Congratulations to the Concord Academy class of 2021!
A year of challenge and hope concluded on Friday, June 11, when Concord Academy honored the class of 2021. Eighty-six graduates were celebrated in the Academy Garden along with 11 classmates who joined them by livestream.
Ending a year that the pandemic altered in so many ways, Concord Academy’s Commencement was joyously familiar. Families posed for pictures with members of the graduating class on the quad. Seniors dressed in suits and shades of white, processed with boutonnieres and bouquets, and marked their transition on the Senior Steps before taking their seats near the podium.
Senior representatives performed the well-chosen class song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” live in the open air. As Interim Head of School Sarah Yeh ’24 noted in her remarks, “There certainly has been no mountain, valley, river, or weak Wi-Fi signal that will keep this class from coming together one way or another throughout this year and in the years to come.”
Yeh praised the class of 2021 as “leaders in every way imaginable” for readily adapting to a senior year that couldn’t have been envisioned, attending to younger classes, and bolstering the entire CA community with demonstrations of wit, humor, creativity, maturity, and optimism. This class, she said, is known to adults at CA as “endlessly inventive,” a group of “‘upstanders’ who work to support and better their communities.”
“We have been so fortunate to accompany you during your time here, to see your growth, to support you during times of struggle, to share in your joys, and to be inspired by your spirit,” Yeh said. “We are never going to forget you.”
Student Head of School Zahaan Khalid ’21 celebrated the opportunity that this unconventional year granted the graduating class. “Whether virtually or in person,” he said, “we will always be bound to one another by our community, spirit, and care for one another.” He also thanked the faculty and staff members embarking on their own new journeys, including retirees Deborah Gray, Abby Laber, Amy Spencer, and Diana Thompson, for “sharing your lessons, stories, and lives with us.”
Commencement speakers Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, Zahaan Khalid ’21, Diego Hernandez ’21, Sarah Yeh P’24, and Imani Perry ’90.
A livestream of the ceremony included members of the class of 2021 and their families who were unable to attend in person.
Families applaud Concord Academy’s class of 2021.
Members of the graduating class cheer for one another.
Commencement Speaker Imani Perry ’90
Introducing the 2021 commencement speaker, Senior Class President Diego Hernandez ’21 called her “a luminous thinker working at the intersections between race, law, culture, and literature.” Perry’s speech framed this moment of transition for the graduating class within a larger cultural perspective. She spoke of the particular challenges and opportunities of coming of age during a pandemic, of beginning a new stage, “one from which all of us are emerging wounded.”
“You emerge into adulthood at your most intellectually and emotionally energetic period of life with a depth of knowledge that is truly extraordinary and distinctive,” she told the class of 2021. “You have lived in a global crisis for a significant fraction of your lives, and it’s not only hurt that you’ve experienced; you’ve developed wisdom.”
Perry dispensed some gems of advice, ranging from the practical (keep eating your vegetables; drink water; don’t leave your homework and papers to the last minute) to the enduring (call your families to express your love, even when they’re annoying; deeply respect your partners and friends; remain open to discovery). But her main aim in her address was to hold up a mirror to a younger generation.
Throughout this year, she said, this class had “learned the necessity of the bonds of mutuality, of mutual care, respect, and regard” — through wearing masks for others as well as ourselves, and in honoring and witnessing the service and sacrifice of essential workers. “The virus has respected no border, and therefore you learned that in some fundamental ways human beings share the same lot,” she said. “And yet, you also witnessed how suffering was not equally distributed.”
Contrasting the yearning of older generations for pre-pandemic lives, Perry anticipated what this rising generation has to teach us. “Your generation understands that we are not going to be able to erase any of this and return to normalcy, that we have to acknowledge that we are changed beings,” she said. “And because of that knowledge, I am sure we will be humbled by what you bring to the world.”
In her turn, Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Concord Academy Board of Trustees, welcomed the class of 2021 to the lifelong community of CA alumnae/i. Acknowledging the many challenging cultural moments this year, nationally and globally, she thanked the graduates for being “chameleons to the core” — for meeting so many demands with creative problem-solving, technological skill, resourcefulness, and appreciation, and for working “to preserve the essence of CA and our traditions.”
In keeping with CA’s emphasis on intrinsic love of learning, Concord Academy’s Commencement featured, per tradition, no awards, prizes, or diplomas with distinction; in honoring each individual, the school honors all students. Also according to CA tradition, diplomas for every member of the graduating class were presented in random order, with the final recipient also receiving the coveted Commencement Sock filled with contributions from the CA community.
Although state health regulations prevented the school from serving refreshments, following the ceremony the new graduates were received by a full line of CA faculty and staff who couldn’t have been prouder of them.
Class of 2021, we thank you for all you have given to each other and CA, and we wish you well!