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Jun 06, 2018

St. Stephen’s 68th Graduation Exercises

On the morning of Saturday, May 26, the St. Stephen’s Episcopal School community and special guests gathered in Chapel to celebrate the school’s 68th Graduation Exercises and honor the Class of 2018.

Head of School Chris Gunnin welcomed the graduates and their families to this important milestone occasion. “On behalf of the faculty and staff, I applaud you for the work you have done, for the skills and concepts you have mastered, and for the young men and women you are well on your way to becoming,” he said. “By every measure, you are committed to excellence, you are eager to engage in the world, and you are ready to make your mark.

“In true Spartan tradition, you have made it a part of your lives — even at an early age — to find ways to make the world a better place,” Gunnin said. “You are engaged, aware and not afraid to roll up your sleeves, confront injustices or tackle imperfections. For those of us who have had the privilege of guiding you through your St. Stephen’s journey, we have marveled at your energy and enthusiasm, and we applaud your resilience and conviction.”      

Following his remarks, Gunnin was followed at the podium by science teacher Johnny Wilson, who was chosen by the Class of 2018 to address them at graduation. He acknowledged to the crowd how difficult it had been to script his speech. “I’ve tried to live my life unscripted,” noted Wilson, who will retire this month after 29 years at St. Stephen’s.

In an emotionally charged talk, Wilson counseled the graduates on how to craft a meaningful life. “Trust yourself and embrace who you are,” he advised. “We are all our own worst critics and commonly focus on our mistakes and shortcomings. Life is not a competition. It is about embracing ourselves and celebrating our strengths while accepting our weaknesses. Each of you is awesome in your own way, and now it is time to begin to truly discover that fact.

“Walk with grace and courage through life,” Wilson said. “Don’t be afraid to go off the high dive! Don’t be afraid to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone or take the harder road. Don’t fear change; fear complacency.

“Care about life — yours and others,” he added. “Don’t just swim on the surface; spend time in the deep end. Immerse yourself in life. Get emotionally involved, and be present. But know that to get involved in direct service to others is dangerous, because it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. You will never be able to quit caring again! But what you get in return is priceless.”

Following Wilson’s speech and the presentation of major awards and diplomas, Isaac Tilin ’18 presented the senior speech. A long-standing tradition at graduation, the senior speaker is elected by the outgoing class to summarize their collective school experience.

“While I’ve always known that St. Stephen’s is a special place, it’s only been in these past few months that I’ve learned what it is that makes it so special,” Tilin acknowledged. “At a big high school, you can have 700 kids in your grade, and there will be people who graduate with you who you’ve never even seen. But at St. Stephen’s, we all know each other through athletics or theater, art or classes. More importantly, we care about each other, which I think is what makes this place so special.

“I don’t think I could ever express how thankful I am to be a part of a community made up of…people who inspire me every day to do my best and follow what I believe in — whether that’s history, math, ceramics or cross-country,” he said. “And that’s the thing; nearly every student is well-rounded because teachers and classmates alike encourage us to apply our knowledge to life outside of the classroom and support us when we choose to take risks.

“We have been shaped by our time here and our conversations with teachers and students alike,” Tilin concluded. “I couldn’t be more proud to be moving onto the next chapter of our lives with a group that I know is destined to change the world in a very powerful way. Thank you all for everything. You will always have a special place in my heart.”

St. Stephen’s 68th Graduation closed with a recitation of the school prayer and the benediction, led by the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Congratulations, Class of 2018!

Medals and Honors

The Bishop John E. Hines Medal is named after the Rt. Rev. John Hines, founder of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, who was a man of extraordinary vision and bold action. The Bishop Hines Medal is awarded to the member of the senior class who maintained the highest academic standing throughout his or her junior and senior years. The 2018 Bishop Hines Medal was presented to Hayden Mast.

Named for the school’s first headmaster, The William Brewster Medal was established in 1960 by the St. Stephen’s faculty to recognize a member of the senior class who has made the greatest total contribution to the life of the school. The recipient is an engaged and talented student — strong across all disciplines and genuinely interested in “the life of the mind.” Ava Mouton-Johnston was named the 2018 Brewster Medal recipient.

The Dobbie Leverton Fenton Medal is awarded annually to a member of the senior class who promotes the values of social justice. This year’s Dobbie Leverton Fenton Medal was awarded to Blossom Maduafokwa.

The Velberta Asher Towner Award in the Performing Arts is named for “Bert” Towner, a member of the St. Stephen’s faculty from 1958 to1984 and a longtime chair of Fine Arts. This award is presented to a student who has excelled in the performing arts — music, drama and dance. The 2018 Towner Award was presented to Brendan Whyburn and Susannah Joffe.

The Don Cunningham Memorial Award is presented to a female and male senior who have lettered in three sports in their senior year and have demonstrated outstanding talent, leadership, dedication and sportsmanship. The 2018 Cunningham Award was presented to Ava Mouton-Johnston and Franklin Lassandro.

Diplomas with High Honors
Hayden Mast
Harry Sage

Diplomas with Honors
Bella Almanza
Nevin Arimilli
Patrick Atherton
Miranda Ayres
Madeline Casas
Cecilia Cosby
Allie Goldreyer
Natalia Gutierrez
Lindsey Hentschel
Grace Hooker
Sofia Hsu
Mason Jester
Susannah Joffe
James Kyle
Jud Kyle
Blossom Maduafokwa
Grayson Matula
Joshua Morgan
Ava Mouton-Johnston
Serena Oh
Cat Orman
Ross Ostander
Rachel Parker
Katia Peppas
Rachel Schlesinger
Maya Shamir
Lea Silveira
San Sukuvut
Jonathan Tan
Eloise Thompson
Cameron Watkins
Natalee Weis
Isabel West
Bernie White
Angela Yang
Lucy Yang
Raymond Yang
Zach Young

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