families, faculty, staff, alumnae and friends of the school gathered at their homes close to the school’s Simsbury campus as well as in cities throughout the US and across the globe. During the live broadcast of the Tribute, guests chatted their congratulations to members of the graduating class.
“Today we celebrate you, the tribe of graduates, and all that you have accomplished despite the unforeseen adverse circumstances that marked and marred the end of your years here,” said Dr. Viswanathan. “And yet, you hung on with nails dug in and prevailed with all of your gifts, all of your stories, all of your promise and your abundance of spirit. Dearest Class of 2020, you are unforgettable!”
The video began with an invocation from Dr. Eric Widmer, spouse of Dr. Viswanathan, and a flute duet by two students of a traditionally sung hymn, “We Sing of Golden Mornings.” The Scholarship Prize, presented by Dean of Studies John Monagan, was awarded to Riley Sheldon ’20. The Beatrice Hurlburt Prize for Character and Influence was presented to Liyanni Vazquez ’20 by Assistant Head of School Dan Meyers.
In her address to the assembled community, Student Body President Kyleigh Holt ’20 commented that the year 2020 sounded futuristic and that it implied great promise. “2020 – a year of clarity, a class of enlightenment,” said Ms. Holt. “And yet our Senior Spring unveiled a reality that we could have never envisioned — a world of distance learning at Zoom Academy.” Following school tradition, Kyleigh chose a crayon color that symbolized what her experience at Walker’s had been. Her pick was Sunglow. “I will admit this shade does not do the name Sunglow justice,” she said. “In fact, there will never be just one single color that would do the name Sunglow justice. A sunglow is the multiple colors you see in the sky right before the sun rises and moments after the sun sets.” She continued, “The day has come to an end and we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but what we do know is that the sun will rise again.”
After the reading of the names of the 47 graduates, Dr. David Thacker, a member of the school’s English faculty and the speaker chosen by the graduates, delivered his remarks in which he commented about how we can feel both joy and sorrow at the same time. “This idea that the deepest, most poignant joy accompanies sorrow is something poets and prophets have been telling us through the centuries and across cultures,” said Dr. Thacker. He went on to say, “It is not a coincidence that experiences where joy and sorrow are both present are often the most meaningful of our lives.” In his concluding his comments, Dr. Thacker had this to say to the graduates. “My hope is that you will leave Walker’s with the unshakeable determination to hold joy and sorrow honestly in your hands. I don’t mean that you should go celebrating pain…To cultivate an ability and a stamina to look steadily at pain and to create meaning in response. The life of open and honest devotion to helping others and making a more just and equitable world is a meaningful life, and having meaningfulness in your life is joy.”