Kingswood Oxford's 112th Commencement - Kingswood Oxford

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May 31, 2024

Kingswood Oxford’s 112th Commencement

There’s something magical about the campus on the morning of graduation as the seniors begin to stream in dressed in their graduation attire, gather their bouquets, pin roses on labels, snap photos, and hold on tight to their friends. The morning of May 24, with the dappled light streaming through the canopy of trees on the Senior Green, was just as special as the 111 commencements that preceded it for our 85 graduates. Tianyu Zheng was awarded the Dux Prize, the student with the highest grade point average at the earlier Prize Ceremony, and there were 17 Cum Laude recipients. Nineteen students were recruited to play sports at the collegiate level.


Ava Cashman ’24 introduced Upper School English teacher David Hild as the keynote speaker. This was Hild’s final year at KO as he retires from teaching and coaching, and his speech marked a bittersweet moment for him and the many students he impacted over the course of his 31-year tenure at the school. He admitted to those gathered, “I loved being a kid, and fought hard not to grow up; I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that I am retiring.”


Hild shared that he first came to KO as a student in 1975, loving his experience in a “community [that] created fierce loyalty and belonging,” only to return in 1993 at the behest of Head of School Lee Levinson to head the football program. During his first ten years as head coach and dean of students, Hild leaned into his role as disciplinarian, learning over time that you can “best reach students through positivity and kindness. Kind words are jewels that live in the heart and soul. To that end, I sought to devote as much time as I could to my students because how better to show them kindness.”


In his charge to the seniors, Hild emphasized the importance of joining the “team” – one built on communication, kindness, and empathy. He said that research has proven that those people who live the healthiest lives are those ingrained into a community, however, one defines it. Hild recounted an amusing anecdote of his experience at Team Tobati in Paraguay, where he and his group were tapped to perform a dance to “Despacito” in front of 2,000 people. Despite his and his team’s dance limitations, they went all in, encouraging each other as they misstepped through the routine. The lesson learned? “Being on a team makes you give,” he said. “Your focus isn’t on “me,” but “we.” You find things within yourself that you didn’t know you had; you better yourself and the people that you are with by being a member of the community.”


Hild related that while a coach, his players wore a basic grey T-shirt with an encircled black letter S, M, L, or XL on the chest. The “grey T” was the great equalizer, making you one of the guys, not a stand-out. Donning the simple T reinforced the group over the self. “So whatever team you’re on, frame your role as helping others more than looking out for yourself,” he said. In this “contest of giving,” Hild said, the team can reach the greatest heights.


Ever the coach, Hild ended his speech to the seniors like a pep talk to his players. “So, tirelessly seek to help and support your team. Even the conscious act of trying to determine not “what you want,” but “what the team needs,” betters you. And as I learned time and again over my teaching career, what’s best for the community is what’s best for the individual.”


In his charge to the Senior Class, Head of School Tom Dillow stressed to the students not to tke the next four years of college for granted. He shared the extraordinary privilege they have to be able to attend college, as many young people around the world face government restrictions to obtain an education or economic hardships to obtain an education.


In his second charge to the class, Dillow told the students not to view their college education as a means to an end – a way to make money – but rather an “investment in becoming fully human.” To achieve this goal, Dillow recommended the students surround themselves with people who share diverse perspectives and mindsets. “Challenge your own assumptions and ask questions relentlessly,” he said. “The world needs more critical thinkers and it needs more empathy. Learn to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and see the world from their perspective.”


In his final charge to the class, Dillow told the students to choose work that makes them happy and gives them purpose. “Remember that real happiness, indeed, living a successful life, comes from developing meaningful relationships, finding purpose and in service to others.”

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KO and a Cup of Joe – Thursday Mornings throughout the Summer

Join us for a brief information session to learn about the academic and co-curricular offerings at Kingswood Oxford School during the summer: June 20, 27, July 11, 18, 25, August 1, and 8 at 8:30 a.m. in Roberts Building’s lower lobby. For more information, contact our Admissions Office at (860) 727-5000. What a Difference a Day Makes!