Woodberry Forest School celebrated its 126th graduation on the front steps of The Residence on May 22 - 23, 2015.
Friday evening's commencement address was delivered by Donald Antrim ’77, a writer whose publications include a memoir, The Afterlife
, three novels including Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
, a collection of short stories, and frequent contributions to The New Yorker
. Educated at Brown University, Donald Antrim is an associate professor in the MFA writing program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. He was among the 2013 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the "genius grant." Mr. Antrim spoke of his joy in reconnecting with Woodberry a year ago when he spent a week in residence leading a workshop with some of the school's best student writers. He shared his own story of his bout with debilitating depression; his eventual return to life as a writer, doing what he calls the "hardest work I've ever done," brings him both confusion and love. As a writer, he told the graduating class, "I have a problem to work on for the rest of my life," and he urged them to find life's work which similarly challenges them and brings them joy.
Mark Foley, co-chair of the Sixth Form Parents' and Grandparents' Gift committee, presented the school with two gifts, representing 100 percent parent participation. They gathered over $523,000 to honor the members of the graduating class by naming the Class of 2015 Lobby in the school's new Math, Computer Science, and Dining facility and by establishing the Class of 2015 Financial Aid Endowment.
Christian Zaytoun, senior prefect, and Tim Sheng, valedictorian, also offered remarks. Christian announced the Sixth Form Gift, a one-time four year donation to the Amici Fund, Woodberry's annual fund, and shared his reflections on the difficulty of describing the Woodberry experience. "I can't tell you what the worst day of Woodberry is and neither can I tell you what the best day is, because articulating the experience of Woodberry is impossible," he told his fellow graduates. "And that is what makes the piece of paper and handshake with Dr. Hulsey so special tomorrow." And Tim reminded his classmates of the many changes and improvements the class has seen during its years at the Forest, while still maintaining the values of its 126-year history. "The great thing about today's Woodberry," Tim said, "is that our long-standing tradition, which originated from teaching a few boys who grew up on this farm, is now expanded and shared among thousands of young men from different parts of the nation, different parts of the world, of different cultures, different skin colors, and different social backgrounds."
Significant awards included Distinguished Service Awards presented to Jack Tankersley ’68 and Randy Hudgins ’71, the J. Carter Walker Award to William Armfield ’52, and the George R. O'Connor Prize for Excellence in Teaching to John Amos. Christian Zaytoun received the prestigious Archer Christian Memorial Medal.
Congratulations to the ninety-four members of the Class of 2015.
See a listing of the 2015 Graduation Awards