Christchurch School celebrated its 96th graduation exercises Saturday, May 27, under the great red oak on Headmaster’s Hill, overlooking the Rappahannock River.
Headmaster John E. Byers delivered the commencement address. In what has become a hallmark of the ceremony, he closed by addressing each of the 51 graduates personally, remarking on the special gifts and talents they brought to the school community.
Byers opened by encouraging the graduates to keep exploring the world’s treasure trove of experience and wisdom, doing so thoughtfully, wisely, with preparation and care, and while keeping eyes on one another. “I cannot imagine that you will go through your lives without being significantly connected to one another for years and years and years.”
He reminded them the events of the weekend should represent not an end, but a milestone reached together as friends, together as colleagues, together as family. “May we always be so,” he said.
Byers reflected on all of the problem-solving the class has done together, the adventures they’ve taken and the self-confidence in which each graduate has grown. He reflected on global connections made, skills acquired and the marvelous diversity of backgrounds, interests and dreams.
Byers left the class with these words, “put your diploma on the shelf and admire your accomplishment. But what it means—character, hard work, self-confidence, your best self, your big ideas—they don’t go on the shelf. They go with you. And we go with you, too. We will be with you and devoted to you, always.
“Godspeed, Class of 2017!”
Byers, along with associate head of school Dr. Neal Keesee, chairman of the board Thomas M. Lawler and vice president of Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia Chip Broadway conferred diplomas. Following the ceremony, each graduate rang the bell in the Bell Tower and passed through the faculty receiving line. Graduates then joined underclassmen, families and faculty for the traditional fried chicken picnic.
Graduates included Progress Award winner Lale Onuk of Istanbul, Turkey; and Chaplain’s Award winner Zhang Shaohan of Beijing, China.
The school’s highest honor, the Bishop’s Award, went to Jemima Odetokun of Lawrenceville, Ga. The Valedictorian’s Award was earned by Sydney Pitts of Urbanna, who delivered the valedictory address.
Other awards were presented to seniors the previous evening at an awards ceremony. Recipients included the following:
• Outstanding Student Award (female): Chen Yujia, Beijing, China.
• Outstanding Student Award (male): Liu Zihan, Xi’an China.
• Best All-Around Male Athlete Award: Michael Maguire,Richmond.
• Best All-Around Female Athlete Award: Abigail Blankenship, Urbanna.
• Community Service Award: Sydney Pitts.
• Student Life Award: Jose De Dios, Guatemala City, Guatemala.
• Sustainability Award: Eva Jasinski.
• The Visual Arts Award: Chen Yujia.
• The Christchurch School Permanent Collection Award: Anna Bowden.
• The Performing Arts Prize in Music: Pham Linh, Hanoi, Vietnam.
• The Performing Arts Prize in Theatre: Sam Christie, Lewisburg, W.Va.
• The English Prize: Charlie Lange, Dallas, Texas.
• The Mathematics Prize: Liu Zihan.
• The Science Prize: Zhang Shaohan.
• The History Prize: Sydney Pitts.
• The Foreign Language Prize: Andrew Antwi, Tema, Ghana.