MANCHESTER — Burr and Burton Academy’s commencement ceremony was more than just a celebration of the BBA seniors graduating from high school, it was also something of a community celebration for a return to normal.
Masks were hard to spot in the crowd that packed Riley Rink. Despite meeting all safety requirements and being open to the outside air, it was still a different scene than could have been imagined just a short time ago.
“When we started this year, our greatest hope was that we could find a way to make it through, somehow, safely, together,” said BBA headmaster Mark Tashjian. “And here we are, with 189 seniors and our entire community gathered together in person after a school year that was successful beyond our hopes and dreams. If ever there was a celebration of community, today is the day.”
And the celebratory vibe was palpable from the moment the 189 graduates walked into the building and the first cheers went up.
The joyous noise didn’t quit until the last graduate had received a diploma and had a photo taken and left the stage.
Before the diplomas, there were speeches and recognition.
Students Iren Hangen Vasquez, Finuala Cree, Jing-Yi Sutherland-Lovick performed a spectacular version of the Star Spangled Banner to open the ceremony, and teacher Bonnie Niles, who is retiring after 39 years, read the poem, “Shelter in Place,” by Kim Stafford.
BBA board chair and alumnus Ed Campbell saluted the perseverance and dedication of the senior class.
“In general, I think one has to know where you’ve been in order to set a course for where you want to go,” he remarked. “As you all head deep into the century, I’m comforted by the thought of how far all of you will go as you strive to make the world a better place.”
There were two salutatorians.
Spencer North will continue her education at Georgetown University and Henry Putney will attend the University of Pennsylvania.
Valedictorian Ellery Stahler will study math at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Stahler told his fellow graduates that, “there are things coming to us in this life that we could never expect and that we have no control over.”
He compared life to a river, some sections are calm and others full of boulders.
“There is a certain peace in accepting the flow of your life, the unknown circumstances that we encounter, and leaning into the void so-to-speak,” Stahler said. “We may not know what lies ahead but what we do have is the ability to react to our environment, our situation, our river.”
He said it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when facing the unknown.
“When we don’t know what’s coming, we don’t feel in control,” Stahler said. “However, remind yourself that while you may not be in control of what’s coming, you are in control of how you respond.”
“So let’s welcome the future and whatever it may bring with open arms, as today is the end of a chapter of our lives,” Stahler said. “No matter what you end up doing, whether it’s part of your plan or not, I wish you all the best. It’s been one hell of a ride — by all means, you guys deserve this.”
Academic Dean Jen Hyatt recognized graduates for academic excellence and athletic success.
Among them, the Headmaster’s Awards were given to Carson Cutler and Sophie Jager.
Teacher and coach Bill Muench flashed the wit, humor and love of his students that led the Class of 2021 to choose him to be their faculty speaker.
“Each year, the graduating class selects a faculty member from whom they want to hear one final time,” Tashjian said as he introduced Muench. “This year, I can tell you they selected a rockstar.”
“This person does it all,” Tashjian continued. “He coaches, he teaches, he supports, he cares, he gives of himself generously and tirelessly. He has a way of getting just about anyone to do anything in order to enrich the lives of BBA students. Most of all, he leads with love.”
Muench kept the audience chuckling but he also told them they had come through in a year he called “the toughest conditions in my 28 years of teaching.”
“Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it,” Muench said. “Class of 2021, you revealed your character and your heart. You hung together as a team, and you never gave up, and we will never forget you.”
Class of 2021
Bryn Adams, Liberty Faye Ahlers, Emily M. Asciutto, Jacob Baczkowski, Julia Anne Barclay, Karson Camille Barclay, Olivia Berg, James R. Birch, Matthew Blake, Jayden Alexander Bloom, Lindsey M. Bolton, Maeve Aubrey Bouchett, Kali Alpine Brandt, Kiley Margaret Bratton, Mark Brescia, Walker R. Brown, Evangeline Bulick, Brandon B. Burns, Gabriel Cabasco, Eva Teresa Calabrese, Hannah Grace Callen, Riley Jean Callen, Andrew Campbell, Mark E. Carthy, Skylar Ann Casey, Luke Hawkins Cassan, Duncan S. Chamberlain, Samira Abigale Champine, Xin Yi Chen, Riley J. Chila, Kylie Kershaw Cleanthes, Meghan Marie Cole, Samantha Rae Grace Cook, Shawna Cooper, Nevaeh Cosby, John Harden Cowperthwaite, Emilia R. Craig, Gabrielle Faith Craig, Finuala Evelyn Cree, Netanel Crispe, Lauren Elizabeth Crosier, Carson Childs Cutler, Lillian Marie Cyr, Tao (Dan) Dai, Bibek Clay Davis, Wesley Dennan, Grace C. DiStasio, Kendall McNabb Dorsey, Ezra James Doty, Emma P. Egbert, Miranda XiaoLi Eisenman, Laura Rose Emery, Chapin Douglas Eyre, Abby Marsden Farrington, Elliot J. Felenchak, Paige Genevieve Flanagan, Isabella Christine Flint, Sean Foley, Penelope Claire Francomb, Jaim J. French, Yu Fu, Justin Fusco, Efremia Georgia Geralis, Kendra N. Gibbons, Ellis K. Glazer, Madelyn Rose Goebel, Jayna Lauren Goldfarb, Thomas Arthur Gordon, Julia Ann Gregory, Mia Catherine Grigsby, Kai M. Hacker, Cole Stephen Hadlock, Emma Julia Hall, Evan J. Hall, Iren S. Hangen Vazquez, Kaia Canaan Santos Hansen, Joseph H. Harrington V, Maximo Hasaj, Alexis Nevaeh Haskins, Haleigh R. Hathaway, Timothy Jessup Heekin, Carol Rose Herbert, Lola R. Herzog, Evan Hosley, Hallah Justice Machai Hurley, Sarah L. Hyde, Jillian Pilaj Ihasz, Emma Marie Ingison, Jordyn H. Jager, Sophia Katarina Jager, Devan Ann Kajah, Natalie Grace Kapusta, Thomas A. Kehoe, Gwendylan Follin Kekic, Aidan J. Kennedy, Jillian Shea Kersten, Zachary R. King, Natasha R. Kopeck, Jameson F. Kowanko, Benjamin Kristiansen, Addison Mae Kujovsky, Sean A. Lam, Luke Lehmann, Paeton Levene, Qiaochuhan Li, Keyu Lin, Yangshiyi Liu, Simon W. Loomis, Julia Isabelle Lund, Yintong Luo, Rui Ma, Griffin James MacFadyen, Ava C. Maiella, Jacob A. Marcoux, Kiah Mayer, Owen McCostis, Logan McDonough, Alyssa M. McLaughlin Price, Celsey Virginia McMahon, Joseph G. McNealus lll, Mary V. Mendez-Vilchez, Theodore J. Mirenda, Niall Patrick Monahan, Emma Rose Morris, Tate Francis Morris, Jakub Mulac, Alea F. Myers, Emily Niles, Florence Njoroge, Cara Brooks North, Spencer Madeline North, Erin Rachel Norton, Caitlin Anne Parker, Halle Lyn Parker, Savannah R. Petrossi, Benjamin Phillips, Jonathan G. Pickarski, Matthew Pickarski, Benjamin D. Pinsonneault, Tristan T. Pitaniello, Alair Donalyn Powers, Adam Douglas Preiser, Noah Price, Ethan R. Prins, Henry Emerson Putney, Bolivar Rodriguez, Owyn T. Rogers, Malachy Rukat, Piper Lee Russell, Giancarlo A. Russo, Melvin D. Ryan, Matthew Sabol, Hannah Blake Samuelson, Ashley Scalleat, Tansy Amabel Myklebust Sears, Alejandro Daniel Shapiro-Mochon, Yining Shi, Joseph R. Sogno, Mina Somboon, Maximillian D’Artagnan St. George, Ellery Stahler, Kirsten Stannard, Samuel Leo Steinman, Andrais O. Stetson, Declan R. Sullivan, Shane M. Sullivan, Jing Yi Sutherland, Patrick Oliver Szkutak, Brett A. Torres-Frost, Scott Towslee, Luigi E. Travaglini, Hannah Troumbley, Peter David Frederick Tschaikowsky, Stella Blue Turner, Ciarán Frederik Charles Van Ommen Kloeke, Bradley Wade, Ava May Walsh, Morgan Elizabeth Weber, Warren J. Webster, Devon Micheal Withington, Arden Olivia Wojtach, David J. Wright, Yu Xia, Jiarong Yang, Riley Young, Lucas Yurko, Yicheng Zhao, Annette Rose Zilkha, Andrew Taylor Zuckerman.