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Congratulations, Class of 2020 Graduates!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

On June 20, Heathwood held its 43rd Commencement ceremony on the lawn in front of the Bell Tower and welcomed 54 members of the Class of 2020 to the ranks of its alumni.

This is the first year Commencement was held on campus instead of at Trinity Cathedral, where pandemic-related safety guidelines precluded graduates and their families from gathering. The outdoor ceremony, with family groups seated at least six feet apart from each other, was memorialized in a painting by Heathwood parent Jamie Peterson, '24, '26. 

In his remarks to the graduates, Head of School Chris Hinchey noted that because of the pandemic, "This was also not the senior spring you wanted nor the senior spring you deserved," but added, "However, your time here will not be defined by COVID and this 3 month hiatus, but rather by the enormous impact you’ve had on Heathwood and on us and more importantly by your accomplishments and experiences in the classrooms, on the stage, on the fields and courts, and on our campus."

Class speaker Caroline Quan also acknowledged the pandemic's impact on the graduates' senior year but reminded her classmates, "I can’t tell you how things will work out moving forward, but I do know that despite all of this we can still do something. We can decide how this year will be remembered by talking, by speaking up. You see, we’re not social distancing, we’re physically distancing. Six feet apart doesn’t hinder your voice. So ask yourself, what can we say, and what can we do to make the change that we want to see? ... How do we make everything that has happened this year, all the good, all the bad, all the tears and anger and sorrow and laughter and smiles and waves goodbye, how do we take these moments and make them more than just stories? ... Maybe we as the Class of 2020 will not be leaving legacies of our own individual lives, but just one of collective hope and change. One in which we cheer each other on, just as we always have. And maybe, that is exactly how it should be."

Commencement speaker Joan Gabel, P '20, the President of the University of Minnesota, likewise spoke to both the challenges and the opportunities facing students who are graduating at this particular moment: 

"I came here today from the Twin Cities, where I now serve as the President of the University of Minnesota. Over recent weeks, our community up there has been through a lot. Tear gas clouds fill the air…and I’ve been yelled at by protesters on my front lawn. 

"Yet, above all of this, I’ve also experienced the power of the human spirit – from peaceful protests to those volunteering to clean up the next day and support each other – much like Fred Rogers’ (Mr. Rogers) advice, when the news is bad to “look for the helpers.”

"Graduates, I would say to you, be that person – be that helper. 

"Even a pandemic can’t break the way we are all intertwined and how much we need each other. As Dr. Martin Luther King once noted, 'Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.'

"Yes, you’ve been through a lot. But you have also risen to the task with character, strength, and resiliency. You’ve navigated these challenges, finished your projects, made your presentations, and earned the diploma you have worked so hard to attain, while rising up during a time of great personal significance to put the health, safety, and well-being of others above all else."

As they head off to college as far away as California (where four of them will attend universities ranging from Cal Tech to UC Berkeley) or as close to home as the University of South Carolina (where four will enroll in the Honors College), we wish all of our 2020 graduates well and look forward to hearing about their future endeavors.