On the morning of Friday, June 5, PDS celebrated its 55th Commencement, honoring the 91 graduating students of the Class of 2020. In the School's first ever virtual Commencement ceremony, PDS celebrated the vast achievements and the resilience of this special class in a video presentation that began and ended with a stirring drone tour of the campus in its spring glory, accompanied by the PDS US orchestra's rendition of the Forrest Gump Suite
Head of School Paul Stellato began his welcome remarks by acknowledging the exceptional and challenging times that have made this spring and this Class the most memorable in school history. He praised the seniors and also their families for all of their support. To the Class of 2020, Mr. Stellato stated, "We didn't have to wait for trouble and turmoil to bring out the best in you. Your best was always arrayed before us." Mr. Stellato then introduced Maggie Madani '20 and Tommy Bocian '20, who were chosen to speak by their peers.
Maggie explained the many ways in which learning happens at PDS and how the School has always provided the necessary tools to solve problems. "We learned here how to cooperate, give thanks and think, among other life skills. Skills that this world needs now more than ever before. Because, out of the darkest times, comes the greatest inventions, people and stories. PDS gave us the tools but now we all have the reason to become global citizens. We have the power to help rebuild this world into a new era. The doors are all open... all we have to do is walk through them," Maggie said.
Tommy Bocian explained that today should not be a traditional celebration of the successes of the Class of 2020, but rather a day to honor the resilience of this class. Tommy said, "We undoubtedly struggled at points throughout high school, but learning from those mistakes prepared us to get back up in even greater times of uncertainty and strife, like now." Tommy continued, "I know that we will be together sooner than later and we will sit on that hill, stronger than we were before we left for spring break. Congratulations to the unbroken PDS Class of 2020."
Class of 2020 President Eric Leung introduced the Faculty speaker for this year's Commencement, Dr. Michael Friedman.
US history teacher Dr. Michael Friedman explained that the heart of the classroom at PDS is to create a space where every student feels seen and cared for. Dr. Friedman told the Class of 2020, "Today is the day for being seen and being cared for by family, friends and mentors. You have made these four years a very special four years just by being you. There is no class in the whole world like the Class of 2020, and I like you just the way you are. Congratulations to each one of you and thank you for sharing this moment with me."
Mr. Stellato returned to thank each of our speakers and to introduce the next speaker, Chair of the Princeton Day School Board of Trustees Dr. Rebecca Bushnell '70.
Dr. Bushnell lauded the Class of 2020 for meeting the challenges of this spring, stating, "Class of 2020, we are so proud of you! Each one of you has found a way to flourish at Princeton Day School and you've left a lasting imprint here...in the classrooms, on our playing fields and stages, and you've made a mark beyond this campus as well. You will always be part of us because, once you graduate, you become part of our alumni family and we will be happy to see you here again, even after decades. I can attest to that myself, after fifty years. Please remember to come home. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I extend congratulations to you for all of your successes and best wishes as you go forward!"
Dean of the Senior Class Dr. Mia Manzulli was then introduced by Mr. Stellato to recognize and present each member of the Class of 2020, represented by a photograph they provided as their formal name scrolled across the screen.
Mr. Stellato returned for closing remarks that included heartfelt thanks to five longtime faculty and staff members who will be retiring after this year (from left to right and at bottom) Gail Gomez, Jenny Mischner, Will Asch, Jeff Rubens and Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick.
Mr. Stellato took special note of Mrs. Hohmuth-Lemonick, "the longest-serving faculty member in the collective history of Miss Fine's School, Princeton Country Day School and Princeton Day School." He further observed, "Eileen, the qualities that you have shown for fifty years—of decency, integrity and curiosity—have become the qualities by which our School is known and by which it is measured. The annals of our School will mark what you have done here for fifty years and the lives of our students are richer for your belief in them."
With a final address to the Class of 2020, Mr. Stellato concluded, "One day soon we will be together again, gathered on the Colross lawn on some sunny day, dressed in our finest, and, if possible, just a bit wiser than we are today. My guess is that the next time we come together we will find ourselves more invested and committed in the School we love. In three months or a year, whenever fate and circumstance smile on us so that we may be together, I will welcome you as you have welcomed me. Thank you and congratulations!"
Commencement Program (pdf)