Carlisle School conducted its 43rd commencement exercises Friday evening, with 34 graduating seniors receiving diplomas. The Class of 2016 included 23 honor graduates, who achieved cumulative grade point averages of 3.67 or better during their high school years, and 10 international students.
Salutatorian Summer Aria Lawrence gave the invocation, and Head of School Thomas P. Hudgins, Jr., welcomed the students, faculty, family and friends.
Cody Daniel Mills delivered the valedictory address, stressing the importance of hard work and perseverance. He provided an anecdote of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who overcame numerous obstacles in her life to achieve success. In a world that glorifies Kardashians, he said, we need to not “be confused by what success is […] Success is working.”
He concluded his speech explaining that like Ginsburg, he and his classmates are ready to overcome any obstacle in their lives with hard work. “We have been taught how to fight, we have been taught how to study and we have been taught how to care,” Mills said. “The next four years are ours to flourish.”
The commencement speaker was Captain Justin Thomas, a 2003-graduate of Carlisle School and a 2007-graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He began his address by thanking those at Carlisle who helped his class over a decade ago, of which he was valedictorian. He spoke to the graduating class about what it takes to be a leader. “Brace yourselves for the real work ahead,” he said, “[…] your true test as leaders and individuals is about to begin.”
He warned the students that society often embraces fearlessness as a desirable character trait, but fearlessness, he explained, shows a lack of thoughtfulness and concern in a leader. “As a leader, having to make decisions that put others’ lives on the line, you better believe I was afraid,” Thomas said. “If you aren’t afraid, you’re doing it wrong.”
Phenomenal leaders, he said, are those who truly inspire those they lead, and he hoped that those pilots and soldiers who he has led into life-and-death situations did so because he inspired them. “Inspiration,” he explained, “whether small or large, in combat or in school, is something that only comes from a leader.”
He closed his speech with one piece of advice he hoped the students remembered from this day: “You are all ready, and you are all young leaders in the making, whether you realize it or not. All of your teachers, your family, this staff, and Carlisle in general have led you down a path to be a leader. […] As a father, mother, sibling, friend, coworker…at some point there is another soul on this earth who will look to you in a dire time of need and expect you to perform. I promise, from painful personal experience, that when this day comes, and those you lead are at their worst, you, leaders, must be at your best.”
Captain Thomas was given this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his leadership and service to his country.
Seven graduates were presented Trustee’s Awards for attending Carlisle since the first grade.
The Hooker Garrett Award was given to Christina Tisdale recognizing her 22 years at Carlisle, and The Francis T. West Chair for Teaching Excellence was given to Nancy Thomas, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching at Carlisle.
All members of this year’s graduating class were accepted into four-year colleges, a long-standing tradition of excellence since the school’s inception since 1968.