fbpx Congratulations, class of 2019! | Phillips Exeter Academy

Congratulations, class of 2019!

Exeter celebrates the 238th commencement.

Nicole Pellaton
June 2, 2019
Exeter students at graduation

On June 2, members of the class of 2019 gathered with families, friends, and Academy faculty and staff for Exeter’s 238th commencement. Joy and smiles marked the ceremony honoring 308 graduates.

Watch the full ceremony on YouTube.


Senior Janeva Dimen welcomed the crowd with a simple question: “How can I say goodbye to Exeter?” Dimen talked about the mixed emotions of the day – both joy and sorrow – and how Exeter has become her home, her family. She described scenes from her dorm, Dunbar, that she will never forget and the transformation from her prep self to the graduating senior she has become.

“As I look around the quad today, I am so proud to have spent the last four years with all of you. … We are the class of future Olympians, Nobel Prize winners, influential activists, Oscar and Grammy nominees, and more. I am constantly impressed by the class of 2019,” Dimen said to her classmates. “I can’t wait to come back in five years to be surrounded by all of you and spend time together again. … Because Exeter isn’t a place, it’s a community. And so, this is not a goodbye, but a see you later.”

Janeva Dimen speaks at graduation.

In farewell, Dimen added: “We may be sad to no longer be constantly surrounded by our friends and teachers, our sources of stability, but graduation is also a time to rejoice in our growth over our time here, and to rejoice in all of the connections we have made. Seniors, in a few minutes, we will be former students, now alumni, and I will be proud to call Exeter my alma mater because I am proud of everything this group of people has done to improve Exeter and to change the world. Therefore let us rejoice.”

Principal William Rawson at Exeter graduation.

“It has been a great joy to share Exeter with you during my first year as principal and your last year as students,” said Principal William Rawson to the seniors seated on the Academy Building lawn. He thanked them for their commitment to improving the school, particularly in the areas of inclusivity, equity and environmental stewardship.

“You have spoken up when you perceived gaps between our actions and our values. … You have worked hard in service to the broader community of which our school is a part. All in the spirit of non sibi.”

During his brief remarks, Rawson revisited some of this year’s assembly presenters who, each in a different way, gave of themselves to make a purposeful impact in the world: Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson; Stephen Robert ’58, founder of Sources of Hope; author Roland Merullo ’71; LGBTQ+ activist Allan Gilmour ’52; Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms; Pulitzer Prize novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen; Stanford professor and diabetes researcher Dr. Seung Kim ’81; media executive Alex Okosi ’94; and retired faculty member Kathy Nekton.

Rawson asked students to consider the common thread that unites these people: “Intellect alone — thinking with your brain alone — is not enough. Thinking with your heart — empathy — is equally important, indeed essential, to living a purposeful and meaningful life. Knowledge and goodness.”

“Going forward, you will not be special merely because you are graduates of Phillips Exeter Academy,” Rawson added. “You will be special because of what you do, and how you treat your fellow human beings. Value all work, and respect the dignity of every human life — every day, all the time — and you are sure to do well in what our Deed of Gift describes as the ‘the great end and real business of living.’”

“You all belong here. You will always belong here,” Rawson said in conclusion. “And just as you will always belong here, so too will you always belong to each other.”

Watch the full speech:

Rawson was assisted on the podium by Trustee Sally Jutabha Michaels ’82, Dean of Faculty Ellen Wolff, and seniors Shaan Bhandarkari and Elizabeth Yang. He acknowledged the contributions of the retiring faculty: Kwasi Boadi, Ahmed Jebari, Tom Ramsey and Tom Seidenberg.

The string quartet — seniors Sun Yu Gordon Chi, violin; Adrian Venzon, violin; Claire McGrath, viola; and upper Sophia Cho, cello — played as students processed to their seats.

“The Road Home” was performed by The Concert Choir Seniors: Luca Cantone, Gwyneth Crossman, Katherine Denny, Meredith Goyette, Tommy Kim, John Martel, Dhruva Nistane, Makinrola Orafidiya, Hanna Pak, Madeleine Potter, Kristen Richards, Emeline Scales, Catherine Skinner, Jack Stewart and Dylan Yin.

Class Marshals Sumit Chandra, Grace Gray, Bryce Morales and Tina Wang escorted fellow members of the class of 2019 to their seats.

We wish a wonderful summer to the great class of 2019!

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Once more, with feeling. Congrats, 2019.

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Here's a list of graduation awards and prizes:

The Yale Cup, awarded each year by the Aurelian Honor Society of Yale University to the member of the senior class who best combines the highest standards of character and leadership with excellence in his studies and athletics: Rajrishi Das.

The Ruth and Paul Sadler ’23 Cup, awarded each year to that member of the senior class who best combines the highest standards of character and leadership with excellence in her studies and athletics: Ogechi Nwankwoala.

The Perry Cup, established by the class of 1945 in honor of Dr. Lewis Perry, eighth principal of the Academy, and given annually to a senior who has shown outstanding qualities of leadership and school spirit: Juliana Merullo.

The Williams Cup, established in memory of George Lynde Richardson Jr. ’37, and given annually to a student who, having been in the Academy four years, has, by personal qualities, brought distinction to Phillips Exeter: Bryce Morales.

The Eskie Clark Award, given annually to that scholarship student in the graduating class who, through hard work and perseverance, has excelled in both athletics and scholarship in a manner exemplified by Eskie Clark of the class of 1919: Jonah Johnson.

The Thomas H. Cornell Award, based on a vote by the senior class, is awarded annually at graduation to that member of the graduating class who best exemplifies the Exeter spirit: Grace Gray.

The Multicultural Leadership Prize is awarded annually to that member of the graduating class who has most significantly contributed to educating the community about, and fostering greater understanding around, topics of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, religion, spirituality, or other aspects of identity: Adrian Venzon.

The Cox Medals, given by Oscar S. Cox Esq., in memory of his father, Jacob Cox, are awarded each year to the five members of the graduating class who, having been two or more years in the Academy, have attained the highest scholastic rank:

Yasmina Abukhadra
Mark Blekherman
Evan Vogelbaum

Elizabeth Yang
“Tony” Junze Ye

The Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence, given to that member of the graduating class who, having been two or more years in the Academy, is recognized on the basis of scholarship as holding the first rank: Mark Blekherman.