Having successfully navigated all the usual trials of high school – and then a few more, thanks to a pandemic and the many adjustments it has entailed – this year’s senior class could at last enjoy a graduation ceremony free of both social distancing and dismal weather. On a hot, sunny Memorial Day, they processed across the Circle from the Chapel to Eliot Hall, ready for this final event of their student days at Middlesex.
Valedictorian Michael Cheng ’22 humorously likened the experiences of their time at Middlesex to those of the heroes in The Iliad and The Aeneid, as he and his classmates had waged “battles with nightly homework” that grew longer and more consequential with each year. After drawing comedic parallels between the ancient characters’ responses to situations and his own reactions to various challenges, he reflected, “I hope you can all look back on your times at Middlesex fondly: the lifelong friends you’ve made, the faculty who have inspired you in ways they may not know, and the experiences that will stay with you forever.” After all, Michael noted, “These epic poems tell us that the journey is what matters,” and with their senior year at an end, he concluded, “Let us go out into the world, prepared, and perhaps one day muses may sing epics about your deeds, too.”
Invited back to his alma mater to address the class of 2022, sports business executive George Wilson ’04 said that since he could not remember the guest speaker at his own graduation, “Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember what I said; maybe you’ll remember that I met Michael Jordan.” Nonetheless, George offered the seniors memorable, modest, practical advice based on his own journey since Middlesex, which has led to a fulfilling NBA career and his current position as the vice president and head of partnerships for the NBA Gatorade League. Outlining three basic lessons, each illustrated with personal examples, he encouraged them to have confidence; to take charge and make things happen for themselves; and to be sure to slow down and appreciate the moment. “This is one of the last times these people will be together,” he said. “Savor this moment and celebrate together.”
After pausing for a moment of silence to honor the sacrifice that Memorial Day commemorates, Interim Head of School Karlyn McNall reflected on “the most unusual of journeys at Middlesex” that the class of 2022 endured following their fairly typical freshman year. Everything was affected by COVID-19: classes, athletics, performances, meals, dorm life, activities, and traditions. Of course, Karlyn acknowledged, the seniors had missed some things as a result.
“But in our reflective moments,” she said, “we realize how much more appreciative we are of the many opportunities and gifts we are afforded for having them taken from us. For everything you might have missed, there is an opportunity for gain. And the class of 2022 has been one to seize those opportunities.” With the resiliency and understanding that the seniors have consequently developed, Karlyn affirmed, “You will find opportunities in whatever adventures – be they by design or surprise – your lives bring you. So, maybe, in fact, you didn’t miss anything at all.”
Board President Jason Robart ’83 and history teacher Ken Whitlock then assisted Karlyn with the awarding of 102 diplomas, welcoming these latest graduates into the ranks of Middlesex alumni.