Baccalaureate speaker Alec Newell, ’88. M. Dirk MacKnight

Baccalaureate speaker Myles Barrett, ’20. M. Dirk MacKnight

Elected class speaker Cameron Simard, ’20. Submitted photo

Elected class speaker Drew Curtis, ’20. Submitted photo


BETHEL — Gould Academy presented diplomas last Saturday to 54 seniors at its 184th commencement exercises on a beautiful sunny day in Bethel, except the bagpipes were recorded and so were the speeches — and everyone was watching from somewhere else.

“While all classes face unique challenges along the way, your class was faced with a challenge unlike any other,” Interim Head of School Chris Gorycki told the assembled viewers. “All of us are so proud of the spirit and the manner with which you have embraced and overcome the hurdles these past few months have presented.”

One of the other opportunities a virtual ceremony presented, is that speakers didn’t need to be confined to the same podium, or any podium. Guest speaker Lucas St. Clair recorded his remarks at multiple points along a trail near his home.

“This is a moment of real solidarity,” said St. Clair, who graduated Gould in the class of 1996 and is a board member of the Elliotsville Plantation Inc. “Everyone in the world is going through this same pandemic; it is something that is touching every person on this planet. So knowing that, have empathy for all the people you come in contact with, with people who have different thoughts and viewpoints on the world. And listen to them and try to understand them, try to be as compassionate and thoughtful and empathetic as you possible can be. Use your privilege for great good.”

“These last two months have been really difficult,” agreed Cameron Simard ’20 of Newry, who was one of two elected class speakers, “but we discovered so much about our amazing Gould experience. It’s not just the unconventional circumstances that make moving on so challenging, but all of these wonderful memories. Winnie the Pooh said it best, ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?’”

There are a number of traditions at Gould in the days leading up to Commencement and Baccalaureate. The school made an effort to continue as many of those as it could, while still listening to seniors who didn’t want to simply move graduation online as a pale imitation of the originally planned event.

Starting the Sunday before Commencement, the Underclass Awards ceremony happened virtually, as did the traditional school assembly devoted to members of the class who’d been at Gould at least four years, the Polar Bear awards (for those who complete every schedule plunge from ice out to graduation), the senior baby photo assembly, and the college counseling bonfire.

There were also some popular new additions this year, from lawn signs to Instagram tributes for each member of the class.  One new tradition was the Senior Shout Out video. Students had identified the post-graduation receiving line as something that felt important to them. It was a chance, they said, to thank teachers and friends. So this spring seniors each had the option to create a one-minute video, acknowledging those who made an impact on their time at Gould. After graduation itself, each senior also hosted a Zoom meeting where faculty, friends, and family could stop in to share congratulations or other messages.

Seniors also received a special care package with their graduation cap and gown, some Class of 2020 swag, T-shirt, personal letters from teachers, and “bonfire in a box” (s’mores fixings). Diplomas and book awards are mailed out this week.

Rather than simply read the list of graduates when they would have crossed the stage for their diplomas, the school asked each senior chose a faculty member to “present” theirs to them. Faculty took the honor of being asked to heart—they filmed their presentations from kayaks, mountaintops, ski slopes, and from multiple locations on and off campus. All 54 videos were edited together and broadcast as part of the ceremony.

History teacher Alec Newell, and Gould class of 1988, spoke at the Baccalaureate. He said he was reminded this spring of “the true importance of being a part of a community like Gould and what makes this community so special. Many times for me as a student and faculty member, I have heard that what we do well at Gould is that we challenge you in many ways, get you comfortable, then turn the table again and try to make you uncomfortable, presenting new challenges. That idea of learning by facing challenges has been a mainstay here at Gould for some time.

“Most of these challenges we have some control over, though,” Newell added, “and we provide safety nets, making sure that even if things don’t go as planned, things will still be OK.  This spring, however, we all had major challenges with No Safety Net. But it’s safe to say, that the Class of 2020 crushed it! I know I speak for my colleagues when I say, ‘Our hats are off to you’ for all you have done here for four years and certainly rising to the occasion this spring.  And you did it with experience, confidence, resilience, toughness, and friendship. And, most importantly, these have shaped you all and have given you tools to tackle those challenges that life serves up.”

The following members of the Gould Academy Class of 2020 received awards at Commencement:

Headmaster’s Bowl — Drew Curtis

Elwood F. Ireland Awards — Sahla Miller and Jacob Plummer

Scholarship Shield — Hanyu “Alexia”  Zhou

Francis “Hi” Berry Award  –  Madison Lieblein

Richmond “Joe” Roderick Award — Drew Curtis

William P. Clough III Award — Hunter Bernard

The Gould Academy Alumni Association Award  –  Caroline Newell

Senior Point Award — Lillian Drew

Jan & Lorenzo Baker Award — Isabel Chase

Ouwinga Citizenship Award — Cameron Simard

Annie Daley Courchesne Award — Stefanie Ordway

Linwood “Lindy” Lowell Award — Brodie Goclowski

Melmac Principal’s Scholarship — Lillian Drew

Newry Awards — Dylan Rivard and Cameron Simard


English – Laura Wilson

History – Sophie Laurence

Math – Max Hessenger

Science – Alexia Zhou

Computer Science – Sophie Laurence

Innovator’s Award – Austin Colby

French –  Cameron Simard

Mandarin –  Min Seung Kim

Spanish –  Madison Leiblein

Theater –  Stefanie Ordway

Technical Theater –  Caroline Newell

Art –  Dylan Rivard

Art Department Purchase Award –  Annabelle Darby

Rhode Island School of Design President’s Award  –  Russell Zeng

Gayle A. Foster Award — Gil Norcross

Ralph Gould Music Award — Isabel Chase

The NGPF Personal Finance Student of the Year Award  –  Sahla Miller

CUM LAUDE SOCIETY: Lillian Drew, Madison Lieblein, Amelia McMillian, Taylor Mull, Laura Wilson, Hanyu “Alexia” Zhou, Isabel Chase, Sophie Laurence, Caroline Newell, Jun “Sylvia” Shi, Cameron Simard, and Liulu “Alice” Yue

Noted for DISTINGUISHED ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: Hanyu “Alexia”  Zhou, Laura Catherine Wilson, Madison Amanda Lieblein, Taylor Rebecca Mull, Lillian Frieda Drew, Amelia Jo McMillian, Liulu “Alice” Yue, Cameron Lily Simard, Caroline Elizabeth Newell, Drew Curtis, Isabel Marie Chase, Jun “Sylvia” Shi, Shuyang “Jerry” Xu, Annabelle Katharine Darby, Maxx Ethan Parys, Sophie Helene Laurence, Hunter Bernard, Kenneth Austin Colby, Isaiah Osborn, Chaia Sylvia Alford, Jingyuan “Russell” Zeng, Samuel Wadsworth Erickson, Stefanie Randolph Ordway, Min Seung Kim, Jayda Michele Tamalunas, and Yanqi “Frank” Chen.

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