Congratulations, class of 2021!

Family and faculty join students for a jubilant in-person graduation ceremony.

Nicole Pellaton
June 6, 2021
Marshals escort students to their seat at Exeter graduation

In one of many nods to the yearlong celebration of coeducation at Exeter, this year’s graduation class marshals were all girls (l to r): Renee Bertrand, Anne Brandes, Marymegan Wright and Iliana Rios.  

Joy captivated Exeter today as graduating seniors received diplomas in a ceremony that started with a cross campus student procession and ended with a formal observance in Phelps Stadium.

The specially designed ceremony honored the graduates in person while respecting pandemic protocols. Social distancing did nothing to stanch the mood, however, as family, friends and faculty wished the students success with applause, cheers and broad smiles.

Watch the video

In case you missed it, you can watch the graduation processional and ceremony at Exeter Live. Click the arrow below. 

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President of the Senior Class Ursula Wise welcomed families and friends. In her brief speech, she cited two women pioneers who persevered in the face of adversity: Marie Curie and Dorothy Height. “Ask yourself: why do we admire those who accomplish the most difficult feats? It is because navigating challenges commands respect and signifies wisdom,” Wise said, encouraging her classmates “to choose to recognize adversity for the gift it can be.”

“We are entering a global community which needs us to take on greater challenges,” Wise said. “Wars go on, racial injustices persist, and we continue to leave an ever-growing stain on the environment of our Earth. … There will always be more work to be done in the name of progress. And in the words of Marie Curie, it will be neither swift nor easy.”

Wise continued: “As I look at my classmates, I can imagine a future full of fellow Exonians who are not just undeterred by challenges, but are chasing them. We know already what it means to persevere, and are determined to accomplish unimaginable feats regardless of the challenges we will face.”

Principal’s farewell address

“I am proud — and you should be proud — of all that you have accomplished, and all that you have contributed to our school during your time here,” said Principal Rawson '71; P'08 in his speech to the graduating seniors.

Rawson referenced the many achievements of the seniors, in academics and competitions, the arts, athletics, non sibi activities and anti-racism work. “In all your endeavors, you have worked hard, given your best, aspired to excellence, and you have achieved excellence.”

He continued: “The world now more than ever needs you to confront the greatest challenges of our day, and do what you can to produce a more just and sustainable society — environmentally, economically and socially. Go be the change-makers.”

Bathed in sunlight on a brilliantly clear day, the seniors listened intently as Rawson concluded his address. “As you go forward with confidence, go forward also with humility — with the humility that comes from understanding that we are at our best when we are open to the thoughts and ideas of others, particularly those whose experiences and perspectives differ from our own. The greatest challenges the world faces will be solved by teams, not individuals. Our Harkness pedagogy has uniquely prepared you to be a member and leader of these teams.”

Commencement awards

The following awards and prizes were announced at graduation:

The Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence: Jason Wang

The Cox Medals: Ellie Griffin, William Vietor, Jason Wang, Felix Yeung, Honglin Zhu

The Yale Cup: Varun Oberai

The Ruth and Paul Sadler ’23 Cup: Marymegan Wright

The Perry Cup: Nahla Owens

The Williams Cup: Yunseo Choi

The Eskie Clark Award: Evelyn Houston

The Thomas H. Cornell Award: Seth Amofa

The Multicultural Leadership Prize: Anne Brandes, Charlotte Lisa, Nahla Owens, Senai Robinson

Ceremony program

Rawson was assisted on the stage by Trustee Deidre O’Byrne ’84, Dean of Faculty Ellen Wolff and seniors Evelyn Houston and Maggie Wainwright.

The principal thanked the retiring faculty seated on the stage, which included both 2020 and 2021 retirees: Richard Aaronian, Xitai Chen, Michael Golay, Hobart Hardej, Connie Morse, Sarah Ream, Peter Schultz and Cary Wendell. Retiring faculty not seated on the stage are Jean Chase Farnum, Zuming Feng, Gail Scanlon, Amy Schwartz and Lee Young.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Exeter, Rawson was also joined on stage by Beth Brownell Lee ’71, the first girl to receive an Exeter diploma.  

The string quartet – seniors Erin Choi, violin; Annie G. Shin, violin; Ailla R. Crossman, viola; and Max Tan, cello – played as students processed across campus and took their seats in the stadium. Seniors of the Concert Choir sang “The Road Home.”

Class marshals Renee Bertrand, Anne Brandes, Iliana Rios and Marymegan Wright escorted graduating students to their seats.

>> See the Graduation Day Exercises program.

Wishing a wonderful, healthy summer to the great class of 2021!

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