Celebrating the Class of 2022 with a grand send off
On Sunday, May 29, the Class of 2022 took their first steps as members of the Western Reserve Academy alumni community. Behind them now are memories of Reserve Green and Morning Meetings, Back to School Bashes and Send Off to Summers, the toll of the Victory Bell and equally celebratory ring of a Knight Fine Arts Center applause. Though it's everything these seniors and post-graduates have been working toward, it's bittersweet for the faculty and staff members who have so cherished their time here. But, as always, this melancholy is eclipsed by pride, joy and wonder at what lies ahead for these Pioneers.
The Class of 2022 graduated on a beautiful day with sunshine and blue skies providing a gorgeous backdrop for the ceremony. We returned to our traditional setting of the front of the Chapel, with rows and rows of family, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the school facing the historic structure. If there was a theme to the event, it was best described by Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck — "While today is a day of joy, it is also one of art. By art I mean both the celebration of creativity and the celebration of voice."
She then invited the first of our two Arts who spoke at the ceremony, Commencement Student Speaker Arthur Johnson '22.
Elected by his peers, Johnson first thanked his classmates for trusting him to speak on their behalf. What followed was a wise and compelling study of their collective time at Reserve, the already fond memories of seemingly unimportant moments, like video game marathons and late-night talks with dormmates.
Funny, thoughtful and astute, his speech contained an admirable directive to his classmates to remember to focus not only on their future selves, their dreams, their goals, but also to revel in the present.
"Wake up each day, passionate about the life you are living, not the one you hope to or might live, for that is never a guarantee," said Johnson. "The dots that form the paths of our lives can only be connected retrospectively, so forage new paths and invent new opportunities without the burden of expectation on your shoulders... Once you begin to relish the life that is presently upon you, I can guarantee that, when the time has come to connect the dots, to look back, you will be, at the very least, fulfilled and contented by the knowledge that you did not forget, in striving to live a better life, to cherish the life you do live. My wish for each of you–each of us, because it goes for me, too– is that, hopefully, by experiencing and appreciating the present beauty of just simply living, some form of happiness and success will come our way."
Buck then returned to the stage for faculty recognition and student awards. The Robert S. Weiss Memorial Award, voted upon by the entire senior class, is bestowed to a recipient whose dedication, academic integrity and support of student interest in the arts, athletics and what might be termed "real life" carries on the tradition established by Bob Weiss. The applause was deafening as Science Chair and Director of Community Outreach & Global Engagement Wanda Boesch was asked to come forward and be recognized for this honor.
The student awards followed, recognizing various seniors for their strength in character, intellect, integrity and more. A description of each Commencement award is available to read here, and the following students were recognized:
- Bicknell Prize | David J. King
- John W. Hallowell Award | Isabella M. Folio
- Harlan Wood Award
- Ella S. Bump
- Arthur A. Johnson
- Robinson Prize | Omar M. White-Evans
- Friendship Trophy | Benjamin H. Sindell
- Turnbull Endeavor Award | Sophia G. Shaheen
- Marie Fiedler Award | Jimena S. Oliva
- Angus Frew Award | Daniel T. F. Hoffman
Buck then introduced the selected Commencement Speaker, Art. C. Chang '81, an innovator, an entrepreneur, a 2021 New York City mayoral candidate, a son of Korean immigrants, a proud husband and father — to name just a few of his many roles and accomplishments.
Like Johnson, Chang brought attention to the importance of perspective and our relationship with time.
"Everyone talks about endings," he said. "That's actually the easy part. But few prepare you for new beginnings. And you are about to have one. You may have decided to become a doctor, a lawyer, an architect. And your path might be as straight as an arrow. But very few are. Instead, you are likely to change, and change again. And to do that, you will need to know how to begin, and begin again, and again, and again.
He called on the new graduates to learn to be malleable, to expect change, and to find inner strength and resilience in the face of adversity — and Chang has faced a tremendous amount of adversity. He shared his experience of growing up in an abusive household, of being raised by love that was conditional, the rough start of navigating Reserve as a Korean student without the same means and outward appearance as many of his classmates. As he explained early in his speech, his path had many turns and setbacks, but his journey toward success is a truly inspiring one.
"I have come to believe that the more different you are, the richer you are," said Chang. "The more difficult your path has already been, the more tools you will gain. So strive to be uncomfortable. To have new beginnings. To forge new paths. Hold your standards high! Don't give up! Always move forward! And don't forget, once in a while, to celebrate yourself. You can do this and you will pay it forward. After all, you are the Class of 2022!"
As applause quieted, the ceremony continued the presentation of diplomas by WRA's Co-president of the Board of Trustees, Nathaniel E. Leonard '82. It was a perfect blend of formal and fun as Pioneers crossed the stage as official graduates, grinning at the hoot and hollering of their loved ones. Some were even joined by fellow Pioneer family members who happily bestowed the diploma, extending another branch of their Reserve family tree.
Once more, Buck took to the stage to close the momentous occasion.
"The mission of Western Reserve Academy is to prepare students to blaze trails in learning and in life," she shared. "Through your intellectual pursuits, your professional prowess, the kindness you extend to others, and the relationships you nourish, you will pioneer greatness. I can't wait to see all that you will do."
Congratulations to the entire Class of 2022. You did it!
READ MORE ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2022
Like any proud parent, Western Reserve Academy is thrilled to celebrate the exceptional Class of 2022. So many adventures await these talented young Pioneers, and we are eager to share where they are headed.
Their college destinations are taking them across the globe. With National Decision Day (May 1) behind us, we officially know that the members of the Class of 2022 have committed to an impressive list of 84 colleges and universities. These students, who among them hail from 17 different states and 12 countries, will be attending schools in 23 states and 2 countries.
Among them, you'll find creative artists, recruited athletes, ambitious leaders, compassionate volunteers, national scholars and more. Specifically, we can share that 11 students received National Merit Scholarship recognition, including one National Merit Scholarship Winner, one College Scholarship Winner and nine Commended students.
More than 90 merit scholarships have been awarded to this class, including: Presidential Scholar, Boston University; Liberty Scholar, Drexel University, Morrill Scholar: The Ohio State University; Bonner Scholarship, Rhodes College; Founders Scholarship, Connecticut College; and 1783 Scholarship, Dickinson College.
Five class members have shared plans to pursue their talents in the fine and performing arts as musicians, film makers, studio artists. And 29 Pioneers have committed to play collegiate sports across Division I, II and III programs. Baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and wrestling are represented in this list, and we look forward to cheering both our artists and our athletes from afar.
This year, our College Counseling Office took on the task of totaling the amount of scholarships received by our students. This information can only be shared voluntarily from the applicant, and with a little over 50% of the Class of 2022 reporting so far, we can share that this class has received more than $9.5 million in scholarships.
Western Reserve Academy is thrilled to announce this year's Commencement speaker will be Mr. Art C. Chang, WRA Class of 1981.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his MBA from NYU Stern, Mr. Chang has led an exciting and impressive career. A creative problem solver, Mr. Chang has addressed a wide variety of challenges, including but not limited to offering solutions such as NYC Votes (to increase voter engagement) and Casebook (the first web-based software platform for child welfare).
Mr. Chang was a New York City mayoral candidate in 2021. His platform underscored the priorities he values most: education, family, civic engagement, to name a few. He is a son of Korean immigrants, he started 12 small businesses in New York City, and he has served under four mayors and two governors. An entrepreneur with an extensive background in technology, venture capital and government systems, his accolades and experience are as diverse and dynamic as the city he calls home, but of all the roles he juggles, he is proudest to be a husband and father.
Intellectual, relatable and kind, Mr. Chang will be warmly welcomed back to campus, and we look forward to him joining us for our 2022 Commencement Ceremony.
Each year, the graduating class has a chance to play a role in their own Commencement ceremony through the student speaker election process. After a ranked-choice vote, the Class of 2022 made it clear that, to them, Arthur “Art” Johnson ’22 was the obvious choice.
…Obvious to everyone, perhaps, except him!
“I was genuinely excited when I heard!” he shared. “I don't think anyone truly anticipates being chosen for such an important honor, so it came as a pleasant surprise. I'm also incredibly proud to be able to speak on behalf of our wonderful class in front of a wider audience and the greater WRA community.”
Whether you’ve interacted with Art in the classroom, read his first-place entry in the 2022 College Essay Contest or heard him speak at Morning Meeting on behalf of the student organizations in which he’s involved (such as Viewpoints, Latinos Unidos), you likely understand why such a charismatic and thoughtful Pioneer was selected. But if you ask his roommate, Benji Sindell, the answer is much simpler: “Benji told me that he believes [people voted for me] because I represent much of what Reserve stands for,” shared Art. “But otherwise, I know everyone has their independent rationale for voting.”
As we head toward Commencement this weekend, Art shared that his speech will touch upon themes of appreciation. In writing his address, he intentionally avoided reading or watching other WRA commencement speeches, but he did note that while preparing, he reflected on a work he read earlier this year. Before he even considered that he might speak at graduation, Art read “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace, and while his address might not be directly influenced by the 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, he shared that he hopes to speak with the same charisma and confidence as Wallace.
Art has stood before his peers before, but never in front of the Chapel’s bright white doors, dressed in the formal wear that so many alumni members have donned in Reserve’s history, and before a crowd of faculty, staff, classmates and their families.
“If I wasn't a little nervous, I think I'd be doing something wrong!” he said. “But I'm also very confident in my speech, so it's healthy nerves, not crippling ones!”
We too are confident and very much look forward to hearing his address on Sunday.