The Class of 2022 gathered at Davis Field yesterday for this year’s Baccalaureate Ceremony, during which they offered a heartfelt farewell to Harker and welcomed the junior class into their new roles as next year’s campus leaders.
The ceremony kicked off with a performance by a special trio made up of seniors Yejin Song and Lucas Chen on piano and cello, respectively, and junior Cassie May on violin, who performed the first movement of Paul Schoenfeld’s “Café Music.”
Following some welcoming words from Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, Cantilena marched onto the stage to perform their rendition of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.” Junior Gwen Yang then took the stage with fellow upper school Honor Council member Alexa Lowe, grade 12, to accept the responsibility for continuing the school’s honor code on behalf of the junior class.
Upper school head Butch Keller, who will retire at the end of the school year, introduced this year’s Baccalaureate faculty speaker, English teacher Christopher Hurshman, whom he called “the world’s most interesting man,” owing to his wide range of interests and international upbringing. Hurshman spoke on the sense of loss that accompanies major life changes such as the ones the Class of 2022 are experiencing. “Over every new beginning there hovers a shadow of melancholy and loss and grief,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s right to be excited about the future that’s opening up ahead of you but you’re also about to experience a great loss, and perhaps you’ve been anticipating it.”
Using examples from his own life experience, Hurshman pointed out how both they and the world they have become familiar with will change drastically as they move into the wider world beyond high school. He also advised students to recognize and treasure the “ordinary moments” that will shape who they are, despite the feelings of immense pressure young people often feel to have an impact on the world. “It’s possible to come to the realization that the nitty-gritty particulars of your life, the specific circumstances and relationships and responsibilities in it, are precisely where you will build meaning, and you’ll build that meaning by making conscious choices about what’s important to you.”
Keller then reappeared to welcome this year’s student speaker, senior Ayan Nath, who he introduced by playing a sound clip of Nath’s cover of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” at the 2019 Hoscars. “We all knew from that moment on he was someone that was gong to make an impact on our lives,” Keller said, saying later in his introduction that as much as he could entertain his classmates, “you picked him as your student speaker tonight because you respect him for being such a wonderful person.”
Nath commended seniors on reaching this key moment in their lives. “We made it through for years…of getting cut off every morning at the Saratoga [Ave.] intersection by yet another red Tesla. Four years of using Schoology grade display—developed by our own [fellow graduating senior] Arjun Dixit—a couple hundred times a day. Four years of the highs and lows that are high school,” he said, summarizing the difficulties faced by the students during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included challenges posed by remote learning and the cancellation of many yearly events.
While graduating high school is often seen as the first step into students’ adult lives, followed by the addition of new responsibilities, “I believe that becoming an adult does not necessarily mean we have to give up on youthful or fun hobbies or activities,” he said. “Even if you love painting, playing Foursquare or have a strong affinity for creating nonprofit organizations, I encourage you to keep doing these things, even though they might not necessarily fall under your realm of responsibilities. Stay true to who you are and remember not to grow up too fast.
To the juniors, Nath stated that he was proud to call many of them friends. “It is with this mindset that I urge you to be nice to the class of 2024 and to love them as much as we have loved you,” he said. “Also, congratulations on beating us in spirit week.” He also advised them to treat their upcoming senior year “as an opportunity to mend broken relationships or get to know someone new. Go to prom. Go to homecoming. Watch or perform at Quadchella or Hoscars.” Academically, he urged the juniors to treasure the unique opportunity to be a Harker student for one final year. “Your teachers love you, and interacting with teachers and classmates in small environments is something that’s not guaranteed at the university that you end up attending,” he said. Concluding, Nath restated his hope that his classmates won’t lose all of their youthfulness with the onset of adulthood: “I hope that we will continue to bring our youth with us wherever we go and never lose touch with who we are.”