On the morning of June 8, the 374th year of The Roxbury Latin School ended with Closing Exercises and the graduation of the Class of 2019. When Headmaster Kerry Brennan finished reading the names of the 53 members of Class I, and each had received his diploma from Board Chair Bob O’Connor ’85, thunderous applause burst forth from the family members, friends, and faculty who filled Rousmaniere Hall. Following the benediction, the tolling of the school bell, and a rousing rendition of The Founder’s Song
, all in attendance streamed outside onto the Senior Grass for hugs, handshakes, and farewells. (See photos.
Class valedictorian, voted by his classmates, was Ethan Kee who spoke about the gifts of both comfort and discomfort that Roxbury Latin has afforded to this graduation class. In addition to “saying goodbye to teachers and advisors, classmates and teammates, stages and studios, classrooms and playing fields,” Ethan said, he and his classmates were also “saying goodbye to comfort—that baseline sensation of contentment and familiarity which has allowed us to walk with certainty, to talk with conviction, and to act with initiative… The comfort with which we walk these halls today was forged from experiences: hardships and successes, risks and rewards, conflicts and resolutions. We’ve reached this proverbial destination together by intimate, and sometimes comical, encounters with cold, sweaty-handed, discomfort… Surely, these moments of discomfort did not pass by unscrutinized, without a response. So we studied better, practiced longer, went to bed later, woke-up earlier, and eventually the moments of failure and defeat were countered with ones of resilience and success. Most importantly, in the times of our greatest discomfort, we found the most genuine moments of camaraderie.”
The commencement address was delivered by Roxbury Latin trustee and parent Professor Ron Sullivan. Professor Sullivan is the Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard University. He is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law and procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics, and race theory. At Harvard, he serves as faculty director of both the Criminal Justice Institute and the Trial Advocacy Workshop. He is also the first African American appointed faculty dean in the college’s history. In his address to the graduation class (which includes his son Trey) he shared a little known anecdote about John F. Kennedy, who—as a swimmer at Harvard—was noted in the school’s records as a “swimmer without distinction”—in other words, “a good swimmer, but not a great one,” Professor Sullivan asserted. The speaker then went on to share a story of JFK as an active duty member of the navy, when he saved the life of an injured, fellow naval sailor by clutching the man’s life vest strap in his teeth, towing him as JFK swam them both to safety for more than three miles. “So you see, JFK was perhaps not a great swimmer, but he swam greatly.” Professor Sullivan implored the members of the graduating class to do their own versions of “swimming greatly” in their lives—stepping up in the moments when they see a need, feel called to duty, and have the ability to do something great with the gifts they’ve been given.
Three major senior prizes were also awarded during Closing Ceremonies.
The Richard A. Berenberg Prize, for generosity of spirit and concern for others, was presented to Quito Sanchez.
The Class of 1913 Award, for significant contributions to the life of the School, was presented to Rohan Sheth.
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 Ethan Kee.