Members of the Class of 2018 graduated from Woodberry Forest School on May 26, 2018. The celebration of the school's 129th class included the Commencement Address, the Amici Night awards ceremony, Baccalaureate, and Commencement.
This year's Commencement speaker was Mr. Dan Ritchie '50, a leader in the worlds of academia, arts, and business. The native of China Grove, North Carolina graduated from Woodberry and then went on to Harvard, where he earned both an undergraduate degree and a masters degree. After a stint in the United State Army, Mr. Ritchie went to work for Lehman Brothers. He then joined MCA in Hollywood, eventually rising to the role of chief financial officer. Following several entrepreneurial ventures, Mr. Ritchie was hired as chief executive officer of Westinghouse Broadcasting, a role he held for eight years. After retiring from that job, he was asked to assume the chancellorship of the University of Denver. Over sixteen years he transformed the university's culture and campus. He held the job without pay. Following his second retirement, he went on to serve as CEO of the Denver Center for Performing Arts, again without pay, for more than a decade.
In his remarks Mr. Ritchie focused on the power of education. He told the graduating class that he has wanted to quit high school at age fifteen, only to be persuaded by his father to find a school that would challenge him -- they eventually found Woodberry Forest. "And thank goodness, for Woodberry is what made Harvard and all of the things I've done since then possible," Mr. Ritchie said.
Maxwell Johns ’18, senior prefect, also offered remarks. He noted that “our lives here operated largely independent of the outside world. We were taught to put down the cell phone and the remote controller in order to make personal connections in a world that is becoming increasingly more digital. We learned the importance of telling the truth in the age of fake news, of listening in a time when everyone wants to talk. We often can’t see how different we are until someone from the outside comes in.”
In his valedictory address at Commencement the following morning, Jack Stone ’18 compared himself to a crash test dummy. "So is the progression of Woodberry. We come here dummies, both literally and metaphorically, but by the time we leave, we’re street legal, ready to tackle life. We’ve got the seal of approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; we have our diplomas from Woodberry Forest. But like any automobile, we’re still liable to wrecks even after leaving the test track. It’s inevitable that I’ll continue to have crash test moments throughout my life. But they will not be catastrophic. And I know this because I will be an alum of Woodberry Forest School, where I have had the privilege of embracing my failures in the most supportive community possible."
Several major awards were given during the Amici Night awards ceremony and at Commencement. Steven Stancill ’74, who is retiring from the faculty after thirty-four years of service as a teacher, coach, and administrator, received a Distinguished Service Award. R. Marks Arnold ’69 and Tom Darden ’73 were also recipients of Distinguished Service Awards. The George R. O’Connor Prize for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Mr. Curtis Phillips, who is returning to full-time teaching and coaching after two years as the academic dean.
Woodberry Forest admits students of any race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, and national or ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs. The school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.