Graduate Riley Jerome, of Bethel hugs alpine coach Cathy Fisher. Her mother, Kasey Dyer Jerome on right is a a teacher at Telstar Middle School. submitted photo

BETHEL — Gould Academy presented diplomas to 58 seniors at its 187th commencement on Saturday morning over Memorial Day weekend.

Speakers, faculty, and graduating seniors made their way from Hanscom Hall and across Alumni Field, where several hundred family and friends gathered under the tent to celebrate the Class of 2023.

Emily Drummond ’01 gave the invocation. Samuel Adams ’77, P’18, president of the Gould Academy board of trustees, introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Finnian Donovan, a graduate of the class of 2005 and Director of Operations for Running Tide.

Eli Shifrin, of Bethel, gets a hug from his mother, Gould Faculty Member Sara Whalen Shifrin. submitted photo

Donovan opened his speech by reminiscing about his time at Gould, his experiences growing up on campus as the child of a faculty member, and then playing sports for his coach (who is now the Head of School) Tao Smith. He then explained the mission of Running Tide and the work his team is doing to fight climate change.

“Running Tide is an ocean-health company. We’re focused specifically on how climate change impacts our oceans, as well as how we can leverage our oceans to fight back. Human consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions have aggressively disrupted an equilibrium that used to exist between the Earth’s fast and slow carbon cycles.” He went on to explain, “We as a species have an absolutely enormous problem to solve in a terrifyingly short amount of time. Global emissions are billions of tons more than the planet can sustain every single year. As this goes unchecked, we will continue to see erratic weather patterns, natural disasters, species extinction, wildfires, drought, famine, and war, all at an ever accelerating rate. We can either reduce our emissions year over year around the world or we can remove carbon that’s already been displaced in the fast cycle, and find a way to reintroduce it to the slow cycle. Those are our options. Realistically, we have to do both.”

Isaiah Connolly, of Bethel,  receives a book award from Head of School, Tao Smith. submitted photo

Donovan ended his speech with sound advice to the graduating class. “I’ve had times that have left me overflowing with reward and fulfillment, and times that have left me wondering how things went so wrong. But through it all, what’s become most clear to me is that no matter where you go, or what you do, people are really all that matters. So be intentional in your relationships. Choose the people that you surround yourself with, as you’re transitioning into whatever you have playing next. I promise that if you focus on the people in your life, if you focus on what’s best for the collective, you won’t need to worry about what’s best for you because someone else will.”


Speakers, Awards

Valedictorian Byron An from Guangzhou, China, began by thanking his teachers for guiding him and his classmates through their academic journey. He quoted President Lincoln “All I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother” and then expanded the scope of this sentiment to include his parents, teachers, and peers, as it was his family and his community all together that made him who he is today.

Student-elected class speaker Lily Winch from Marblehead, Massachusetts told stories about her classmates and offered her graduating class an invitation to keep in touch. “Know that the connections you’ve made here will always be here for you. I ask that you continue to keep in touch despite any distance or obstacles that may get in the way.”

Riley Jerome and Eli Shifrin, both of Bethel, were both members of this year’s senior class who achieved a high honors average over their entire career at Gould. Eli Shifrin received a book award for Art.

Riley Jerome received the Francis “Hi” Berry Award

Isaiah Connolly, of Bethel achieved an honors average over his entire career at Gould.

Eli Shifrin received the Gould Academy Alumni Association Award, which recognizes the son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter of an alumnus or alumna whose attitude, involvement, and contributions typify the ideals of Gould’s alumni and its Alumni Association. He also received the Annie Daley Courchesne Award, celebrating the spirit of student involvement in social, political, and environmental causes. This award is in two parts: a monetary contribution to a cause which Annie believed and worked for, and an inscribed cup presented to a Gould Academy student who reflects determination to make the world a better place.

Gould Academy graduated 58 seniors on Memorial Day weekend. submitted photo

The MELMAC Principals Scholarship is awarded to a “senior who has made a difference in the lives of others and that of his or her community and is a solid school citizen involved in extracurricular activities; a student who has exhibited a commitment to public service; and an individual with the potential to make a difference in the world.” This year’s award was presented to Isaiah Connolly.

At the conclusion of student award presentations, Head of School Tao Smith and Board President Sam Adams then presented diplomas to the 58 graduating seniors, followed by the benediction delivered by Emily Drummond.

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