On May 29, the School celebrated commencement in traditional Middlesex style, with seniors crossing the Circle to Eliot Hall and receiving their diplomas in the presence of faculty and staff, family and friends.
Several times in the past few months, it had seemed unlikely that the class of 2021 would be able to enjoy an in-person graduation ceremony at all, given the pandemic’s unpredictability. When the day finally arrived, only the weather did not cooperate: Temperatures reached near-record cold, and rain alternately misted, drizzled, and poured. But thanks to the graduation planning committee – spearheaded by Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Erika Prahl – there were ponchos for the masked members of the audience, as well as clear umbrellas and blankets for the seniors, equipping everyone for an inclement outdoor program.
Chosen by her classmates to speak on their behalf, Valedictorian Claire Ngugi ’21 reflected on all that the seniors had accomplished even as they were confronted with a pandemic and protests against systemic racism. “These hardships that we’ve faced together have shown us that we are much more capable than we think,” she affirmed. “We have the strength to redefine not just ourselves but every community we encounter after Middlesex.” Sharing poet Maya Angelou’s words, “Every storm runs out of rain,” Claire concluded, “Let us rejoice in the fact that the sunshine is coming, and when it does, we will be ready.”
Guest speaker Jennifer Gomez ’04 praised the seniors for their “resilience and ingenuity as individuals and a community,” and advised them that “when chaos and fear seek to engulf you, choose to respond with abundance and imagination.” She spoke of the bravery of her mother, who never seemed to falter in navigating life as an immigrant in Brooklyn, New York. From this example, Jennifer has trained herself “to see fear as a challenge, a test of my wit and courage.” Now, as the co-founder and chief marketing officer of oneKIN, Inc. – a retail tech company that builds tools to help small businesses achieve scale – Jennifer attested, “After winning a few matches against fear, you’ll realize you no longer need to rely on the courage of others to find yours because you are enough to make the unimaginable possible and possess all the answers you seek.”
Also contemplating the power of people to overcome fear and achieve change, Head of School David Beare likened the pandemic to the once imposing Berlin Wall, a piece of which he held in his hand, having collected it in December 1989. Each had seemed like “an immutable fact,” but both were diminished through collective action – in the case of COVID-19, with mask-wearing and vaccinations. “As persons and as a community,” David stressed, “we can and do make a difference.” Thinking of the leadership, energy, compassion, humor, and humility shown by the class of 2021, he stated, “Take from this good ground all of those human qualities we see in your faces today, and use them to make positive change for yourself and those around you.”
After David and Board President Stephen Lari ’90 had awarded 103 diplomas, the ceremony concluded with singing Hymn 110 and congratulating the newest members of the Middlesex Alumni Association.