On the morning of Friday, June 7, PDS celebrated its 54th Commencement, honoring the 108 graduating students of the Class of 2019. The picture-perfect day began with a faculty processional, accompanied by the theme from Harry Potter performed by the Princeton Day School Band and Orchestra, which lent a magical air to this momentous and memorable event.
Head of School Paul Stellato delivered a moving address, in which he congratulated the parents, friends and faculty in attendance, and saluted the senior class not just for their talents and achievements, but particularly for their leadership of the school community:
"You have ushered in new programs and new facilities, and you have given them a shape and defined their meaning and importance. You have dressed yourselves in the cloaks of honor that come with academic, athletic, and artistic success. Although your powers of creation are formidable, you will be most remembered for your qualities of compassion, consideration, and devotion. You have not lacked for confidence, and yet your humility rises above you like a patient prayer. You are proud, confident, resilient. And as you have rushed forward toward success and glory, you have been careful to bring the entire school community with you. ... All of you – whether as a team or troupe or solitary scholars and researchers in the quiet cathedral of the lab – all of you have toiled and triumphed for our school and, in doing so, have said to the world: our star, our school's star, shines brighter than any in the firmament."
Two seniors delivered class addresses:
Student Council President Rakesh Potluri '19 asked his classmates to "imagine a campfire" as he recounted stories and milestones of the senior class's passage through the halls of PDS, from neophytes to leaders. He applauded the class's playful spirit, saying, "Though we got older, our grade did not let recess die," and suggested, "We've grown closer than any grade before us." As he expressed his gratitude to the school community that helped shape him, Potluri said, "We are family. And family comes first. Our love is loud, our love is strong, and our love will never leave this school."
Gwen Allen '19 delivered a speech that was both hilarious and poignant. Having recently concluded her senior project as a teaching assistant in the Lower School, Allen consulted a group of Third graders for advice to include in her speech, such as, "Find a good roommate, because some of them are gross." She also shared this insight: "The most important thing I've learned from my time in Third grade is that you don't have to grow up as fast as it seems you do. Just because time keeps moving forward and you keep getting older, doesn't mean you can't enjoy running around outside or making pop up cards or playing on an inflatable slide and even laughing at the occasional poop joke. Don't force yourself to grow up too quickly! Slow down and allow yourself to enjoy the simple things that mean a lot to you."
English teacher Jamie McCulloch, who was selected by the senior class to deliver the faculty address, shared reflections on his own career path and on his family. His father pursued a career that didn't allow him to express his creativity, and as a result, he had to live with frustration and a lot of "what ifs." McCulloch nearly went down the same path, but found his calling instead as a writer and teacher. "If you pay attention," he said, "poetry is all around you: in a glance, a gesture, certain slants of light, water views, even in a classroom or at a stop light in traffic where I once scribbled four lines of a poem on the back of a bank statement." McCulloch read the poem those four lines eventually became, a spellbinding piece entitled "When the kids move out" that envisions a couple who tell one another, "I'd marry you all over again," literally rewinding through their lives in order to experience them once more. The poem underscored McCulloch's advice to the graduating class: that they pursue what is essential in their own lives, and not defer their dreams; that they only live once, and should therefore live their lives "in search of strange magic, poetry, and water views."
After the awarding of diplomas, vocalists Hailey Young '19, Simone DiMatteo '19, Mackenzie ElKadi '19, and Andrew ElKadi '19 performed the PDS Alma Mater, accompanied by the PDS Band and Orchestra, and History and Religion teacher David Freedholm recited a benediction.
Congratulations to the great Class of 2019, and thank you for all you have contributed to our school community! As Paul Stellato said: "Although you leave us today, you take our school with you; and although we may not greet you in the hallways, the theater, or on the playing fields, you will nonetheless remain with us as long as we remain at school. ... You were proud, able stewards of our school, and you return her to us today stronger and surer than when she was first passed to your care. Thank you for all you have done."