Upper school students welcomed the 2017-18 school year on Friday morning with the annual matriculation ceremony. Students filled the upper school quad, which was renovated over the summer. As with previous ceremonies, grade 9 students arrived last, greeted by the enthusiastic applause of students in grades 10-12.
Shortly after members of the Class of 2021 took their seats, new Head of School Brian Yager gave his historic first opening remarks at a Harker matriculation ceremony. He welcomed this year’s seniors into their new roles as student leaders, noting the opportunity “for you to make the most of your own journey while also inspiring and preparing those who will follow you to do the same.” He advised the incoming ninth graders to “enjoy and embrace the process, and look to the students in the grades above you for guidance and inspiration.”
Per tradition, upper school division head Butch Keller also spoke, delivering one of his favorite adages: “It’s not the situation that’s important. It’s the reaction that’s everything.” To illustrate his point, he offered examples of people he had read about over the summer. The first was Jay Williams, a promising former NBA player who suffered a career-ending injury and subsequent drug addiction but eventually maneuvered into a career as an analyst at ESPN. Another was Craig Sager, the legendary sportscaster who chose to fight leukemia rather than succumb to it. Even though Sager’s illness returned, resulting in his death in 2016, his decision to persevere left Keller “humbled.” These stories, Keller felt, also demonstrated virtues of kindness, compassion and empathy he hoped the students would carry with them through the coming year.
ASB president Jimmy Lin, grade 12, welcomed the seniors with a lesson on learning how to get comfortable with trying new things. To illustrate, he shared a story about a visit to Google with his friends. While there, he recalled, the discussion turned to grabbing a few bikes that Google makes available to its employees and riding them to get lunch. It was then that Lin made a confession to his friends: He had never learned to ride a bike. Deciding it was time to learn, “I finally had to swallow my pride and ask my friends to teach me.” After spending time practicing in the Google employee parking lot, Lin finally was able to make the two-block ride to the local eatery. “It was a learning moment that came from trusting my friends to help me embrace this hurdle,” Lin said. “Even though it came 10 years late.” He hoped his story would encourage the incoming freshmen to embrace new challenges, knowing they had their fellow students to help them.
As always, entertainment was a key part of the ceremony, which featured performances by the upper school women’s choir Cantilena, directed by Susan Nace, and The Harker String Quartet, directed by Chris Florio. The ceremonies concluded with the annual “Freshman 101” series of comedy skits, put on by the Student Council and Honor Council, which introduced the grade 9 students to various aspects of school life in a fun and light-hearted manner.