The power of community and the importance of being present and supportive were resonant themes at Middlesex’s 120th graduation exercises on May 28, 2023. In sharing their own experiences – whether at school or beyond – speakers touched on these ideas, highlighting the need to build and nurture relationships, to persevere through challenges, and to be there for others in the journey ahead.
Chosen by his classmates to speak on their behalf, Valedictorian Tim Gachuki ’23 recounted his early struggles at Middlesex and credited supportive faculty members with helping him find his way. Their caring example – along with that of the seniors he remembers – taught him to “pay it forward to the classes after us,” creating a legacy of positive influence that will be felt for years to come. “The best way to celebrate our legacy here is to continue that example wherever you go next,” Tim affirmed, noting that this will require kindness, patience, courage, and dependability. “Be the person who uses those traits to influence others all throughout your life,” he recommended.
Having spent her career in global health, guest speaker Afua Ofosu-Barko ’98 has been leading just that kind of life as she endeavors to make a lasting impact on health, education, and nutrition around the world. Professionally and personally, she has faced challenges, two of which she reflected on in depth to illustrate the significance of community in her life. The first concerned a two-year post in Ethiopia that she once accepted, only to find that she was “ready to leave after three months” when the job seemed a poor fit for her. “But then something beautiful happened: I found community,” Afua said. “I made so many incredible friends, many of whom are still dear to this day.” By keeping her “grounded and laughing,” they showed her that “living in a fascinating country like Ethiopia was a privilege, even through the tough times.”
Contrasting her choice to stay in Ethiopia with a situation she did not choose – a cancer diagnosis amid the pandemic – Afua was even more grateful for her “extraordinary community” during her nine months of treatment. “The outpouring of love and support I received still takes my breath away,” she said.
Afua called it a “beautiful, full-circle moment” to be back at Middlesex, healthy again and rich in friendships. “I wish this same wealth for you,” she told the seniors, “that you appreciate the importance of community, that you show up in the world as people who are kind, who live their lives with integrity, who help others, and who let others help you in return.”
Interim Head of School Karlyn McNall applauded the seniors for having already navigated many obstacles in their Middlesex years, starting with all the adjustments and restrictions that COVID-19 necessitated, from hybrid classes to compromised athletics to “labyrinthine” rules in the dining hall. “Regardless of the challenge, your presence here today is proof that you can and will persevere,” she said. “Knowing that you can work with others, and you will find your way is one of your Middlesex superpowers.” Echoing Afua’s appreciation for community, Karlyn added, “Your friends and teachers and family members are not only here for you, but here with you as a real-life buoying presence.” Today, she noted, “is a reward, as we are able to be fully present, in this company, on this special day.”
With assistance from Board President Jason Robart ’83 and Dean of Faculty Kelly Marchand, Karlyn handed diplomas to the 109 graduating seniors. After singing “Jerusalem” one last time, the School’s newest alumni threaded their way along a receiving line of faculty and staff – who offered congratulatory handshakes and hugs – and then they were off, ready and eager for their next ventures.