Prize Day 2012

A windy gray morning met the start of Prize Day. But like clockwork, as the graduates—decked out in boaters and striped florets—stepped out of the Chapel to start the ceremony, the skies cleared and sun broke through the clouds. Greeting the seniors as they stepped two-by-two into the tent were nearly 1,400 people gathered to celebrate their accomplishments.

In addition to awarding School prizes, Headmaster Rick Commons also took a moment to acknowledge and thank the teachers who will be leaving the Circle this year, ending with a standing ovation in honor of retiring science teacher Hoyt Taylor P’98, ’01, ’06, who will decamp to North Carolina with his wife and former faculty member Mary Ellen Sweeney.

The ceremony also included the presentation of the School’s highest alumni award, the Distinguished Grotonian, to Dr. Ward H. Goodenough ’37, parent of two Groton graduates and grandparent of two more. Dr. Goodenough was unable to attend Reunion Weekend, when the award is usually presented, but knew he would be on the Circle for the graduation of his grandson, William Goodenough ’12. William read his grandfather’s remarks, which included a poem that Dr. Goodenough, a noted professor of anthropology, wrote in response to his academic papers being lost at sea. Three generations of Goodenough men were on the platform together—a touching testament to the power of Groton to draw families back to its heart.

One of the highlights of the day was the student speech, by James “Jamie” Billings. Known for wearing a backward baseball cap in all the wrong places, he began his speech by removing his boater and noting the irony of the moment. In a speech that captured his profound gratitude for Groton, Jamie noted a moment during his Third Form orientation when he was tapped to eat a Scudder’s “Z-bomb” in less than a minute as part of a scavenger hunt. Describing the giant burger as a “food item,” he used the story to illustrate how Groton students at times get caught up in the pressure of the moment, no matter how ridiculous, and lose their sense of perspective. He reminded his formmates that Groton helped them define “…not only what they wanted to do, but also who we want to be.” Popping his boater back atop his head, he left the stage to thunderous applause both for the messenger and the message.

The ceremony ended with Headmaster Commons challenging the Form of 2012 to “Go Well!”

See photos from Prize Day.

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