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The Hill School's 2024 Commencement Ceremony

It was a picture-perfect day to celebrate The Hill School's 173nd Commencement Exercises, which took place on Saturday, May 25, 2024. The celebration began with a Baccalaureate service in the Alumni Chapel, led by the sixth form with an address offered by Dr. Sylvia Rodríguez Vargas, Associate Head of School.

Kathleen Devaney presided over her first Commencement Ceremony as the School’s 12th Head of School. She began by congratulating the 152 members of the Class of 2024 and their families for making it to this culminating moment in their Hill School journeys.  Ms. Devaney also thanked the faculty for their role in supporting and guiding the class.

Remarks by Sophie Walsh '24

Ms. Devaney then welcomed Sophie Walsh ’24 to address her classmates as this year’s Sixth Form Commencement Speaker. Sophie first shared what an honor it was to be speaking to her fellow graduates, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests.

Sophie described life at The Hill during her first year here in 2020. She said, “As strange as those times were, my classmates and I didn’t know Hill as any different, so instead of being frustrated by what we were missing, we celebrated as restrictions were lifted each year, and now we are very thankful to be all be here together living what we imagined Hill to be.” She then shared a story about a conversation between her and her grandmother in which her grandmother asked her “Looking back at your time at Hill, what is the most surprising part about your experience?” Sophie listed events and milestones that made her time at Hill so special but shifted her focus to the so-called “in-between moments.” These are the moments that weren’t meant to be special but stick with you for a long time.

To put it plainly for listeners, she answered her grandmother’s question in just a couple of sentences: “So, what was the most surprising part of my Hill experience? It was the small moments, like a friendly conversation; the moments that may seem mundane in nature, like a passing period; the moments that happened in-between the big stuff, like the minutes before chapel. These are the times in which I learned from the people I surrounded myself with in Hill’s community and grew.” Sophie described moments like tutoring her third form prefectees in math, Ms. Devaney dancing at the silent disco, and Mr. Malinak with his pocket Constitution. It was moments like these that will make her look back at Hill with fondness and gratitude.

Lastly, Sophie not only wished her classmates success and good luck, but also the following: “As we reflect on our memories and move forward, we must not overlook the importance of the in-between moments along the way. When we, Hill’s Class of 2024, move forward with whatever life has in store for us, I know that we can embrace the surprising, the unplanned, and those awkward in-between moments we all experience in our lives that allow us to grow and achieve our full potential.”

Robin Hauser P'14 Addresses the Class of 2023

Ms. Devaney then introduced Mr. Mark Nelson P’10 ’13, Phillip Rogers Mallory ’04 Senior Master Teacher of Science, to address to the Class of 2024.

Ms. Devaney shared that it was with “great pleasure and awe” that she introduced Mr. Nelson. Pleasurable for how truly likeable Mr. Nelson is, and awesome because of his 44 years of dedicated service and kindness at Hill. She remarked on his ability to stay youthful after such a long tenure that saw many different changes and obstacles.

In his talk, Mr. Nelson shared stories and experiences from his long tenure at The Hill. He began by sharing his and his wife, Mrs. Ellen Nelson’s, appreciation for Ms. Devaney. “Her perfect combination of strength, warmth and grace made her so approachable; so easy to talk to. I knew within the first five minutes of meeting her that there was no one else in the world that would be a better head of our school.” He shared what a special moment it was for him to meet her on the then close-approaching 25th anniversary of coeducation.

Mr. Nelson also shared the experiences of entering Hill. He came here as a young man and has since made a family here. As time as gone on, The Hill has only become more and more welcoming, and more of a home to those who join the community. He recalled teaching Mr. Eccleston and the many April Fools’ pranks he played on students. Although he got to know many students in the classroom, he met many others through coaching, watching performances, listening to their chapel talks, and hanging out in the library basement on Monday nights.

He told stories of the early days of his career before coeducation where female faculty weren’t offered equal treatment. He shared a story about Mrs. Neiswender, then Ms. Ritchie, not receiving the same benefits that her male colleagues received, including School-provided cleaning services for her apartment. He highlighted moments like these to show how much Hill has grown and leaned into our goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Mr. Nelson said, “Today the Hill community is warm, kind, and welcoming. We truly have become a Family Boarding School.”

Reflecting on a chapel talk from December, Mr. Nelson answered what the Class of 2024’s legacy will be. He said he will remember the class as the first to embrace kindness, love, and respect for all classmates, staff, faculty, and families. “With Ms. Devaney and Mr. Baum leading our School, we can depart with our hearts filled with joy knowing we left The Hill a better place than when we arrived.”

He emphatically remarked, “For you and me, today marks the end of an incredible journey at Hill. Tomorrow marks a new beginning. I hope that wherever life takes you, you will continue to treat everyone with the kindness and respect they deserve and encourage others to do the same.”

Mr. Nelson ended his talk by encouraging the Class of 2024 to “be safe, be kind, and have fun. Love life and continue to support and lift up those around you.”

Presentation of Special Awards

Ms. Devaney 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 2024 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 “Class of 2024” t-shirts, the class celebrated their new alumni status with the traditional plunge into the water. Much to his surprise, once they were all in the water the new graduates began calling for Mr. Nelson to join them in the Dell. He quickly donned a “Class of 2024” t-shirt and jumped in to join the celebration.

View a recording of the 173rd Baccalaureate and Commencement Exercises.