On a gloriously sunny and warm Monday, May 17, the Princeton Day School Class of 2021 returned to campus for a day of celebrations that started in the Athletics Center with a celebration of students headed for collegiate athletics, expanded to a College Counseling session for the entire class about the transition to college life, migrated outdoors for a fun food truck lunch and culminated back in the Field House for the Upper School Awards Ceremony and cum laude recognition.
In the morning, Director of Athletics and Physical Education Katie Fay welcomed our seven student-athletes, Kelly Beal, Anna Ellwood, Ethan Garita, Eric Gellasch, Gibson Linnehan, Sophia Miranda and Hailey Wexler (all Class of 2021). The student-athletes were joined in the Athletic Center by their respective coaches and college counselors for celebratory photos of each athlete taking the next step in their athletic career after PDS.
Following the signing ceremony, the Class of 2021 entered the Athletic Center Field House for the College Transition program, hosted by the College Counseling team. College Counseling Director Sarah Graham welcomed a panel of young PDS alumni to provide insight into life as a freshmen in college. Marilena Cordon-Maryland ’19, Lucas Green ’20, Wesley Leggett ’19, Krithika Vasireddy ’20 and Brooke Smukler ’19 shared about their college transition highlights and caveats, including some practical words of wisdom the Class of 2021 would be well-advised to remember as they look ahead to the future!
After the College Transition program, PDS Link yearbook co-heads Jamie Granato '21 and Hope Jerris '21 dedicated this year's yearbook, Out of the Blue, to School Receptionist Janet Mayo and presented her with a copy. It was a meaningful moment as Mrs. Mayo will retire after this school year, her 22nd at the School. Yearbooks were distributed to students in bags that included a Class of 2021 banner.
Prior to unleashing the seniors on the delicious lunch and snack options provided by the Nomad Pizza Truck and House of Cupcakes outside of the Athletic Center, Director of Alumni Programs and Giving Kaylie Keesling presented the seniors with an opportunity to "write a letter to yourself" to be placed in a time capsule, which would be opened during their 25th class reunion. The first class to do this, the Class of '96, recently opened their time capsule during their 25-year reunion and the exercise was a huge hit among the alumni, Director Keesling explained.
The Class of 2021 wrote their letters while spending time outside with one another eating lunch, signing each other's yearbooks and relaxing on a beautiful spring afternoon prior to the Awards Ceremony.
Upper School Awards Ceremony
Department Heads, Senior Class Dean Sam Hunt, Acting Head of Upper School Chris Rhodes and Head of School Paul Stellato joined the Class of 2021 in the Field House to honor senior and some junior award winners, along with the cum laude students. Department heads Karen Latham (English), Howie Powers (History), Jason Park (Science), Laurence Farhat (Classical and Modern Languages) presented awards for their department disciplines. MS/US Photography teacher Thatcher Cook presented awards for Visual and Design Arts and MS/US Choral Director Edgar Mariano presented awards for the Performing Arts. Chris Rhodes presented the Alumni Service award, the John Douglas Sacks-Wilner ’80 award, the Frederick D. Woodbridge ’78 Memorial award, the Mark L. Zaininger ’81 Memorial award and the group of seniors inducted into the Cum Laude Society. Katie Fay concluded with awards for athletics.
In presenting the Sacks-Wilner '80 Award, Chris Rhodes summed up the impact of this exceptional year and the attributes of this year's extraordinary Class of 2021:
"John Douglas Sacks-Wilner, Class of 1980, was a young man of great strength, character, and grace of spirit. He had high standards for academic achievement; explored the intellectual world with enthusiasm; and welcomed the challenge of demanding courses.
"This memorial award commemorates John’s special kind of determination and dedication, and it goes to a member of the graduating class who has overcome adversity and shown courage, resoluteness, and resilience in surmounting obstacles to achieve his or her goals.
"Nikki Giovanni, one of America’s foremost poets, had this to say about human resilience:
'We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.'
"For the Class of 2021, this has been a senior year like no other in recent memory. Words like 'quarantine,' 'social distancing,' 'mask breaks,' and 'contact tracing,' became a part of your vernacular. It has been a year shaped to a significant degree by discomfort, fear, feelings of isolation and uncertainty.
"It has also been a year of grace. Of community. Of achievement. Of people finding an inner strength they didn’t know existed.
"You, the Class of 2021, have refused to let the pandemic be the single story of your senior year.
"In ways both big and small, in gestures both public and private, each of you has, in your own way, been a model of strength, character and resilience. It is for this reason that it is our honor to present the Sacks-Wilner award to the entire Class of 2021."
Full list of awards and recipients:
ENGLISH AWARD: Brooke Littman '21
WRITING AWARDS: Nikita Bhardwaj '21 and Carl Coetzee '21
THE ANNE SHEPHERD HUMANITIES AWARD: Bolin Shen '21
HISTORY AWARD: Katie Jain '21
MATH AWARD: Om Suchak '21
JIM WALKER MEMORIAL MATH AWARD: Hayden Masia '21
COMPUTER SCIENCE AWARDS: Aaliyah Sayed '21 and Yash Pazhianur '21
BIOLOGY AWARD: Matan Blitz '21
CHEMISTRY AWARD: Varun Rao '21
PHYSICS AWARD: Aidan McChesney '21
AWARD FOR OVERALL SCIENCE EXCELLENCE: Saahith Potluri '21
THE ELIZABETH FINE LATIN AWARD: Sarah Sharma '21 and Jessie Lin '21
FRENCH AWARD: Katie Jain '21
CHINESE AWARD: Aaron Chu '21
SPANISH AWARD: Holly Teti '21
DUAL LANGUAGE AWARD: Gaby Namouni '21
ARCHITECTURE AWARDS: Madeline Chia '21 and Aaron Chu '21
CERAMICS AWARD: Hailey Wexler '21
MEDIA AWARDS: Zakir Zaidi '21 and Carl Coetzee '21
MULTI-MEDIA AWARD: Ella Jackson '21
PAINTING AND DRAWING AWARD: Sophia Difazio '21
GARY LOTT ART PURCHASE AWARD: Michelle Zhang '21
THE MARK WINSTANLEY ’90 ART PURCHASE AWARD: Aidan McChesney '21
THOMAS S. BENCZE ART SCHOLARSHIP AWARD: Ella Jackson '21
PHOTOGRAPHY AWARD: Yishi Wang '21
ANDY FRANZ WOODWORKING AWARDS: Jillian Wexler '21 and Abigail Weinstein '21
FRANK JACOBSON MUSIC SCHOLARS: Peter Sarsfield '21 and Holly Teti '21 Timothy Fong '22, Veronica Li '22, Joseph Lippman '22 and Milind Singh '22
CHORAL MUSIC AWARD: Holly Teti '21
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AWARD: Tharun Potluri '21
THEATER AWARD FOR PERFORMANCE: Ritika Kumar '21
THEATER AWARD FOR TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT: Sofia Chaves-Gamboa '21
DANCE AWARD: Disha Bhowmick '21
ALUMNI SERVICE AWARD: Saahith Potluri '21 and Tharun Potluri '21
JOHN DOUGLAS SACKS-WILNER ’80 AWARD: the entire Class of 2021.
FREDERICK D. WOODBRIDGE ’78 MEMORIAL AWARD: Josh Colon '21
MARK L. ZAININGER ’81 MEMORIAL AWARD: Stella Ringblom '22
GOLD P ATHLETICS AWARDS
Girl’s Gold P Award: Hailey Wexler '21
Boy’s Gold P Award: Drew McConaughy '21
FRANKIE K. ’76 SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
Girl’s Frankie K. ’76 Sportsmanship Award: Caroline Topping '21
Boy’s Frankie K. ’76 Sportsmanship Award: Alex Liu-Nowakowski '21
THE PRINCETON DAY SCHOOL SCHOLAR-ATHLETE AWARD
Girl’s Scholar-Athlete Award: Alex Hollander '21
Boy’s Scholar-Athlete Award: Bruno Cucchi '21
CUM LAUDE SOCIETY: Benjamin Bigdelle, Matan Blitz, Katie Jain, Jessie Lin, Jasmine Maggio, Mackenzie Mazzarisi, Aaron Phogat, Saahith Potluri, Mark Santamaria, Aaliyah Sayed, William Sedgley, Maya Shah, Sarah Sharma, Madison Sings, Om Suchak, Holly Teti, Hannah Van Dusen, Yishi Wang, Abigail Weinstein, Michelle Zhang, Arthur Zhu.
View our comprehensive Flickr album of photos throughout this special day for the Senior class.
Photos (from top): wide view of the Class of 2021 in the Field House during the College Counseling office's Transition event; Seniors showing off their banners and yearbooks