“As I look back on my time at The Hun School, I realize we were taught a key trait that has helped us get through these chaotic and uncertain times—resilience,” said Alexis English ’20, one of four senior speakers at this morning’s 106th Commencement of The Hun School of Princeton.
Hun’s Class of 2020 is comprised of 161 individuals with a wide variety of interests and talents. Dominik Zeman is a world-class archer. Hailey Patel is an accomplished pop singer. Kevin Chen married his passions for music and science to study the effects of music therapy on Alzheimer’s patients. Anthony Bell earned acceptance to five Ivy League Universities and five top engineering programs. Sanjana Kowshik’s passion for STEM led her to found the School’s robotics team. Nithya Borra took home first place on America’s Dancing Superstar Teen. This senior class, which also counts three sets of twins, has certainly made their mark on the School.
Following a performance by Paige Graff, who sang Susan Gibson’s “Wide Open Spaces,” Head of School Jonathan Brougham congratulated the seniors on their accomplishment. “You have moved us with your stunning creativity, we have admired your works of high scholarship, and you have overcome a spring like no class before you had to.”
Steve Wills, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, imparted words of wisdom to the graduates, sharing, “Great moments are born from great opportunities. Be persistent. Be curious, and seize those great moments.”
The ceremony was most unusual, not only because it was one of the few in-person ceremonies held in New Jersey following the State’s relaxation of rules for outdoor gatherings, but also for its place in history. It was the first time a Hun School Commencement was held in July and took place with a limited and physically distant audience. With students hailing from thirteen nations and ten states, a number of the 161 graduating seniors were unable to attend in person, due to travel restrictions and quarantine rules related to the Coronavirus Pandemic. However, 109 students and their parents convened for the in-person ceremony, held on the Natale Family Field, some of whom were seeing one another for the first time in five months.
The ceremony began as the graduates and their families processed onto the field. Families were seated together, ten feet from each of their classmates and their families, in a large checkered assemblage spanning the length of the athletic field. The ceremony was especially moving given that for months, no one knew if or when a reunion would be possible. Two possible dates were set aside until ultimately, Governor Phil Murphy, sanctioned outdoor graduations.
"The Class of 2020 worked incredibly hard to get here and like their peers around the world they sacrificed a number of milestone events this spring. Yet, they accepted the situation with grace. We are thrilled to be able to offer them this day,” said Head of School Jon Brougham. The smiles, visible even from behind masks, conveyed mutual enthusiasm amongst the graduates and their parents, who were thrilled to reunite and enjoy one last visit to campus.
As students and families tuned in from around the world, including Serbia, China, South Africa, and Iceland, Senior Speaker Gaurav Garg ’20 encouraged his fellow graduates to stay nimble. “Life isn’t going to go the way we all think it will. And I think all of us here can relate to that, considering we’ve been home for more of 2020 than not. But accommodating for those changes can provide us with new and sometimes life-changing experiences that we couldn’t get otherwise if we just stayed in our comfort zone.”
Valedictorian Alex Ni shared how living through the pandemic has strengthened us all. “The pandemic has become a very important stepping stone that will shape our future. It has become a catalyst for our transition into the real world.”
“We must never forget the enduring promise of hope,” said Salutatorian Jake Fradkin. “We have all learned resilience through the athletic victories, academic triumphs, and cultural exchanges that are so essential to the Hun experience. We can now take these lessons into the world and transform it into a better one.”
Alexis English said it best when she spoke these words: “Resilience is truly a superpower, so thank you Hun for giving us the tools to thrive during these uncertain times."
Following the musical performance and speeches, Mr. Brougham announced the recipients of the Commencement Awards before Upper School Head, Mr. Hews, conferred the diplomas, reading each name aloud regardless of a student’s attendance. Those present crossed the field to collect their diploma and yearbook. The event concluded with a tribute to classmates watching the ceremony from home and the traditional graduation cap toss.
This fall, Hun’s Class of 2020 will be attending ninety different colleges across the United States and in Ireland, Italy, and Canada.
Commencement Award Recipients:
- The John L. Kuschke Memorial Award: Sanjana Kowshik
- The John R. Scott Memorial Award: Grant Hansen
- Michelle Bonacci Marks ’89 Memorial Award: Nicole Angelini
- The Robert Strianese ’70 Memorial Award: Charles Davis
- The James A. McFadden ’59 Memorial Award: Alex Ni
- The Edwin “Jake” Jacobs Memorial Award: Rose Denomme
- The Katherine Wright Gorrie ’98 Memorial Award: Riola Musoke-Lubega
- The Head of School's Award: Lucinda Law, Andrew Petty, Virginia Venizelos, Abigail Zucatti
- The Faculty Prize: Mengyu Niu