June 01, 2022
KO Celebrates its 110th Commencement
Kingswood Oxford’s Class of 2022, comprised of 98 students, was conferred their diplomas in the 110th Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 27. Zeno Chen was the Dux Prize winner, the student with the highest grade point average, and there were 20 Cum Laude recipients.
Caroline Dawson ’22 introduced the keynote speaker, Upper School English teacher Ron Monroe who is set to retire in June after a 35-year tenure at KO. Monroe drew analogies between his own retirement and the students moving on after graduation. Both have new friends, new experiences, and new challenges awaiting them. Ever the English teacher, Monroe compared the students’ journey to one where they are the authors of their lives and stories. Remarking that the chapter at KO has now been written, Monroe said the future awaits the students to pen new chapters in their lives.
“While I imagine that you will be yourself, whoever that is to you, this is also a time when you can change things up or just simply realize what goes into making the best possible version, the best possible story of yourself,” he said. “Regardless, you are the protagonist of your own story, and as such, you should be intentional about the role you ‘play’ in your own story.”
Although the students will create their own narrative, Monroe reminded the students that they are not the sole characters in the story. Throughout their lives, the students will have the opportunity to make meaningful connections with others and impact them. “Be open to others and what they have to offer, be aware of their impact on you and your story, but also be aware of your impact on them, for you have constructed important connections to the stories of your friends and families,” he said. Monroe recounted a time when a student thanked him for a passing conversation he had in the hall with her. To Monroe, it was a simple exchange, but to the student, his words made a difference. “As other people in our story come and go throughout our lives, this interweaving reminds us of how we are part of something enduring, something much larger than ourselves.”
Monroe reminded the audience that every good story has plot twists and that the students should expect and embrace them. For Monroe, his plot twist involved taking a job as a teacher upon his college graduation which led him to an enriching experience. “Our paths and our stories are our own, unique in the complexity of the experiences we have had and of those experiences to come,” he said.
Head of School Tom Dillow offered a charge to the departing class and exhorted them to rely on the core values and lessons they learned at KO as they carry on in their journey. He acknowledged the upheavals due to the pandemic and other world events, and he told them that KO’s foundational principles “will continue to serve as guiding lights to you as you walk this earth, pursuing excellence, involvement, and integrity.” He asked the class to help heal and repair our nation and world by “putting the interests of the nation, of the common good, ahead of the interests of party, recognizing that our democracy relies on the principle of compromise to function properly, committing yourself to a rigorous standard of inquiry and critical thinking – be suspicious and skeptical of facts and truths until you have had the chance to evaluate the sources, and weigh them carefully,” he said.
Above all, Dillow told the class to practice loving kindness, the foundation of all major religions. “If you can extend kindness to others, you will be in possession of a universal language that will help you connect with anyone in the world,” he said. Dillow asked the students and the attendees to practice a mindfulness meditation during the ceremony where the crowd was to direct positive feelings and well-wishes to an individual they were thinking of. He reminded them that when they encounter anger and hatred in the world, they should respond with loving-kindness toward others.