By Alice Roche Cody
After processing into the Athletic Center to moving bagpipe tunes, Gill St. Bernard’s Class of 2021 was enthusiastically welcomed – along with their families – by Head of School Sid Rowell to begin Commencement exercises that capped an extraordinary school year. With 98 graduating students, this marks the largest class in GSB history. During his remarks at yesterday’s ceremony, Mr. Rowell thanked students, parents, faculty, staff, and trustees for their dedication and perseverance in the completion of a successful academic year despite uncharted challenges.
“First, I wish to thank all of our students, who accepted the many changes to daily life required by the pandemic, from different schedules, study halls, face coverings, weekly testing, cancelled programs, gobs of Purell, as well as a dramatically different lunch experience,” he said. “Second, I wish to express my appreciation to all our parents. Never has it been so abundantly clear, that not only do our students want to be in-school, but also our parents want them to be here, on campus, physically engaged in the learning process face to face (in masks of course) each and every day.”
Then GSB Kindergarten Teacher Diane Lipnickey recognized GSB’s Lifers and their parents, who received a rose. Lifers are those who attended GSB since first grade or before, include: Bart Benoit, Christopher Lake, Connor Udoff, Laura Howard, Sophie Nourbakhsh, Natalie Sturman, Cody Torgovnik, Liam Jones, Caroline Solondz, Stella O’Connor, Zoe O’Connor, Sydney Lapper, Ava Escousse, Anneliese Gattoni, and Alek Tobias.
Next, in keeping with GSB’s tradition that students serve as commencement speakers, four graduating seniors presented their personal reflections. Speakers included Laura Howard, Caroline Solondz, Madelyn Most, and GSB Student Government President Travian McNair, who recalled the year’s best of times and quoted the 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
The following GSB graduates were then recognized with this year’s awards and prizes:
Award and Prize Recipients:
GERRY CIRILLO PRIZE IN THE FINE ARTS: Stella O’Connor
Initiated by alumni from the late ‘70’s, this prize was established in 2017 to honor and recognize Gerry Cirillo, who spent nearly 40 years at GSB as an art teacher, many of those as Chair of the Fine Arts Department. He also served as Director of Admission and Dean of Students and coach. The prize is given to the most outstanding senior based on participation in the Fine Arts program and the quality of work over a four-year period.
LISA SCHMIDT MUSIC AWARD: Zoe O’Connor
Established by Lisa Schmidt of the Class of 1974, this award is given to a senior in recognition of his or her musical talent and contributions, and to inspire growth and participation in the field of music.
PERFORMING ARTS DEPARTMENTAL AWARD: Lauren Fabio
This book award is given annually to a senior who has shown exceptional dedication to the performing arts at GSB through successful completion of departmental course work and regular participation in co-curricular activities and performances throughout their four years in the Upper School.
COMPUTER SCIENCE AWARD: Dylan Towle
This honor is awarded each year to a senior who demonstrated interest, aptitude, and exemplary achievement in computer science throughout his/her years at Gill St. Bernard’s School. He/she excelled in computer programming, computer-aided design, or both.
PATRICIA LEE GAUCH AWARD FOR CREATIVE WRITING: Laura Howard
The award is presented to that senior whose inventive voice, artful storytelling, and disciplined work contribute to the literary life of Gill St. Bernard's School. Established in 2014, and endowed by former students and colleagues, the Patricia Lee Gauch Award annually recognizes Patti Gauch, a cherished English teacher at Gill during the 1970s, by celebrating her joyful embrace of life and learning.
PEAPACK GLADSTONE BANK AWARD: Sydney Lapper
The prize is provided by Peapack Gladstone Bank and awarded to the senior with the highest four-year average in English.
FRANCES B. ROHN MEMORIAL AWARD: Madeline Ricciardulli
The award is named for a highly respected teacher of mathematics for many years at The Gill School and is given to the student who achieved the highest four-year average in mathematics.
CAROL J. HEANEY MEMORIAL AWARD: Michael Isserow
Given in memory of Carol J. Heaney, a treasured science teacher for many years at GSB, this award recognizes that student who demonstrated intellectual curiosity, outstanding academic achievement, and superior promise in the study of science throughout his or her high school years.
HISTORY DEPARTMENT AWARD: Claire Brouillard
The award is a book prize presented annually to the senior as having done the most outstanding work in history.
WORLD LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT AWARD: Hayley Armstrong
The award is a book prize presented to the senior with the highest four-year average in either French, Spanish or Latin.
JOYCE CREASEY MEMORIAL AWARD: Hayley Armstrong
The award is given to the senior female athlete whose ability, leadership, sportsmanship, and team loyalty distinguished her and contributed the most to our athletic program.
HAROLD D. NICHOLLS MEMORIAL AWARD: Micaah Garnette
The award is presented to the outstanding senior male athlete, in memory of Harold D. Nicholls: teacher, coach, Senior Master, and Headmaster from 1917 to 1957 (“A good friend and wise counselor to generations of boys at St. Bernard’s”).
BENNETT SERVICE AWARD: Sophia Laboy
Given in memory of Caryl and J. Gordon Bennett, the award was established by the Gill School Parents Committee to honor the student who best demonstrates, through active community service, the school's concern, and consideration for others.
SUSAN H. STOVER AWARD: Ava Escousse
Beginning with the Class of 2003, this award honors Susan H. Stover, who served for many years as Director of Development at the school. It is presented annually to the senior who demonstrates the highest level of service and loyalty to Gill St. Bernard’s.
LINDABURY SENIOR HONOR: Travian McNair
As part of the senior gift to the school, the Class of 2007 established this award. It encourages future seniors in understanding the importance of community as part of GSB’s core values. Emphasis is on mentoring and always treating everyone with respect. The prize is awarded to the senior who made an outstanding effort to positively affect the experiences of underclassmen, working hard to be a person of inclusion, demonstrating compassion and thoughtfulness, and acting as a role model and leader. This recipient is a senior who exemplifies the characteristics that underclassmen seek to emulate.
CAPORUSSO/DeLUCA AWARD: Caroline Solondz
The award was established by two graduates of the Class of 1996 to honor a member of the senior class who provided distinctive leadership to both the class and school during his/her years as an Upper School student in extracurricular activities.
JULIAN T. BROWN CUP: Travian McNair
A St. Bernard's tradition, the cup has been awarded annually since 1913. It is the highest honor that may be attained by a young man at GSB. This student is chosen from the graduating class based on his character throughout his years at the school. He worked for the good of the school, showed thoughtfulness and consideration, and maintained his integrity. It is this student more than any other who exemplifies the characteristics of faith, honor, and consideration.
ELIZABETH GILL AWARD: Laura Howard
This is the highest honor that may be attained by a young woman at GSB. This student is chosen from the graduating class based on her character throughout her years at the school. She worked for the good of the school, showed thoughtfulness and consideration, and maintained her integrity. It is this student, more than any other, who exemplifies the characteristics of faith, honor, and consideration. Part of the tradition is that the recipient receives a red rose.
JEAN LOIZEAUX AWARD: Claire Brouillard and Ava Escousse
Named for Jean Loizeaux, a beloved and influential teacher at GSB for 45 years, this award is given to the senior who earned the top academic record.
In addition, the United States Army and Air Force honored Caroline Sameth and Zachary Yekta with Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Scholarships.
Cum Laude: Hayley Armstrong, Ella Baker, Adam Berrocal, Claire Brouillard, Kasey Callanan, Sean Carlucci, Ava Escousse, Emily Gnoy, Laura Howard, Michael Isserow, Sofia Laboy, Sydney Lapper, Joseph Lavoie, Sarah Pambianchi, Madeline Ricciardulli, Olivia Rubano, Chengyu “Ethan” Shi, Ryan Shin, Caroline Solondz, and Cody Torgovnik.
Founded in 1906, the Cum Laude Society recognizes excellence, justice, and honor in secondary schools. An association of 382 chapters worldwide, membership within cum laude is granted to those students who rank among the top 20 percent of their graduating class.
Honor Board: Ava Escousse, Laura Howard, Sofia Laboy, Simeon Davis, and Allen La Tournous.
To support Gill St. Bernard’s Honor System and the core values inherent to it, a student-faculty Honor Board was established in the Upper School. This group commits to promote honor and integrity throughout our community and helps to evaluate cases of student misconduct. Five seniors are selected each year to serve in what is considered one of the most important student-leadership positions at the school.
St. Bernard’s Chair of Excellence in Teaching Award:
For the Chair of Excellence in Teaching Award, Mr. Rowell presented this year’s honor to the entire GSB faculty: “In this year, a year unprecedented in its scope and its demands on every teacher here, summer training in the use of different technologies, iPads, cameras, Teams, Zoom, and more, working with students in person and online, even teaching online exclusively on some occasions, creating new methods, adjusting curriculum, and always going above and beyond, this year the SBS award for excellence in teaching goes to all of our Gill St. Bernard's teachers. Each one will receive this wonderful miniature chair in recognition of their collective efforts.”
Senior Class Gift:
The senior class raised $1,200, which Laura Howard and Simeon Davis presented for the GSB Fund.
Conferral of Diplomas:
After Upper School Director Dr. Joel Coleman conferred diplomas to the Class of 2021, Board of Trustees Chair Mr. Doug Matthews officially certified the class: “By the authority vested in me as chair of the Board of Trustees of Gill St. Bernard’s School, and on behalf of its trustees and faculty, I declare you bona fide graduates of the school and entitled to all its rights and privileges thereunto appertaining. The diploma you received is evidence of our actions.”
The Benediction was performed by The Reverend Dr. Paul H. Saddler ’69. Reverend Saddler, who presides at the Twelfth Street Christian Church in Washington, D.C., also gave the Invocation. Bagpipers of St. Ann’s of Hampton Pipes and Drums led processional and the recessional.
Congratulations to all!!