Commencement for The Thacher School is traditionally the culmination of several days of events. It begins with the All-School Banquet, followed by Vespers, then the Senior Banquet and finally the Commencement Ceremony itself. Each one of these events is filled with traditions that seniors anticipate as the end of the year approaches. This year’s program, created with input from the seniors, was designed to bring closure to a most unusual year with a moment of celebration, recognition, and gratitude. However, some treasured elements of tradition, such as the bagpipe procession and the faculty reading of tributes to each senior, will have to wait until a future date when CdeP 2020 is able to gather safely among friends and family to receive their due.
The year-end events began with Vespers, which was held on Memorial Day, giving the School the opportunity to recall alumni who gave their lives in wars as far back as WWI. Seniors Mya Bolden and Maggie Sonnenshine gave readings and Fisher Fellow Ali Rahman, who is heading to the University of Pennsylvania following his two-year appointment at Thacher, was selected by the graduating class to present the Vespers address, sharing how Thacher has become home for him and his family.
The All-School and Senior Banquets were combined into a virtual All-School Final Assembly. Standing in front of the School trophy cabinet in the new dining hall, Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck CdeP 1992 and Director of Studies Tracy Miller made remarks that acknowledged the work and accomplishments of this senior class. Then department heads announced academic awards. School Chair Mateo Thacher (head of the student body) gave a speech that used what he had learned from one Thacher family as a metaphor for what he learned during his time at the School: Embrace discomfort, be ambitious—“Do what you want to do and be good at it”—have some fun but strive for humility, be resilient, be present, your friends are your friends for life.
The event also included “good-byes” to faculty members who are moving on: Ali Rahman; Lachlan Nutting CdeP 2014, riding instructor; Dana Schryver, assistant director of the Horse Program; Librarian Bonnie LaForge, and finally Jake Jacobsen, who has filled many faculty and administrative roles during his 29-year tenure at the School.
In closing, Ms. Pidduck asked students to remain “engaged in the world around you. Live up to the privilege your education has afforded you by being in the world.” She spoke of the “need to take action in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Taylor, and the injustices that their deaths represent. The world needs your best, it needs our best,” she said. “So, let’s go take it on.”
On the morning of May 30, more than 1,000 people viewed the 131st Commencement Ceremony via video. To ensure that the event was not purely virtual, diplomas were shipped to graduates in special packages marked “do not open until May 30.” “The boxes,” said Dean of Students Sabina McMahon, “were filled with love from the Thacher community” in the form of personal messages from faculty, staff, and fellow students. Ms. Pidduck took the opportunity to express gratitude for the staff, the faculty, and the students who have supported the seniors in so many ways. She also thanked the parents of the seniors and announced the senior class gift: two perpetual endowed tuition grants for future students. Graduate Joy Matabula shared a poem she wrote for the event and a slide show captured the joyful snapshots of the memories the graduates have made during their time together.
While the departmental academic awards were announced during the final Assembly, Senior Awards were presented during Commencement. Awards recipients are listed below.
For the Benection, James Langan read a poem by his favorite poet, Pablo Neruda, entitled Celebración. The event concluded with the Chamber Singers’ virtual rendition of their traditional commencement song, This Place, as a reminder that, as Ms. Pidduck put it, “Thacher is your home. Wherever you are, Thacher is yours.”
2020 Academic Awards
ENGLISH DEPARTMENT AWARDS
The Jack Boyd English Prize
The Jake Boyd English Prizewas established in 1906 in memory of John Franklin Boyd, Jr., who died at Thacher in 1902. Last year it was awarded to James Peter Costigan. This year, by vote of the Department, the twelfth grader who has done the best work in English and is, therefore, the winner of The Jack Boyd English Prize is :
Malena Wren Quistgaard Solin
Nash Robbins Short Story Prize
The Nash Robbins Short Story Prize is given in the name of John Nash Robbins, CdeP ’81, for excellence in writing. It is presented to the author of the best short story written at any time during the school year. Last year, it was awarded to Devon Lyn Roberts.This year the winner of the Nash Robbins Short Story Prize is:
Nina Haskell Harbison
The William Bishop Nixon Poetry Prize
The William Bishop Nixon Poetry Prize was first given in 1945 by William Nixon in memory of Jack Boyd. The prize is awarded for the best poem written at any time during the year. Last year it was awarded to JoyFreda Matsediso Mathebula. This year the winner of the William Bishop Nixon Poetry Prize is:
Saga Madeleine Leslie
MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT AWARDS
Morgan Ward Prize
The Morgan Ward Prize was established in 1964 by Dr. Marshall Hall, Jr., in honor of a former colleague and friend, Dr. Morgan Ward. Last year it was awarded to James McGrew Twichell. This year, by vote of the Mathematics Department, the senior who has done the best work in mathematics and is, therefore, the recipient of the award is:
Computer Science Prize
Each year, by vote of the Mathematics Department, this award is given to the student who has done the best work in Computer Science. Last year it was awarded to George Cleveland Lawrence and Julien Andrew Luebbers. This year the award goes to:
Ian MacArthur Dunne
LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT AWARDS
The Cecilia Ortiz World Language Prize
Each year, by vote of the Department, the Language Prize has been given to the senior who demonstrated excellence in and a passion for language acquisition. This year, we have renamed the prize The Cecilia Ortiz World Language Prize in honor of longtime Spanish teacher, Cecilia Ortiz, and her dedication to language study and cultural connection. Last year, The Language Prize was awarded to Anyu “Phoebe” Cao. This year the first recipient of the Cecilia Ortiz World Language Prize is:
James Mugo Langan
SCIENCE DEPARTMENT AWARDS
Each year, by vote of the Department, this award is given to the student who has done the best work in biology. Last year it was awarded to Margaret Chamberlain Phipps. This year the award goes to:
Charlotte Ruby Kelliher
Each year, by vote of the Department, this award is given to the student who has done the best work in chemistry. Last year it was awarded to William Schaw Harding. This year the award goes to:
Charlie Ford Tracy
Environmental Science Award
Each year, by vote of the Department, this award is given to the student who has done the best work in environmental science. Last year it was awarded to Luke Aaron Letscher. This year the award goes to:
Luca Isabella Pieretti
Each year, by vote of the Department, this award is given to the student who has done the best work in physics. Last year it was awarded to James McGrew Twichell. This year the award goes to:
Kyle Junlong Sun
HISTORY DEPARTMENT AWARDS
The David B. Johnston History Prize
The David B. Johnston History Prize—named for a beloved history teacher and department chair known fondly as Dr. J during his 29-year tenure at the School—recognizes the student who has consistently demonstrated all-around scholarship in and deep passion for the discipline of history. Last year, the recipient was Devon Lyn Roberts. This year it’s awarded to:
Fatoumata Soumare and Tea Clara Alphea Wallmark
ART DEPARTMENT AWARDS
Art History Prize
The Art History Prize is given to that student who has done exemplary work in Advanced Placement Art History. Last year it was awarded to Anna-Liisa Clair Eklund. The senior who has done the best work in Art History this year is:
Alice Palmer Robertson
The Harry Llewellyn Bixby Dramatic Cup
First given in 1919, the cup is awarded to students in recognition of their contribution to the Thacher Drama Program. Last year it was awarded to Alette Nicole Segerstrom. This year the recipients are:
Marguerite Zion Sonenshine, Vincent Ireri Langan, and JoyFreda Matsediso Mathebula
The Eric Bechtel Dachs Prize for Technical Theatre
Awarded by the Technical Directorto the student who, in his or her career at Thacher,has shown the greatest dedication, imagination,and expertise in technical theatre.Last year it was awarded to Stephanie Marie Lueders, Abigail Miao Romo, and Grace Jinning Zhang. This year’s recipients are:
Anna Elizabeth Pata and Ian MacArthur Dunne
Darrah Corbet, Jr. Studio
First given in 1941 in memory of Darrah Corbett, Jr., CdeP 1936. Last year’s recipient was Alice Bi Er Tang. This year the recipient is:
Anna Elizabeth Pata
The Rhode Island School of Design Art Award
Given to the student who has demonstrated uncommon dedication, commitment and achievement in the Visual Arts. Last year’s recipient was Fiona Carter McLaughlin This year the recipient is:
Alice Palmer Robertson
Marcus Hele Dall Award
This award is given to the student who has done the best work in photography. Last year it was awarded to Sophie Anne Moe Bekins. This year the recipient is:
Mary Harriet Waltemath
Agnes M. Lord Music Award
First given in 1922 to honor Mrs. Walter St. Clair Lord, who taught music at Thacher from 1898 to 1925. Last year’s recipients were Paiton Toshiko Kanda GleesonandJames Peter Costigan. This year the recipient is:
The Wood Design Award
is given to that student who has done exemplary work in Wood Design. Last year it was awarded to José Guadalupe Sanchez This year the award goes to:
Peter Dyer Phipps
The Ceramic Arts Award
is given to the student who has demonstrated uncommon dedication, commitment, and achievement in the ceramics studio. Last year it was awarded toTea Clara Alphea Wallmark This year the award goes to:
Saga Madeleine Leslie
The Class of 2000 Dance Award
was established in recognition of the dedication, leadership and accomplishments of the dancers of the Class of 2000. It is awarded to the senior who most embodies those qualities. Last year it was awarded to Samantha May Hollins. This year’s recipient is:
HORSE DEPARTMENT AWARDS
Top Wrangler Award
given by the Class of 1979 in memory of their friend and classmate Richard A. Wilson, Jr. CdeP 1979 to recognize that senior who throughout his or her Thacher career has shown great endeavor and success in all aspects of the Horse Program: riding, camping, and leadership. Last year it was awarded to Ursula Elizabeth Gately. This year’s recipient is:
Tomás Aidan Fanning
The Herbert Sisters’ English Riding Trophy
First awarded in 2006, The Herbert Sisters’ Trophy is given in honor of Alexandra MacLean Herbert CdeP 2002 and Deirdre Healy Herbert CdeP 2006, both former captains of Thacher’s Equestrian Team and dedicated English riders. The Award goes to that rider who has shown exceptional dedication, commitment, and talent in the English Riding Program. Last year, it was not awarded. This year’s recipient is:
Emer Grace Kilgallon
Jesse Kahle Horse Camping Award
is awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the Camping Committee, has demonstrated horse camping skills of the highest quality and greatest range by planning and carrying out a variety of worthwhile trips during a Thacher career. This award is not given every year and was last awarded to Steven Malcolm Jump III in 2016. This year’s recipient is:
Tomás Aidan Fanning
The Charles Pratt Trapshoot Award
is awarded this year for outstanding leadership in the program. Last year it was awarded to Thomas Baskerville Lewis Hudson. This year the recipients is:
The Hollister Wheaton Trapshoot Award
is awarded to the parent and student with the highest score. Last year it was awarded to Lee Hudson and Stepson Joaquin Beare Cardoza. This year’s recipients are:
Anthony "Tony" and son Dylan Anthony Jin-Ngo (18/25)
Bayard and son Jackson Wolfe Hollins (18/25)
OUTDOOR PROGRAM AWARDS
Charles L. Warren Alpinist Award
First given by Charles L. Warren, teacher and Director of the Outdoor and Camping Programs at The Thacher School, this award recognizes the student who has demonstrated a commitment to the mastery of rock climbing, mountaineering and backcountry camping. An alpinist is characterized less by achievements and summits attained and more by the full engagement of one’s body, mind and spirit in the process of ascent as well as the qualities of preparation balanced with hope as indicated in the motto of the School's Outdoor Program. Last given in 2017 to Luke Wilson McKenna Leasure, Liam Reed Kirkpatrick, Edel Dupre’ Galgon, Ronan Patrick Byrne, and Peter Flynn Schmidt. The recipient this year is
Jake Aboitiz Arculli
The Best Camper Award
is awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the Camping Committee, has done the most camping and helped significantly with the running of the camping program. Last year it was awarded to Luke Aaron Letscher, Fiona Carter McLaughlin, and Piper Frances Stacey. This year’s recipients are:
Jake Aboitiz Arculli, Toby Ronald Aboitiz Arculli, and Luke Aaron Letscher
The Kumana Prize
The Kumana Prize is awarded for innovative research and solutions in meeting the challenges of global sustainability. Last year it was awarded to:Lindsey White Greenhill, Alice Bi Er Tang, Andrea Ines Viera, and Sydney Lee Yates. This year’s recipients are:
Toby Ronald Aboitiz Arculli and Luke Aaron Letscher
The Ojai Rotary Educational Foundation Scholarships
The Robert E. Chesley Memorial Scholarship
Robert Chesley was a graduate of the Thacher School and Stanford. Following military service, he taught physics and served as Science Department Head at Thacher for 14 years before moving to Washington DC to work for the Department of Education. In 1983 he returned to Thacher as business manager, during which time he became a member of this Club serving as president of the Club in 1987-88. He also was greatly involved in the formation of our Educational Foundation in 1991. The Robert E. Chesley Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to
Alice Palmer Robertson
The Armand & Florence Amado Memorial Scholarship
Following the August 13, 2004 death of Armand R. Amado, the Amado Family Trust awarded a sum of money to the Rotary Club of Ojai Educational Foundation for the purpose of providing a scholarship in the name of Armand R. Amado and his wife, Florence M. Amado. The Amado's were longtime residents of Ojai and supporters of education. The Armand & Florence Amado Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to:
The Marvin H. Shagam Award
Awarded annually to that junior who has made a difference in the Thacher community through force of character, goodness, courage, vision, and love for all God’s creation. Last year the recipient was Jose Guillermo Carpio. This year the recipient is:
Jae Kairo Bailón-Mejía
Cum Laude Society
Founded in 1906, Cum Laude was modeled on Phi Beta Kappa, the national college-level honor society. The electing body at Thacher includes department chairs as well as faculty members elected to Cum Laude in high school or to Phi Beta Kappa in college.
Election to Cum Laude officially commends those students who have met the highest criteria of academic achievement and scholarly integrity across all disciplines throughout their high school careers. As much we would love to acknowledge you all for your hard work and impressive academic accomplishments, we are limited by the Society’s constitution which stipulates that we may elect no more than 20% of the senior class and no more than 10% of the junior class. This is a high honor indeed, and it is my privilege to announce this year’s honorees.
Members of the Class of 2020 elected in their junior year:
William Schaw Harding
William Russell Keeling
Charlotte Ruby Kelliher
Daisy Jaye Lawrence
Members of the Class of 2020 elected in their senior year:
Nina Haskell Harbison
Luca Isabella Pieretti
Alice Palmer Robertson
Sydney Joy Rosenbaum
Malena Wren Quistgard Solin
Tea Clara Alphea Wallmark
Ian Lin Zhang
Members of the Class of 2021 elected in their junior year:
Karina Lynn Andersen
Emer Grace Kilgallon
Anna Elizabeth Lister
Olivia Skye Neulight
Holland Eve Stacey
The Newton K. Chase Community Service Award
The Newton K. Chase Community Service Award is given to the students who, through volunteer work in the community, have demonstrated an unselfish interest in and concern for others. Mr. Chase, who served as Head of School for fifteen years beginning in 1949, believed strongly that the “best you can do” referenced in the Banquet Song should incorporate work done for the greater good and not for oneself alone. He promoted the idea that students committing their hearts, hands, and minds to the service of others was (as it continues to be) an invaluable part of a Thacher education.
In keeping with this mission, this year’s recipients have devoted countless hours to facilitate participation in authentic experiences that ground us in the valley we are so fortunate to call home. Their enthusiasm for the programs they champion is contagious, and the example they set motivates us all. We applaud these students for all they have done for our community and take this opportunity to thank them—for their leadership, their commitment, and their wholehearted approach to the service of others. Their brand of the best they can do would have made Mr. Chase very proud. We sincerely hope that, for these three, their work for our collective greater good has really just begun.
Last year, the award was presented to:
Jessica Marie Donohue
Thomas Jennings Gwilliam
Evan Howse Perry
This year, the recipients are:
Lila Wrede Potter
Benjamin Pyar Lalani
Eve Ruane Spalding
While being an accomplished athlete is an integral part of earning this award, athleticism is, by no means, this honor's most important criterion. Commitment to excellence, teamwork, ability to elevate the play of others, and, above all, sportsmanship are the qualities for which this trophy is awarded.
An athlete who can make a profound impact in 3 varsity sports is difficult to come by. Then add in characteristics like charisma, willingness to sacrifice for the team, and mentorship to his teammates, and you have a rarity. Not only is his impact seen clearly in the stat book, but his natural leadership was the reason he was elected by his peers to be the captain of the football, soccer, and lacrosse teams during his senior year. All of his coaches are scrambling to replace him, but simultaneously proud to know his attitude of hard work and sportsmanship will live on through younger players he always took the time to mentor. Whether it’s on the defensive line in football, as the last defender on the soccer pitch, or lining up for face off on the lacrosse field, this is one athletic Toad and we were sure grateful to call him one of our own.
Last year, The Thacher Letterman's Club Perpetual Trophy was awarded to:
Preston Rhoa Brailer
By vote of the athletic council, this year’s recipient is:
Jackson Wolfe Hollins
The Elizabeth Helms Adams Perpetual Sportsmanship Award
As with the previous honor, athleticism, commitment to excellence, teamwork, ability to elevate the play of others and, above all, sportsmanship are the qualities for which this trophy is awarded.
This young woman exemplifies all the qualities above. If we had a “hardest worker award”, I’m sure she’d win that as well. As a captain of both her tennis and soccer teams, both her coaches speak highly of her commitment to individual excellence as well as her ability to encourage others to play and be their best. Whether it was simply by her sheer presence and example or through direct mentoring, she elevated the play of all those around her. The fact that she was voted “best teammate” by her peers on both the tennis and soccer teams speaks not only to her effectiveness as a leader but also her seemingly natural ability to inspire. Her coaches, teammates and all those who had the opportunity to watch her compete will miss this young woman’s heart and dedication in our athletic program next year.
Last year, the council presented this award to:
Jessica Marie Donahue
This year, by vote of the Athletic Council, the Elizabeth Helms Adams Sportsmanship Award goes to:
Tea Clara Alphea Wallmark
School Chair Award
This young man extends himself in every way to all members of the community. His warmth and openness make him incredibly well suited to serve in this role of supporting his peers as they navigate Thacher. He has been an adamant proponent for emotional well-being and creating time and space for students. His love of the outdoors compliments his sense of helping students find outlets and achieve their individual sense of balance and joy. That being said, Mateo loves to have fun. He was able to bring silly and engaging competitions to assembly each week but also able to share thoughtful reflections with the community when there was a need to explore and understand varied perspectives. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, spend them in discussion with this deeply thoughtful young man and you will be all the better for it. Mateo clearly has started his journey as an excellent collaborator, listener, and leader in this world. Today we thank him for his passion, dedication, and all-encompassing empathy for others.
Last year’s School Chair Bowl was presented to
Piper Frances Stacey
This year’s School Chair Bowl is given, with great thanks and appreciation, to:
Matthew Anson Thacher
The Charles L. Tutt Bowl for Integrity and Responsibility
Given in 1963 by Mrs. Tutt in memory of her husband Charles L. Tutt, CdeP 1907. In giving this award, Mrs. Tutt wished to stress those qualities of character not always recognized in the traditional school-type awards.
She spoke not primarily of leadership, but of integrity and responsibility, of fortitude in the face of adversity, and of consideration for others as traits that she had always admired in her husband and which she thought a school should be proud of in its students.
Personal adversity and challenges may have helped to shape this person’s perspective but this individual is not defined by them. Rather, those life experiences have given this deeply respected Toad a unique understanding of the struggles of others, deeper empathy, and a commitment to making a difference in this world. Using words and rhythms as a tool for reflection, and then as a means for sharing a message, she’s helped our community think more intently about issues large and small. Her keen insights and sharp critical analyses raise the level of class discussions. And her smile, laughter, and love for sharing a story has endeared her to our community and put many a student and adult at ease. With a heart big enough to hold us all in her care, she refuses to leave anyone behind. Authentic no matter the venue, she leads with truth, with honor, with kindness and with love.
Last year the recipient was:
Alika Jay Ka'imipono Williams
This year, the Tutt Bowl goes to:
Amya Desjae Bolden
The Thacher Cup
The Thacher Cup is presented to that senior who, in the judgment of the faculty, best demonstrates those qualities the School holds as central: academic excellence, extracurricular achievement, moral leadership, and concern for others.
When a student possesses as extensive an arsenal of intellectual firepower as this one does, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which that isn’t the most important thing they bring to class each day. But so it is for this year’s Thacher Cup recipient, whose native intelligence and capacity for deep insight -- formidable though they are -- run a distant second to a heart that is giving, empathetic, open, unselfconscious, and, above all, big.
It is said that the most effective leaders are the ones who raise the level of those around them. In this student’s case, it is his overwhelming generosity of spirit that has, for four years, allowed all in his orbit to believe that their own best selves are actually within reach. His ability to pursue and achieve excellence in so many areas of school life with a smile on his face and a laugh in his heart reminds us that academic success and personal well-being aren’t mutually exclusive: indeed, they go hand in hand.
Most likely, this young man will be a bit surprised to receive this award: although his performances have always been showstopping, scene-stealing moments of dramatic joy, his name has rarely been at the top of the call sheet in the lead role. But that changes today, as we invite him to step into the limelight and take the final bow so that we all might express our enduring admiration and respect with our most heartfelt ovation.
Last year, the recipient was:
Abigail Miao Romo
This year, the Thacher Cup is awarded to:
William Russell Keeling