Closing Exercises Honor the Class of 2021

On the morning of June 5, the 376th year of The Roxbury Latin School—a year unlike any other—culminated with Closing Exercises and the graduation of the Class of 2021. In a normal year, the intimate ceremony—which includes the seniors, their families, the faculty and trustees—takes place inside Rousmaniere Hall. Due to the spring’s COVID guidelines, this year’s ceremony took place outside on O’Keeffe Field, where everyone gathered for a memorable, meaningful send-off of the 53 members of Class I. (View a gallery of images from the ceremony.)

Beginning with opening remarks from Headmaster Kerry Brennan—which acknowledged the challenges and triumphs of this particular year, for this particular group of boys, and also noted their many, worthy accomplishments—the ceremony included the singing of traditional songs Jerusalem, Gaudeamus Igitur, Commemoration Hymn, and The Founder’s Song, as well as the ringing of the school bell, chiming 3-7-6, in honor of the conclusion of the school’s 376th year.

Class valedictorian, voted by his classmates, was Benjamin Crawford who delivered a personal, funny, and powerful speech that called upon memories and moments specific to his classmates’ time at RL, and to the most important lesson those years imparted: the importance of relationships, of friendship, and of supporting the people you care about.

“You taught me to be there for my friends and family, and not just when they ask for it, but always,” he said. “At RL, we learned that a friend is not just somebody that you spend time with, but someone whose needs you’re willing to put before your own. Together, we discovered that there’s nothing more important to have than good friends, and there’s nothing more important to be than a good friend.” (Ben’s address had it all, including walk-off music to the song Just Getting Started from High School Musical 3.)

The commencement address was delivered by Andy Chappell, the school’s Assistant Headmaster for Program, a member of the RL faculty since 1997, and father of graduating senior Brady Chappell. Mr. Chappell began by recalling a rafting trip that his family was fortunate to take during a visit to South Africa, during which he noticed their guides would paddle up ahead and slap the water a bit. “The reason for this, they told us, was to see if there were any hippos lingering under the water. ‘You don’t want to be paddling above a hippo when it comes up out of the water,’ offered one guide.”

Mr. Chappell went on to “slap the water” a bit for the graduating seniors, by recalling some important life lessons he’s learned along the way. He encouraged them to take risks, as he did when he took a memorable and life-changing trip around Egypt and Israel with a friend during the ‘90s when those countries were in turmoil. He implored them to conquer their fears—to not see admitting fear as a sign of weakness, but rather acknowledging those fears as a sign of strength. He charged them not to take life for granted, recalling the recent loss of his own father to cancer: “One of the most important takeaways I had from this devastating experience was that in so many cases, we simply can’t control the results. We can’t control the outcomes. We often think we can—hope we can—but the reality is that in life so much is beyond our control. All we can do is put in the work, try our very best with what we have in front of us, and then let the chips fall where they may.” Finally, he reminded the boys to have fun. “As you already know, playfulness and fun are key ingredients to enjoying life. There will be plenty of moments… when your responsibilities, work, relationships, challenges will feel like weights that you cannot lift. Those are the moments when you need someone to remind you to smile, to laugh, to… keep everything in perspective.”

“As you begin your next chapter,” Mr. Chappell concluded, “do not forget that you will always have this band of brothers, your families, your teachers and coaches from this chapter of your life… These relationships will last a lifetime and will help provide the strength you need to pursue and experience the life you will lead.”

At the conclusion of Mr. Chappell’s address, Headmaster Brennan and President of the Board of Trustees Bob O’Connor ’85 awarded diplomas to the newest alumni of The Roxbury Latin School.

Three major Class I prizes were also awarded during Closing Ceremonies:

The Richard A. Berenberg Prize, for generosity of spirit and concern for others, was presented to Eric Auguste.

The Class of 1913 Award, for significant contributions to the life of the school, was presented to Quinn Donovan.

The William Coe Collar Award, for achievements and contributions to the school that are deemed by the faculty as most deserving of recognition, was presented to Ben Crawford.