On Friday, June 3, 91 students marked the end of their journeys at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan at the 93rd Commencement Ceremony. Family, friends, faculty, and staff gathered together on campus to celebrate the Class of 2022 and two honorary grads, math teacher Jeff Kress, who is retiring after 44 years of faithful service to St. Luke’s, and Head of School Mark Davis, who is retiring this month following 20 years of transformational leadership on the Hilltop.
As is tradition, all 91 students were individually recognized by Davis, who described the contributions each made to the community. At the close of the student tributes, Davis observed: “At St. Luke’s, where we value the individual you, not just the collective you, each one of you has mattered in distinctive and memorable ways. The faculty and I have loved watching you contribute, prosper, and grow up before our eyes here on the Hilltop. We will remember you and miss you terribly.”
Referencing his own pending departure, Davis said: “This year, of course, feels extra wrenching for me. At the same time, I’m lifted up, as I hope all of us might be, by the German phrase ‘leaving with one smiling eye and one crying eye.’ I looked it up and found another translation, ‘a twinkle and a tear,’ which struck me as a perfect way to feel at the end of something that has meant so much.”
During the ceremony, the Chorale performed the Alma Mater, You Raise Me Up, and The Road Home. Board Chair Jennifer L. Foster gave remarks and assisted Davis, Head of Upper School Liz Perry, and Assistant Head of Upper School Mary Frederick in distributing diplomas. Davis and Kress were presented honorary diplomas by the seniors in their respective advisory groups.
In introducing Valedictorian Sarah Case of Wilton, who is headed to Middlebury College, Davis said: “Sarah is a St. Luke’s STEM Scholar, the backbone of student organizations including WISE (Women in STEM Education), the Sustainability Club, and the Service Board, and is a dedicated ballerina with a local dance company. Aside from being extraordinary in academics, her love for science and sustainability exemplifies her commitment to making the world a better place.”
In her address, Sarah told classmates: “We say goodbye to the structured world of high school where others have mostly defined our path. And now, we enter our next phase where we have the independence to decide for ourselves not just what we want to do with our lives, but more importantly what kind of person we want to be.”
Salutatorian Aarit Bhatnagar of New Canaan is heading to the University of Pennsylvania. When introducing Aarit to the stage, Davis said: “In addition to being brilliant, insightful, and deeply accomplished, Aarit moves through life with a warmth and total lack of pretense that masks the fact that he’s an academic heavyweight, a serious thinker who lights up the classroom. He has a deep well of intellectual curiosity, a probing, analytical mind, highly developed academic skills, and an insatiable thirst for learning.” He plans to pursue a major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and focus on Biology. Aarit is a National Merit Scholarship recipient and a St. Luke’s Global Scholar.
Aarit spoke of love in his address: “We’re here today to celebrate us. Not just to celebrate the fact that we finally don’t have to wake up at eight o’clock or wear dress code, but to celebrate what and who we love. The love we’re celebrating is being a collective part of something greater than ourselves, of not being alone. And that’s what it means to be a part of this ensemble cast that makes up the Class of 2022.”
Davis concluded the celebration with his final remarks to the Class of 2022: “I hope St. Luke’s has taught you that, by your ethical and moral example, or by giving the gift of time, or simply by a word of encouragement, you can improve the world or enrich someone else’s life. These seemingly small actions might not be measurable. They might not be recorded by historians, get your face carved onto Mt. Rushmore, or get you into college. But they do shape great leaders and, just as important, truly good people. And they will make a difference.”