In his first address to students, Head of School Matt Levinson P '21 shares his perspective on what it means to "hit the brakes."
Before the celebratory cap toss and recessional of eager-eyed graduates, Pingry's 158th Commencement Exercises on June 9 were marked by thoughtful words from students, faculty, and administrators. Below are a few, featured excerpts, followed by a slideshow of memorable moments.
Ethan Malzberg '19, Class President
We need to leave insecurity behind us. We cannot hide from excellence: each of us will bring it wherever we go next and each of us will encounter it in others around us, too. What you need to do is stop telling yourselves what you are not. We all bring something to the table. Each of us has that 'one word' to justify our excellence and, yes, you can change that 'one word' whenever you want to. You are the only person who gets to decide your 'one word'. . . you decide your prophecy. Prophecies are powerful when they inspire growth in ourselves. As we graduate, let's speak our goals into existence. If you tell yourself you can be better— and you believe it—you will!
Jeff Edwards P '12, '14, '18, Chair of the Board of Trustees
[Of Baldwin award recipient Ian Shrank '71] His love for Pingry cannot be overstated, and his counsel and experience have been invaluable to me and indeed everyone on the Board. . . Ian is always focused on doing the right thing; through prosperity and turbulence, his integrity and strength of character have been a steady guide to us all. Indeed, we consider Ian to be a living embodiment of the Honor Code.
[Of Baldwin award recipient and departing Headmaster, Nat Conard P '09, '11] Across our campuses, our curriculum, and our community, Nat's leadership has produced palpable transformations. He has enhanced the Pingry experience for each and every student and teacher here—he has in essence defined what it means to be Pingry. As a School, our gratitude toward him goes far beyond that which a Headmaster is owed; his profound influence will be felt for generations to come, and his contributions have clearly been both outstanding and meritorious. Nat, on behalf of our grateful community, thank you so much. . .
Felicio Ho '19, Valedictorian
Four years ago, we filed into Hauser for our first form meeting. Coach Scott, in his trademark sweatshirt and shorts, scanned the room and asked, "So, everyone, do you want to be a cow or a bull in high school?" Putting gender connotations—as cows are females and bulls males—aside, Coach Scott described two paths: the cow is happy with the green grass, golden sunshine, and white picket fences; the bull demands more with nostrils flaring, ears perked, and hooves pounding for change. In other words, the cow is passive, waiting for opportunity to come knocking before acting, while the bull is assertive, charging through doors and leading the way. . . . Although college may seem daunting at first, with its rolling pastures of freedom, we have lots of support to guide us along the way. Don't ever be afraid of being the cow, of raising your hand and exclaiming "I don't know," of leaning on the fences already in place. Learn the basics—whether it be going to office hours or doing your laundry—before moving onwards. Of course, if there's ever a pressing problem you want to fix, an idea you want to share, or a research topic you want to pursue, by all means channel your inner bull. Tackle everything with passion and purpose.
Miller A. Bugliari '52, senior faculty member
When speaking with a Pingry alumnus . . . he told me the touching story that on D Day, when landing in Normandy, he wore his Pingry football jersey under his field jacket, for good luck. Just a young kid, facing almost insurmountable odds, wearing his football shirt and hoping he would make it to shore. We should always remember that those young men and women who served in World War II gave their all so that you and I would have an opportunity to live in a free world and be here today. Let us never forget their sacrifice, let us hope that you do not have to face what they did, but let us all understand that you, each of you, has been educated for success, leadership, and for Honor and Excellence.
Andrew Cowen '19, Student Body President
The first time that we all got together as a grade was at the peer retreat freshman year. I remember. . . the speech Mr. Ross gave to us. He put a cap on the retreat by asking us where we all went to school. Like the perfectly trained sheep we are, meekly and quietly, we instinctively responded "Pingry." Then he asked us again, "Where do you go to school?" We said it collectively, a little louder. He asked us a third time, "Where do you go to school?" We roared back "Pingry!" Then he asked us, "How do you say it?" We responded with answers like "respectfully" and "honorably." He quickly corrected the record: "Together." I don't have enough time to ask you these questions three times, or even twice. You only get one shot to answer correctly. So, for the last time that we will be able to say it: "Where do you go to school?" "How do you say it?"
Nat Conard P '09, '11, Headmaster
I know that you are eager to get on with life, but as you sit here now in the calm before the next storm, I encourage you to take a moment and reflect. . . Some of the facts and most of the skills that you have learned in your years at Pingry will serve you well throughout your lives. But much of what you have learned, and most of what you will take with you, is not book learning. It is, instead, the intangible lessons about character, integrity, effort and teamwork that you have learned from your teachers, your coaches, and each other. And that is what truly sets you apart from the millions of others who graduate this year. That is what your Pingry diploma represents. . . But, it is both my duty and my privilege to tell you that your job is not done! You may think of today's "graduation" as the culmination of all your hard work, the end of a phase of your lives. And, to a degree, you are right. You have learned, however, from the ethos of this school, that Pingry is not an institution that tends to rest on its laurels. So, take a little time—not too much—to celebrate your graduation, and then remember that today is really much more a beginning than an end—you are passing through an open door, and you are freshmen once again. I know that we have prepared you well, and there is no doubt in my mind that each of you has astonishing potential. Yet when history judges your impact on this world, it is your accomplishments, not your potential, that it will measure. I have great confidence that your accomplishments will meet and exceed your potential, and that the world, and Pingry, will be better for your contributions. Life, like Pingry, demands more than your presence—it demands your full and active engagement.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org