Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

108th Commencement Exercises Celebrate Class of 2020

The “pomp” usually associated with our annual commencement exercises certainly yielded different “circumstances” for our seniors in the Class of 2020, but the global pandemic couldn’t keep our school community from celebrating the milestone of the school’s 108th graduation.

The original June date for commencement was pushed to a beautiful Saturday morning in August to accommodate our 74 seniors at an in-person ceremony.  Indeed two ceremonies to be specific: one at 8:30 a.m. and the other at 11.  

Graduates were able to bring three guests and their own seating to an outdoor ceremony at out Skiff Street Athletic Complex on the field that hosts field hockey.  Circular markings and custom-tailored lawn signs delineated the space for each family and were appropriately spaced apart from one another to social distance.

As Pomp and Circumstance blared over the audio system, seniors and their family members made their way from in front of the Beckerman Athletic Center down a Class of 2020 banner-laden pathway to the field. From there the ceremony progressed in the traditional format with remarks from Head of School Bob Izzo, Student Body President Zehua Zhou, Salutatorian Alexis Mackay, and Valedictorian Orly Richter. Senior class presentations were conducted by Senior Class President Alexandra Delfini, who is in the freshman class at Lehigh University.

“Many of us missed a last opportunity to perform on the stage, to be cheered for on their senior nights, or to attend their final high school prom, but still shall we keep in mind that we have made great memories at Hamden Hall and exciting adventures are waiting for us,” said Zehua, who is attending the University of California at Berkley and had videotaped his student body president address from his home in China.

Zehua’s message was aired during both ceremonies from large television monitors on either side of the stage. Both events were livestreamed in order that those who couldn’t attend – 20 out of 74 in the class – were able to view the ceremonies from their locations across the globe.

Alexis, who is currently a freshman at the University of Connecticut as a Presidential Scholar, had a special message for her peers who couldn’t be on hand for either ceremony.

“To my fellow seniors who were unable to attend this event in person, I wish you all the best in your future careers, and I hope I’ll get the chance to see your faces again,” she said.  “To put it quite frankly, this wasn’t how any of us expected our senior year would end.”

In noting her 14 years under Hamden Hall’s pines, Orly remarked that she and her classmates had created a community that “we can always count on.” Orly, whose mother Beth Rosenberg Richter was the valedictorian of Hamden Hall’s Class of 1985, is now studying at Brown University.  

“Four years ago, when we sat on the bleachers for the first day of school assembly, this day seemed so distant and out of reach, yet here we are at the finish line having faced greater obstacles than any of us anticipated. Late nights to finish assignments? Expected. Stressful tests and exams? A given. But a global pandemic? Definitely not a trademark of the typical high school experience,” she said.

In making his remarks to the graduates, Mr. Izzo stated that the challenges the Class of 2020 faced during their final semester of the school year had yielded them beneficial traits for the future.

“Each one of you leaves Hamden Hall with a skill set that will serve you well in college,” he said. “In addition to these more quantifiable skills, as your parents and teachers can attest, you have demonstrated this spring some less obvious, but equally important skills: independence, flexibility, community-building, and resilience – all while not even being together. These are the skills that you will draw back on as you aim to leave your mark on the world.” 

Mr. Izzo maintained that the graduates had excelled in every area of school life – in the classroom, on the stage, in the community, in athletic and musical competitions, and more. In fact, he added, half of the senior class was recognized by the College Board as AP Scholars. 

“Graduates: You get to decide who you want to be as a person. You may feel that you do not have the power to make a difference, but if you work hard to find common ground, to be a Uniter – not a Divider, and really try to understand an issue, you can make a difference,” he concluded.

Hamden Hall Country Day School

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Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.