56 graduate in The Webb School 151st commencement ceremony
56 graduate in The Webb School 151st commencement ceremony
rmitchell@webbschool.com

 

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The Webb School’s 56 seniors graduated during 151st commencement ceremony on May 29. Family and friends joined faculty and staff in honoring the class. Dr. Shilpy Dixit, a 2000 Webb graduate and Alumni Board member, was the guest speaker.

Graduation was preceded by Baccalaureate with Dr. Michael Edwards, Webb history teacher, coach, dorm parent and parent of a 2016 Webb alumna, as the speaker.

Head of School Ken Cheeseman welcomed those attending commencement and congratulated the graduates. Recognizing the parents, he added, “We are very grateful for your support throughout the years, and your trust in us. I am sure that your son or daughter is thankful for the opportunity that you have given to them.” 

“The class of 2021 is a very unique collection of individuals. This class is a medley of talents, skills, passions, and paths forward. We celebrate your accomplishments, timeliness with deadlines, and your futures,” Cheeseman told the class. “You have worked very hard to reach your academic goals, and you have been leaders on the playing fields, the courts, the courtroom (in mock trial competition) and on the stage. Your academic accomplishments include a National Merit Scholar, Chandler Vargas, many winners of national academic awards, and eight AP scholars. Your class is filled with talented musicians, actors, artists, and singers.”

Cheeseman remarked that “there has been personal success in athletics in the form of 14 All-District awards, seven All-Region awards, two All-State awards and one All-State MVP. He added that the class also provided team achievements, including bringing back a girls’ basketball program, a boys’ lacrosse program and track program to campus, and being part of the first 11-man football team, cheerleading team that won the State Championship Spirit Award, and boys’ golf team that went to state. The first time in school history, the boys’ basketball team made it to the state tournament four consecutive years, and the girls varsity basketball team became Webb's first state championship team.

Cheeseman commended the class saying, “Your last two years have been shaped by COVID-19, and yet, you lived with grit and persistence, and accomplished much. These are your memories, and no other decades can say they had the same experience as you, at Webb.”

Cheeseman introduced Dr. Dixit, a native Tennessean who currently serves as Program Director for Prevention and Sleep Health at the National Center on Sleep Disorders at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She did her undergraduate training at Tulane University, where she studied psychology and classics and went on to complete her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, where her research primarily focused on the detrimental effect of vitamin C deficiency in aging and neurodegenerative disease. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, she investigated the mechanistic relationship between Alzheimer’s Disease and seizure disorders, before earning a fellowship at NIH through the American Society for the Advancement of Science. After completing her undergraduate degree, she returned to Bell Buckle, and spent three years as a dorm head and science faculty member while completing her Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology, specifically investigating the role of cognitive-behavioral interventions in the classroom.

The guest speaker congratulated seniors and said, “You have worked so hard to get to this day, from classes and grades to extracurriculars to the colleges you’ve chosen -- there is immense pressure to have it figured it out by the time you get to graduation day. I remember sitting just where you are. I did not feel like I had it all figured out. As it turns out, I didn’t need to know at 18 what I would want or who I wanted to be 20 years later. She added, “I am not telling you to go blindly into the world and just hope for the best. … As a scientist, I have learned that your plan has to be flexible to allow for unexpected events that can change the outcomes. But how do you make a plan when you don’t know what you don’t know? You rely on your training and your values. You may not realize it, but your experiences at Webb have already shaped who you will become.” Dixit said that through the years she realized how Webb’s training and values helped her navigate new experiences and challenges throughout her life that took her from an initial plan to become a medical doctor because she likes science, helping people and financial security. Along the way, she realized she wanted to be a scientist.

“I would rather spend time learning what caused the disease than how to treat it,” she said. As a scientist, every day I get to engage in discussions about cutting-edge research with the scientific community, the needs and concerns of our patient advocates, and inform our public stakeholders about ways to safeguard our nation’s health. I like science, and I want to help people. I’m doing it.”

The Webb alum added, “It is not easy to transition careers, but the most valuable piece of advice I can give you is work your network. It is much easier to get in, if they know to look for you. But this also means you have to establish a network by demonstrating your integrity and unique gifts and maintain your network … . It is scary to reach out to people and ask them for their time … but those who genuinely want to help others will be happy to share their time and their resources.

“When I was in graduate school, I would attend career talks where the speaker would say something like ‘oh, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.’ These people did not serendipitously fall into their success -- they relied on their own training and values to develop their own plan. They found the path that was right for them. So, in closing, I want to leave you with this: Let the values you have created at Webb lead you to the opportunities that shape your life.”

Following Dixit’s remarks, Cheeseman recognized and thanked three retiring faculty members – L.R. Smith, Ralph Jones and Marget Sikes.

History teacher Scott Persichetti received the David Newton McQuiddy Award that honors a teacher who has integrity, is loyal to Webb and its ideals, is dedicated to the profession, and who encourages sound character development and academic excellence. The recipient of the award is selected by a vote of the student body. Persichetti, a York, Pa., native, attended boarding school, is a graduate of the Kiski school, and went on to earn a Bachelor degree in Social Science and Education in 2015. He joined the Webb faculty in 2016 and during his tenure, he has helped coach football, boys’ basketball, girls’ lacrosse, serves as the dorm parent at Chambliss, is an advisor, all while finding time to inspire his students.

The Head of School’s Award is funded by the J. Murray Hill ’75 Endowment. This award is intended to be given by the Head of School to fund any appropriate annual expense.  For this school year, it was designated to cover the cost of upgrading the landscaping in front of the Bradley Building, and to add seating/bleachers to the tennis courts.

As part of the commencement ceremony, Chandler Vargas received the highest academic honor in the class, the Anna Landis Hightower Award, which honors the student with the highest grade-point average for four years at Webb.

Mingyuan (Austin) Xu received the John Hardin Highest Scholastic Award for achieving the highest scholastic average in his or her senior year.

Mollie Kate Creech received the John Lewis Morgan Award, which is presented annually to the student(s) who has maintained high standard of excellence in his or her academic work and who has demonstrated the highest qualities of good citizenship in the service of the school.

Bailey Cavner of McMinnville, Tenn., gave the student address during the ceremony.

Music was provided and directed by Janet Linton, Fine Arts Department chair, Susan Mullen, string instructor and string orchestra director and the string ensemble.

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A complete listing of recognitions and awards presented during the commencement ceremony included the following.

Community Service Award

Students who have averaged 50 hours of community service each year they have attended The Webb School.

Mollie Kate Creech

Ruth Smith

Trey Snell

Carrie Simmons

 

Honor Council Senior Members

William Taylor

Caleb Voorhes-Fontenot

Dawson Hasty

Slate Bowers
 

Special awards selected by the faculty included the following.

 

The Marjorie Iley Manley Award. This award goes to the student who best combines an appreciation of music and foreign language.

Emma Roy.

 

2020-2021 Dale Hyatt Memorial Awards

Jordan Jenkins

Geneva Vann

 

2020-2021 John Freeman Athletic Awards

Bart Morton

Leann Faour

 

The Senior Achievement Scholar-Athlete Award recognizes two seniors: one male and one female who have excelled both academically and athletically. The award is voted on by each varsity coach. The requirements are play two varsity sports senior year, play at least four varsity seasons while at Webb, have an overall GPA of at least 2.5 at the end of the first semester of the senior year.

William Taylor

Bailey Cavner

 

Webb Follin Award is in memory of Gerald Webb Follin and is given to the senior with the highest cumulative English grade average. A student must be at Webb a minimum of at least three years to be eligible.

Chandler Vargas

 

The Henry Harrell Memorial Mathematics Award honors the memory of a graduate and friend of The Webb School. The award was established by Mrs. Henry Harrell in memory of her husband. The award is given to the graduating senior who has demonstrated excellence in all of the mathematics courses he/she has completed at The Webb School.

Chandler Vargas

 

The Joseph Peters Meersman Jr. Award is given to the student who has made significant contribution to the theatre at The Webb School throughout his or her time in high school.

Anderson Slate Bowers.

 

Old Guard is comprised of students who have attended Webb for four or five years.
 

Benjamin Winter Bell

Anderson Slate Bowers

Li Yang Chen

Yinuo Dai

Shelby Brynn Dornisch

Jayden Caroline Jackson

Curtis Jordan Jenkins Jr.

Aubrey Myers McCamey

Shawn McKenzie Jr.

Bryant Wade Morton

Abigail Grace Pyrdum

Yijun (Nancy) Shi

Hudson B. Tucker

Olivia Mai Tucker

Chandler Nicholson Waldron Vargas

Ziqi (Zia) Wang

Haoxuan Zhang

 

Ancient Guard are students who began their careers at Webb in the 6th or 7th grade.

 

Lane Nicole Allen

Mary Pauline Bryant

Bailey Erica Cavner

Raegan Chambers

Mollie Kathryn Creech

Leann Faour

Katherine Abigail Gallagher

Joshua Valencia Goco

Dawson Christian Hasty

Chaney Jacqueline McKnight

Charles David Mitchell

Claire Alexandra Parsons

Emma Grace Roy

Carolyn Edith Simmons

Ruth Elaine Smith

Fred Clark Snell III

William Taylor

Caleb Voorhes-Fontenot

 

Presentation of Bibles to the Class of 2021– Vance Berry, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

 

Yage “Aimee” Zhang

Dũng Hoàng Vũ

Caleb Voorhes-Fontenot

Chandler Nicholson Waldron Vargas

Geneva Lauren Vann

Olivia Mai Tucker

Hudson B. Tucker

Sanai Ariah Thomas

Fred Clark Snell III

Ruth Elaine Smith

Shanice Simpson-Whiteley

Carolyn Edith Simmons

Mia Sampson

Emma Grace Roy

Abigail Grace Pyrdum

Evan Alexander Price

Phan Mai Lan

Claire Alexandra Parsons

Marc-Anthony Nicholson

Bryant Wade Morton

Charles David Mitchell

Chaney Jacqueline McKnight

Shawn McKenzie Jr.

Aubrey Myers McCamey

Zhixing (Feynman) Liu

Curtis Jordan Jenkins Jr.

Jayden Caroline Jackson

Hallie Claire Hawkins

Dawson Christian Hasty

Samuel Denny Hastings

Joshua Valencia Goco

Katherine Abigail Gallagher

Leann Faour

LaShae Dwyer

Shelby Brynn Dornisch

Do Vu Dinh Khiem

Yinuo Dai

Mollie Kathryn Creech

Raegan Chambers

Michael Jr Terrance Chambers

Bailey Erica Cavner

Mary Pauline Bryant

Jameson Brown

Anderson Slate Bowers

Benjamin Winter Bell

Christopher R. Bain

Sugri Male-Yela Amaleboba

Lane Nicole Allen

William Taylor