The Hill School's 2023 Commencement Ceremony
It was a picture-perfect day to celebrate The Hill School's 172nd Commencement Exercises, which took place on Saturday, May 27, 2023. The celebration began with a Baccalaureate service in the Alumni Chapel, led by the sixth form and included an address offered by Ari Baum, Assistant Head of School for Community Life.
The Interim Head of School Dr. Sylvia Rodríguez Vargas presided over the Commencement Ceremony. She began by congratulating the 158 members of the Class of 2023 and their families for making it to this culminating moment in their Hill School journeys. Dr. Rodríguez Vargas also thanked the faculty for their role in supporting and guiding the class.
Specifically, she recognized John and Elizabeth Dollhopf, Senior Master Teachers of Math and previous School administrators, for their joint 51 years of service to Hill. Drawing a standing ovation from colleagues, students, and families, the proud parents of two Hill graduates, William ’21 and Patrick ’23, Liz and John will depart Hill at the conclusion of the academic year and head to Deerfield to continue their teaching careers and be closer to their extended families.
Remarks by Jifan Jerry Zhu'13
Dr. Rodríguez Vargas then invited Jifan Jerry Zhu ’23 to address his classmates as this year’s Sixth Form Commencement Speaker. Jerry first offered appreciation for the faculty, staff, and family friends whose “love and support pierced their harshest days and nights.
Jerry described how after stepping foot on campus, even before his interview, he felt at home. And how “that feeling of home became permanent because of all the little happenings that make Hill, Hill.”
He then shared how with the onset of the pandemic change began to define their lives. He reflected how some change is inevitable, “but beyond the superficial changes, what has remained constant are the relationships, people, and experiences.”
He invited classmates to: “Take a look around. Look at your friends, your foes, recall the memories of your joys and sorrows. Look at the historic buildings around you, the names of those on the path that came before you. Look at everything you loved, remember everything you dreamed, rejoice in everything you shared, and recall everything that, in a moment of uncertainty, seemed so terrifying.”
Lastly, Jerry not only wished his classmates safe travels and future success, but also the following: “I wish you self-actualization, a better understanding of our ever-spinning world, and the ability to effect positive change on it. I wish you hope, compassion, and love. And finally, I wish you fulfill our form’s Vergilian motto: No day shall erase us from the memory of time.”
Robin Hauser P'14 Addresses the Class of 2023
Dr. Rodríguez Vargas then introduced Robin Hauser, award-winning documentary director for Finish Line Films and champion of women’s rights and social justice, to address to the Class of 2023.
Dr. Rodríguez Vargas shared that Ms. Hauser’s “Hill ties” extend three generations within her immediate family: her father, Kurt Hauser, class of 1956 and also a former Trustee; her brother, the late William West Hauser, class of 1981; and her son, Will Reynolds, class of 2014.
She remarked how fitting it was that Ms. Hauser, a trailblazer herself within the film industry, deliver her address during this milestone 25th year of coeducation as we honor the trailblazing young women who joined the first coeducational class in 1998, including Courtney Steltz Neese ’00 and Anne Confer Martens ’02, two current faculty members.
In her talk, Ms. Hauser shared her strong belief that the key to success in life and as a society lies not in tolerance, but in appreciation and acceptance. She recalled a story when she was a little girl when she was initially excluded from a father/son fishing trip and how that experience served as “the first time I realized that being a girl may come with limitations.”
“In this case, I was fortunate to have a supportive father [who then made arrangements for her to go], but in subsequent years I learned that not all of my encounters with gender discrimination were as easily remedied,” Hauser said.
Ms. Hauser also shared the experience of being dismissed by a salesman as a potential buyer of a timeshare at a ski resort, because she was not with a husband or fíance. “He was acting on his assumption that a woman alone wouldn't make a major financial decision like buying vacation real estate,” she noted.
In her 2018 film, bias, Ms. Hauser shared the compelling results of The Heidi/Howard Study: Success vs. Likability. A Columbia University business professor took a case study about Heidi Roizen, a successful female venture capitalist, and changed her name to Howard Roizen. After giving half his class the Heidi case, and the other half the Howard case, he asked students to rate their competency and likability. All students found Heidi and Howard to be competent, but they found Heidi to be less likable, too aggressive, and out-for-herself.
“Our societal norms dictate that women should be kind, nurturing, helpful, supportive, deferential, while men are expected to be decisive, competent, assertive, and strong,” said Ms. Hauser, noting that the qualities valued in leadership, like assertiveness and decisiveness, go against societal expectations of what it is to be likable.
Ms. Hauser emphasized that ultimately “we cannot control what other people think about us, but we can control how hard we work, and how thoughtful, deliberate and compassionate we are. When we focus not on being liked but on how to lead with empathy and skill, we will succeed and so will those around us.”
But Ms. Hauser stressed that with the focus on women’s issues and work toward reaching gender parity, it’s important to not forget about the young men in our society.
Quoting podcaster Scott Galloway, Ms. Hauser shared that a growing number of men are feeling disengaged, unattached, unmotivated to participate and contribute to society. Ms. Hauser believes “this struggle is not healthy for any of us. In our quest for supporting women we cannot disregard the importance and merit of men.”
She emphatically remarked, “Every one of us, regardless of gender, deserves to feel valued. Each of us needs to know that we matter and that we belong.”
She ended her talk by encouraging the Class of 2023 to “use this valuable education to better the world. Accept and appreciate each other and others for your similarities and your differences. You all have within you what it takes to become empathetic, compassionate, and effective leaders.”
Presentation of Special Awards
Dr. Rodríguez Vargas then called 17 students to the stage to receive special prizes. See below for a complete list of Special Prize Winners and their citations.
Members of the Class of 2023 and their family, friends, and Hill faculty all joined voices in singing the School song, "A Thousand Hands," followed by the official presentation of the diplomas by Mr. James Alexandre '75, Board Chair. Graduates also continued a meaningful tradition as new alumni: As they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, they dropped a gold or silver dollar into a wooden box, symbolizing each graduate's first donation to The Hill as an alumnus. The Reverend Khristi Adams, Hill chaplain, concluded the ceremony with the benediction.
Before heading to the Dell Pond to make their splash as new alumni, each graduate placed a brick engraved with their name on the center pathway on the Quad. After a quick change into their “Hill Alumni” t-shirts, the Class of 2023 celebrated their new alumni status with the traditional plunge into the water.