Class of 2019

One of the greatest honors I have as an administrator at a School, is the responsibility of overseeing high school commencement. In life, time is marked by moments where we push pause and can later recall the impact of the day. High school graduation is one of those moments. It is such a privilege to be able to be a part of such an occasion and be able to celebrate and reflect on those that you have seen grow during their time at your school.

At Brimmer we begin celebrating with families the evening before with a dinner for graduating class and their immediate family. It is a time to connect as a final time as a community and to celebrate.

Below are the remarks that were shared at both the Brimmer and May Senior Dinner and Commencement for the Class of 2019. Commencement may also be seen here through Brimmer’s online paper, The Gator.

SENIOR DINNER- May 29, 2019

Good Evening,

It is so nice to see everyone here tonight in celebration of the Class of 2019. A few weeks ago I was sitting down to watch an episode of Madam Secretary, but because of a late running sporting event a good portion of 60 Minutes was captured on the DVR. Usually when this happens I fast forward past the segments, but a story caught my eye on this particular evening. Anderson Cooper was interviewing an abstract artist by the name of Mark Bradford and something about this particular interview peaked my interest.

If I am being honest, as much as I enjoy looking at works of art, I do not always get their deeper meaning. I am more likely to revel in the beauty of a soccer match or a breathtaking sky, than a painting. I remember a trip to MOMA in New York City a few years back, struck by the beauty of the installations, but feeling at a loss about the deeper meaning the pieces were supposed to represent. Yet here I was sitting on my couch ready to watch Tea Leoni save the world through diplomacy-living out Brimmer’s mission I might add-and something clicked when I heard Mark Bradford describe the way he built his pieces.

Bradford starts with imagery of a meaningful historical event, sometimes a textured map or a photo, and then carefully puts down layers of painted colored paper on top or around the images building up the canvas. Effectively covering up portions of history. After creating these dense layers of materials, he begins to cut into them and pull back the paper, revealing portions of what is underneath- vibrant colors and new textures which had just been hidden. I found myself captivated by the levels of meaning he created through the work.

Bradford creates windows into histories that have been covered by the layers, revealing segmented views the same way an archaeologist learns about a society through the artifacts that are dug up. There were two ideas that resonated with me as I watched Bradford’s 60 Minutes segment. First was the way in which we are constantly applying new layers from experiences to our lives. The new layers cover up what came before, but at the same time, each new layer depends on what was laid prior to it.

During your time at Brimmer you have been creating your own layers. Each of your classes have built upon each other helping you develop more complex ideas, and these have been enriched by athletic contests, performances, Winterim travels, Model UN trips, and time spent talking with people in the community.

The second meaning I pulled from the Bradford art is the way in which the tears in the canvas create imperfections – imperfections that are beautiful and reveal what is not always visible and may easily be forgotten.

Our failures and mistakes are like the tears in the Bradford canvas. They help us reflect on what is exposed and how to grow from the experience. They reveal truths that we were unable to see before and help us look at a problem from a new perspective. Whether it was at Brimmer or will be in the future, if you view your imperfections and mistakes as a way to grow you will unlock new perspectives and opportunities.

One of the iconic figures from my early twenties was Mia Hamm. Hamm said, “You may get skinned knees or elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”

To the Class of 2019, I hope that in the coming years you continue to work hard, building up layers upon layers of experiences, but that you also get skinned knees, exposing what is underneath and giving you fresh perspectives, so you can reach your spectacular goals.

 COMMENCEMENT- May 31, 2019

I present to you the Brimmer and May Class of 2019!

As we near the end of commencement, I want to take one last moment to address this year’s graduates.

Earlier this year at the Bissell Grogan Humanities Symposium, Keynote Speaker, Dr. Raj Panjabi, spoke to the school, sharing his message “no condition is permanent.” Bringing his light, optimism, hope, and expertise to the global health crisis that is threatening the world. Dr. Panjabi is using his message to produce a light that is piercing through that darkness and creating hope.

That phrase, “No condition is permanent” can be explained in a number of different ways. Here you sit in front of us, gathered together for the final time. Whether it was fourteen years or two, each of you have changed tremendously during your time at Brimmer. Some of you have literally grown up.

All of you have each changed your own condition, whether it was stretching yourself to play a new sport, performing on stage for the first time, taking on a leadership role, or enrolling in classes that would stretch you intellectually. Not one of you is the same person as when you entered the school. Nor are you the same as a grade as you were at this time last year.

I remember so vividly sitting in the Rec Hall at Camp Wingate*Kirkland this past August listening to you describe the ways you wanted to be better individuals and as a group how you wanted to lead the school with kindness and optimism.

But you did not stop there. You took it a step further, visualizing your leadership and creating a plan. You immediately put into action what you hoped to accomplish. Yes, there were bumps in the road and moments you veered off course, but each time you found your way back. You defined your legacy as a class. You created something new at your School. You have left an indelible mark on our School.

Dr. Panjabi uses his father’s mantra, “no condition is permanent” to motivate his work to solve a global issue. While we do not expect you to follow in his footsteps, we do hope that you take this mantra to heart. You are in control of your own path. You do not need to accept anything as permanent.

As you move forward, I hope that no matter the circumstance, how dark it may appear around you, how unsure you are of your path, you always remember that you carry a light that is powered by the kindling of what you have learned during your time here at Brimmer.

Today you take the first steps towards taking your light from Brimmer and shedding it on the darkness you encounter. Each of you possess the tools you need to be successful. Each of you have your own unique light that you will use to illuminate the world.

You have left your mark on our community and we cannot wait to see how you change conditions in the future. Congratulations to each of you and your families.


Author: jneudel

father, food allergy advocate, soccer enthusiast, educational innovator helping to maximize collaborative learning in schools. Upper School Head at Brimmer and May School

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