Return to the Tradition: Princeton Day School Celebrates 57th Commencement on the Colross Lawn

On the gorgeous Friday morning of June 10, the Class of 2022 stepped onto the back lawn of Colross as Seniors and departed as alumni. During the ceremony, the Princeton Day School community heard powerful speeches from PDS alumni who have served as mentors and educators, two Seniors chosen by their classmates, as well as from Head of School Paul Stellato, who offered thoughtful and earnest remarks to parents, faculty colleagues and, of course, the graduating Class of 2022. 

Following the processional of faculty and graduates, Mr. Stellato opened the ceremony with his remarks. “Mother Nature speaks to us in soothing tones this morning, as we sit on this lush, green lawn, surrounded by these sturdy trees, braced by this magnificent building behind me, to honor and celebrate the work and wisdom of the Class of 2022. We could not have asked for a better day; nor could we have wished for braver and better company. With you, I soak this morning in, fully aware of how many years it has been in the making and how quickly it will disappear.” 

Commencement program, front and back pages

As Mr. Stellato spoke directly to parents, he reminded them that their sacrifices over the last several years are just as worthy of celebration as the accomplishments of their children. “Although none of your names appear in our program or will be called out in the roll that awaits us, this day belongs as much to you as it does to any among us. You have worried, waited, wondered, wished and, at times, willed yourself and your children forward. You have sweated and sacrificed, believing always that the blessings of a great education would raise them up.“

Moving on to thank PDS faculty, Mr. Stellato took a moment to reflect on the impact these educators have had and will continue to have on the PDS student community. “Among the many things with which we must make peace as faculty members – perhaps the most powerful and unsettling is this: we may never fully know the extent and importance of our influence…[but] the mosaic which you have helped to build, piece by piece, conversation by conversation – and which flanks me now on this small rise of the Colross lawn – is proof of your artistry, your mastery, and your devotion to building strong lives to send into the world.”

Mr. Stellato also took a moment to  recognize the Upper School faculty members who are moving on to new adventure and then spoke specifically to those Upper School faculty who are retiring at the end of this year.

Commencement program, interior pages

To Ms. Elizabeth Cutler, Coach Jill Thomas and Mr. Howie Powers ’80, Mr. Stellato reiterated his gratitude for their commitment and care to the entire PDS community. “The gift you have given these students is that of perspective, allowing and encouraging them to see the beauty and bounty of the world – and the beauty within themselves – in so many different ways. In a dark time, you have moved them into the light and allowed them to linger there.  What a wonderful place to linger. From across the years, a grateful school calls on all of its voices to thank you. We do so here.”

Speaking directly to the Class of 2022, Mr. Stellato revisited some of the class’s most identifying traits: “Yours has been a monumental, crisis-defying, championship-winning, Zoo-popping, opportunity-seizing, strike-up-the-band upper school performance. You have flourished in every venue and made us rich in memory and experience.” As he spoke to their experiences as PDS students and how they will transition into adulthood, he reminded them, “Remember who you were here; remember one another, for you are always and forever, happily bound together by the things you have said and done and thought here.”

Fittingly, two Seniors took the stage following Mr. Stellato’s remarks. Idaliza Perez and Andre Williams spoke to their classmates about their most poignant experiences as seniors. From a spoken word tour of the iconic spaces throughout PDS that have served as monuments for students to the collective power of the Class of 2022 to prevail and persist through every and any challenge that awaits them, both speakers captured the emotions of the day through nostalgic recollections and hopeful visions of the future. 

After being introduced by Class President Jason Ma, the Commencement Speaker for the day, Howie Powers ’80, took to the podium. As a PDS alum himself, Powers has served for decades as an educator and parent of his own PDS alum. His remarks struck a unique balance between teaching his last history lesson at PDS as well as offering pieces of advice. He also used the opportunity to give his own family a lasting memory by finally presenting his diploma on stage after never having had the chance to share the moment when he graduated from PDS himself. 

Powers concluded his speech with poignant advice for the Seniors: “I, like you, members of the Class of 2022, climbed this small Colross rise with one identity, and will descend with another. I arrived as the History chair, and will depart a former teacher. You entered as high school students, and will emerge as alumni. The very best of luck to the Class of 2022. Now write your own history and make us proud.”

Introducing the awarding of each diploma to the Seniors was Rebecca W. Bushnell ’70, the outgoing Chair of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Bushnell reminded the graduates that today is not the end of their relationship with PDS, saying, “Over the years you have been vital members of our school community. Know now, too, that you will always be part of us, for once you graduate you join our loyal alumni family. We will always be happy to see you here again. So, do remember to come home often!” Students were then called across the stage by 12th Grade Dean Mia Manzulli and handed their diplomas by Dr. Bushnell. Handshakes, smiles and words of affirmation were provided by Mr. Stellato and Acting Head of the Upper School, Christian Rhodes. 

The morning was filled with beautiful music, heartfelt remarks and constant reminders that our Panthers will always have the support of the Princeton Day School community - even after they make their way across the Colross lawn to begin the next chapter of their lives.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022!

Check out this sneak peak of Commencement photos!

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