Today, Friday, June 4, 2010 is Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s 141st commencement exercises. And what a fine day it is. The usual weather watching all week has preceded the occasion, as we all watched, hopeful as predictions of rain and thunderstorms migrated through the 5-day forecast. It seems appropriate that this class that began it’s year with the threat of the H1N1 virus and came into the final week of school with no power due to a mighty spring storm, would get a perfect day to graduate.
The week leading up to Stoneleigh-Burnham’s graduation exercises is full of traditions, new and old, that usher not only the seniors, but the rising 8th grade and junior classes into the next phase of their lives as college students, high schoolers and seniors. Festivities begin with the senior class banquet followed by Vespers and the Courtyard Ceremony (Lantern Ceremony). The banquet is an opportunity for the senior class to have its final formal dinner with the faculty. Vespers is a Stoneleigh-Burnham tradition that has morphed and changed through the years, but as it’s celebrated today is an opportunity for each senior to stand before her entire school and share parting thoughts, revelations, thank yous and goodbyes… and more than a few tears. The Lantern Ceremony is one that traces back several decades and is not unique to Stoneleigh-Burnham. Other girls’ schools and womens’ colleges have similar traditions in which lanterns, representing the lamp of knowledge, are carried in a procession and then passed on to the rising senior class. At SBS, we celebrate this tradition over the reflecting pool in the courtyard and each year the senior class chooses a song to sing around the pool.
The Middle School had its Moving Up ceremony on Thursday morning. Parents, teachers and upper school students were in attendance to say goodbye to those who would not be returning and welcome to the upper school for those who would. Incoming StuCo President Theresa ’11 spoke to the class and reminisced about having gone through the same ceremony herself three years ago. Theresa will be the second StuCo President to have graduated from the middle school in the last two years (the first years where this would be possible in the middle school’s 6-year history). Advisors spoke to each student individually, sharing their thoughts on each girl’s talents, growth and presence at SBMS. And as tradition dictates, the ceremony is followed every year by an all-middle school trip to Six Flags Amusement Park for the afternoon.
That same day, the upper school holds the end-of-year Awards Ceremony at which such prizes as the Junior Leadership Prize (Sweater Girl Award), college book awards and the National Honor Society members are announced. Awards are followed by graduation rehearsal, followed by an afternoon of packing, cleaning and preparing for graduation day. Thursday is also host to the much anticipated, legendary, awe-inspiring laugh riot that is… Farewell to Seniors. This year’s festivities were no disappointment. Nothing can be said publicly about what happens at Farewell, a super top secret tradition that only faculty, current students and alumnae can witness, but let’s just say that the faculty let it be known just how well they have gotten to know the seniors.
Finally, we all muster the strength to pull ourselves together in formal outfit #3 for one last day—the day—graduation. As I mentioned before, this year’s graduation day is a PERFECT day. Sun shining, breeze blowing, birds chirping, roses and smiles abounding. There is time for reflection, parting words, thank you’s and “I’ll miss you’s.” Young alumnae and parents of undergraduates fill in the seats along with the proud senior parents, friends, faculty, administration, staff members and trustees. And in one and a half short hours, the class of 2010 is graduated. For more on the commencement exercises and excerpts of the valedictory and commencement speeches click here.