By Leslie Bowen
This June, Dedham Country Day School concluded a remarkable year of in-person learning despite the pandemic. After a year of social distancing and mask requirements, the Dedham Country Day School community finally all came together in-person to celebrate the conclusion of its 118th school year and the graduation of the Class of 2021 with two outdoor events.
On Wednesday, June 9, the entire school community assembled in front of the Lower School to celebrate the end of the year, one marked by unprecedented challenges as we adjusted to learning “pods” and remote all-school gatherings. As part of the event, Lower School Head Carla Haith presented the Alice Dietsch Award to fifth-grader Anders Ulrich. The award is given annually to a Lower School student in honor of Alice Dietsch, a DCD faculty member from 1930 to 1976, for Kindness, Curiosity, and Love of Learning. Head of School Allison Webster commented on the year’s events and recognized departing faculty and anniversaries.
On Thursday, June 10, families of the thirty-six graduates gathered on the front fields in socially distanced “pods” supplied with chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy the program and celebrate their children’s accomplishments.
Mark Epker, president of the Board of Trustees and the father of a graduating student, gave the Trustees’ Greeting.
The Class of 2021 speaker Brooks Sjostrom reflected on his experiences as a student. He compared his DCD journey since arriving in third grade to climbing a mountain, reminiscing about the trip to Pinkham Notch. “Whether you came to DCD in Pre-K and started at the very bottom of this mountain, or came here in 7th grade and started almost at the top, we all made it here,” he said. “Now we are moving on, to climb our own mountains, and the memories that we have made on this climb will give us strength for the next.”
Middle School assistant teacher Laurie Mills presented the Charlotte Lowell Award to Caroline Shih. The award has been given annually to a graduating eighth grader since 1927 in memory of Charlotte Lowell, 1918–1927, for Friendliness, Kindness, and Unselfishness. Caroline had the unique distinction of also receiving the Dietsch Award as a fifth-grader.
Middle School head Nate Buffum presented the Lisa Sutherland Award to Neil Burmeister. The award is given annually to a graduating eighth grader in memory of Lisa Sutherland, 1960–1975, for Excellence in Academics, Athletics, and the Arts.
Photography teacher Dee Tran gave the faculty address. “To say the least it’s been a difficult year,” she said. “But you made it through and I think it’s safe to say you can accomplish anything at this point. However, I will not promise you that it’s all a breeze from here. Things will not always come to you easy but that’s normal because we need challenges to make ourselves better. We need obstacles to overcome so that we can look back and recognize our capabilities. No matter what life throws at us, please know that you’re not alone.”
Edna Etienne-Dupie gave a moving solo performance of the song “I will always love you,” made popular by Whitney Houston, bringing the audience to its feet as she hit every note beautifully.
Head of School Allison Webster honored departing families and recognized faculty members who had reached milestones in their years of service — Dan Balk (10 years), Stephanie Chiari (10 years), Lexi Jackson (20 years), Jane Rothwell (20 years), Lynne Mayard (25 years), and Alyssa Sinclair (25 years). She also recognized departing faculty: Meredith Laban, who will be moving to a new role as Regional Executive Director of Horizons after 10 years leading the DCD program; Kathy Felcon (17 years); Leslie Bowen (18 years), and Jane Rothwell (20 years).
Reflecting on the metaphor of a compass, Ms. Webster told students, “We found our way to the safe harbor of the end of the school year thanks to the capacities, strengths, and sensibilities you and the adults in your life all brought forward during this time.”
The ceremonies concluded with the presentation of diplomas and remarks about each student’s accomplishments and unique strengths by Middle School Head Nate Buffum.