Gill St. Bernard’s celebrated the Class of 2023 in the annual Commencement ceremony, held on Sunday, June 4, 2023, surrounded by enthusiastic family, friends, and community members.
Graduates processed into the athletic center to the traditional sound of St. Ann’s of Hampton Pipes and Drums before being welcomed by Head of School Sid Rowell.
“This year’s ceremony is particularly noteworthy as we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the merger of the Gill School for Girls and St. Bernard’s Episcopal School for Boys,” Mr. Rowell said.
“While each was rooted in the tradition of single-sex education, by the early 1970s, it was clear that a single, nonsectarian, coeducational institution was our future. And although not always easy, the Class of 1973 has come to learn what our seniors today inherently understand: we are stronger together than we are apart.”
The beautiful ceremony showcased many special moments such as Deacon Frank Owens, grandparent to Joshua Mulcahy ’23, delivering the opening invocation and closing benediction.
GSB Kindergarten Teacher Diane Lipnickey recognized GSB’s Lifers—students who have attended GSB since first grade or before—who included Riley Bittman, Austin Carey, Kate Chen, Jacob Cohen, Nickolas Gattoni, Patrick Henderlong, Nicholas Parlavecchio, Luke Ruggiero, James Schadt, Katherine Udoff, Philip Vayntrub, Sofia Walz, and Zackary Wendell.
In keeping with GSB’s tradition to invite students to serve as commencement speakers, six graduates, Riley Bittman, Shaniya Golden-Riddle, Desirae Hemans, Sophia Mariano, Rohan Nagpaul, and Lauren Peng-Rossiter, took the opportunity to stand before their classmates and share their personal, heartfelt reflections.
Various faculty and administrators then awarded the following Honors and Prizes to student recipients. These awards were in addition to the ones granted in the 2022-2023 Upper School Academic Awards on Wednesday, April 26.
Honors & Prize Descriptions
BENNETT SERVICE AWARD: Riley Bittman
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: Shaniya Golden-Riddle
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: Madeline Buynak
The Class of 2007 established this award to encourage future seniors to understand the importance of community at GSB. The prize is awarded to a senior who made an outstanding effort to positively affect the experiences of underclassmen, who acted as a role model and leader, and who was inclusive, compassionate, and thoughtful—the characteristics that underclassmen seek to emulate.
CAPORUSSO/DeLUCA AWARD: Riley Bittman
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 their years as an upper school student in extracurricular activities.
JOYCE CREASEY MEMORIAL AWARD: Elise Cantu
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: Nicholas Collins
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”).
JULIAN T. BROWN CUP: Luke Ruggiero
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: Lauren Peng-Rossiter
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: Kate Chen
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.
CUM LAUDE: Paige Brucker, Elise Cantu, Justin Carlucci, Kate Chen, Cambria Grossman, Anvika Hegde, Stephanie Lu, Sophia Mariano, Emma Moussally, Nicholas Parlavecchio, Akshay Patel, Laksh Patel, Lauren Peng-Rossiter, Oliver Rosenthal, Luke Ruggiero, Andrew Vollrath, Travis Xue were among the newly-inducted members of the Cum Laude Society.
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.
Service has always been the bedrock of the GSB experience, and as Mr. Rowell noted, what was most impressive about the Class of 2023 was their commitment to service. He recognized Riley Bittman, who turned the loss of his father into taking a leadership role in the battle against pancreatic cancer, and Elise Cantu, who will be matriculating to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy next year in order to serve her country.
“Genuine service to others, our nation, and the world, and the giving of yourself with no expectation of receiving anything in return doesn’t always get the recognition that it deserves,” Mr. Rowell said.
“Yet it is the central act of service and the sacrifice it requires, a sacrifice of self, that makes the greatest difference in life.”
Elise’s father, Miguel Cantu, who is a US Navy Commander and graduate of the Naval Academy, was invited forward to present her letter of appointment.
Mr. Rowell also recognized the members of the school’s Honor Board, Elise Cantu, Jack Ference, Shaniya Golden-Riddle, Desirae Hemans, and Lauren Peng-Rossiter, who were quiet leaders of the class and served the community well. The student-faculty Honor Board supports Gill St. Bernard’s Honor System and the core values inherent to it with a commitment to promote honor and integrity throughout our community and to help to evaluate cases of student misconduct. Five seniors are selected each year to serve on it, in what is considered one of the most important student-leadership positions at the school.
Recognition of service extended to faculty as well, with Manny Hercules receiving the St. Bernard’s Chair of Excellence in Teaching Award, and to trustees, with retiring Board of Trustee member Marianne Saladino receiving the GSB Medal.
The Chair of Excellence was established in 1991 by a group of St. Bernard’s School alumni in order to honor outstanding teachers at GSB and to recognize the profound impact that a good teacher can have on a student. The GSB Medal was established several years ago and has only been awarded four times. It honors the highest level of service that one can give the school.
Conferral of Diplomas:
After Upper School Director Dr. Joel Coleman conferred diplomas to the Class of 2023, 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.”
Congratulations to all our seniors and their family and friends. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, and we hope you will come back to visit us soon.
Please enjoy some photos from the event below and view the full gallery of photos through Bedrosian Photo.