The morning of May 24 was sunny and warm—a beautiful time to celebrate Concord Academy’s newest graduates. The rhododendrons were in brilliant bloom as the class of 2024 processed down the Senior Steps in front of hundreds of guests in Academy Garden.

In one of the elements of the graduation ceremony unique to CA, the seniors chose to sing a One Direction tune as their class song. “You and me got a whole lot of history / We could be the greatest team that the world has ever seen,” they sang, before taking their seats.

In her opening remarks, Jennifer Pline P’13 ’15, co-president of CA’s Board of Trustees, acknowledged the many ways the privations of the pandemic had affected this class’s entrance into Concord Academy. “It was really hard to form the initial bonds that are so important with your classmates and the incredible adults on campus, yet you have been resilient and formed an amazing community,” Pline said. She described this class as “energetic and rambunctious,” “tenacious and fierce,” “tradition bearers and tradition makers,” and advocates for themselves and what they believe is right.

Head of School Henry Fairfax told them that in “almost every chapel talk, your words inspired us to reflect and be vulnerable, persistent, funny, and humble.” He added that this class’s “resilience in times of adversity will set you apart in the years to come.” 

Fairfax led the assembly in honoring the parents, guardians, and grandparents of the graduating class as well as CA’s faculty and staff. As he noted, CA’s culminating ceremony includes no awards or diplomas with distinction, a tradition dating back more than 70 years and reflecting the school’s continuing commitment to honor each individual and our shared love of learning.

The many transitions her class had weathered at CA were also on the mind of Jessie Ma ’24, student head of school. “It hasn’t been easy, but I couldn’t be prouder of our perseverance,” she told her classmates. “Through learning to navigate constant change, what CA has taught me is the importance of integrity—what it means to stay true to, or stray from, your core values and identity. … Stay committed to who you are, and let that guide your path.” 

Jessie also spoke about the suffering of so many around the world, turmoil on the national stage, and the ever-looming climate crisis. She encouraged her fellow graduates to avoid falling into apathy in the face of so many problems—“remind yourselves to breathe, to find joy in the little things, and to experience each moment fully so you can reinvigorate yourself to the fight for our world”—and, even when trying to make a difference feels daunting, to “continue to care.”

Benjamin Lee ’24, senior class president, then introduced this year’s Commencement speaker, Alexandra Berzon ’97, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose groundbreaking reporting has exposed politicians’ corruption, corporate wrongdoing that compromised public safety, and lax government enforcement that cost lives. After previously working for the investigative nonprofit organization ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal, and the Las Vegas Sun, Berzon has covered American politics and elections for The New York Times since 2022.

For her part, Berzon had researched the history of Commencement speakers at Concord Academy. She said she couldn’t help but feel she paled in comparison with poet T. S. Eliot, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, high-wire walker Philippe Petit, and philosopher, theologian, and activist Cornell West, who had addressed her own class. But she took the familiar feeling of “imposter syndrome” as her subject, one she trusted would resonate with students as they moved into the next phase of their lives. 

It’s a concept Berzon said she was wrestling with at graduating seniors’ age. The central image she remembers from her own senior chapel talk was of “everyone else walking around with a committee in their heads—this boardroom of people that would confer with one another and then inform the person of how to say the right things and do the right thing at all moments,” while she alone was just “winging it.”

In her career, though, Berzon discovered that the self-doubt she had once considered a detriment was essential to her success. “The very best investigative reporters, the ones I most admire, are fundamentally truth seekers—not just tellers,” she said. “They are some of the most self-questioning people I know.”

Berzon shared how she broke her first investigative story when she was in her 20s, after having gotten her start in journalism late, she had felt—in college. She was looking into workplace safety investigations by a state agency after many workers had died on a construction site in the Las Vegas Strip. At the time, she didn’t even know how to request public records. “But through the not-knowing, and by knowing that I didn’t know, I stumbled onto something,” she said. Eventually, through her continual questioning of herself and the process, she discovered that the agency had omitted a critical document from the many it had delivered: a “smoking gun” that earned her one of those Pulitzers.

One of the challenges of our time, Berzon said, is “sifting through all of the information that is pouring out and passed around all the time, usually just in quick tidbits, some of it true, some of it not—much of it skewed.” She expressed hope that this class will engage in this world with “confident humility,” using the tools of responsible inquiry and commitment to seeking justice and truth that CA has instilled in them. 

“Other people may be fumbling around just as much as you,” she told the class of 2024. For her, “doing good and important work and working with good people” go hand in hand, allowing us to lighten “what can be a very dark orbit with humor, [maintain] purpose, [and come] together for something better than can be achieved alone.”

Following her address, Fairfax presented each member of the class of 2024 with a diploma in random order—another CA tradition—before also handing out the Commencement Sock, which was filled with modest monetary contributions for the lucky final recipient. Then faculty and staff formed a receiving line as the newest members of CA’s alum community made their way to the quad with their families to enjoy a reception and savor the moment.

Congratulations, CA class of 2024!

CA Brings Experts in Peace and Conflict Studies to Campus

CA Brings Experts in Peace and Conflict Studies to Campus

On February 1, the Community and Equity Office hosted an assembly about peacebuilding through dialogue in the Performing Arts Center. Presenters Sa’ed Atshan and Karen Ross, both professors of peace and conflict resolution studies, responded to questions submitted by students in advance, shared their life stories, and offered insights on engaging in challenging conversations about global issues, including the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Convocation Ceremony Opens the 2023–24 School Year with Focus on Belonging

Convocation Ceremony Opens the 2023–24 School Year with Focus on Belonging

The first day of the 2023-24 school year began with a heartfelt Convocation ceremony in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel. Modern and Classical Languages Department Head Carmen Welton gave a powerful speech about finding belonging through community that resonated with all. Co-President of the Board of Trustees Jen Burleigh ʼ85, Student Head of School Jessie Ma ’24, and Head of School Henry D. Fairfax also took the podium to offer a warm welcome to CA. We can’t wait to see where the year takes us.
Concord Academy’s Centennial Celebration Energizes the CA Community

Concord Academy’s Centennial Celebration Energizes the CA Community

From June 9–11, more than 600 CA community members gathered at Concord Academy for the Centennial Celebration. It was a joyous party and a tribute to the power of a CA education. The festive weekend program included reunion class gatherings, panels, tours, and performances — it was truly an unprecedented opportunity for alums across generations to connect.