This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 Harker Quarterly.
Harker’s annual baccalaureate ceremony on May 18 offered the Class of 2016 a chance to say their goodbyes and welcome the juniors into their new roles as leaders. Attendees gathered at the upper school campus quad, as the upper school vocal group Cantilena serenaded the audience with their wistful yet spirited version of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” followed by a stirring Harker String Orchestra performance of the first movement from Ottorino Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite 3.”
College counselor Martin Walsh, who was chosen by the seniors as this year’s faculty speaker, asked both the soon-to-be graduates and soon-to-be seniors not to be wary of ceremony. Recalling a helicopter ride to Kazakhstan, he said, “I had finally made that mythical transition into adulthood. In retrospect, I desperately needed that helicopter ride. Up to that point in my life I was sleepwalking through all of life’s ceremonies.” He then urged the students to “not sleepwalk through your ceremony,” as it, like the helicopter ride, is an important signifier of change. “Something big is happening here.”
Edward Sheu, grade 12, delivered the student farewell, recalling his time as an aspiring water polo player who felt nervous for having to wear a Speedo. He eventually relented and tried one on, only to find “a shorts tan so blinding it was like two marble and diamond pillars sitting above my knees.” Despite his initial uneasiness, Sheu pressed on. “Water polo went on to be an activity that taught me work ethic, teamwork, perseverance and other values that made me into who I am today.” His story contained a valuable lesson for both the graduating seniors and the juniors about how to push past one’s apprehensions in pursuit of their passions.