52 seniors made up the Class of 2017 that transitioned from North Shore students to alumni on Friday, June 9. The 2017 Commencement ceremony included four Lifers who attended NSCDS since kindergarten: Sarah Lumberg ’17, Amy Muslin ’17, Tommy McHugh ’17 and Will Murnighan ’17. After hearing the humorous and nostalgic words of Santi, Upper School history teacher Kiernan Aiston addressed the class with a message to send them off with: “Safety second.”
“Not safety first. Safety second. I realized that it’s always been safety second, all on it’s own. And so, I began to wonder. If safety does indeed come second...What comes first?
Aiston carried on with the fleeting moments of what he initially thought came “first.” It may have been the thrill of adventure, or the solitude of writing. How he was wrong about thinking football came first. How in his first college football drill, a hit from Butkus Award winner and second overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft Kevin Hardy proved otherwise.
“You will be faced with the realization that you’re just not as awesome as you thought. Hopefully it won’t come in the form of a consensus all-American linebacker bearing down on you, but it will likely come,” he said.
His message came full circle in reminding the seniors that these obstacles and realizations should happen. “Get back out there and train more, audition more, paint more, read more, write more, work harder.,” he said. And that’s why safety comes second. What comes first, he finally realized, is gratefulness.
Head of School Tom Flemma, dressed in a flamingo pink jacket, also congratulated the seniors and thanked them for his first year at NSCDS before distributing their diplomas.
“No, I didn’t lose a bet to wear this jacket,” he began. “This jacket belonged to my father, who passed away when I was 18. He was an amazing man in many ways, a cardiac surgeon who smoked cigars and had a wardrobe that defied easy characterization. He wore clothes that reflected the way he approached life—with color and vibrancy and flair. He told me once that you take what you do seriously, but you can’t take yourself too seriously. I’ve always tried to live that way.”
Flemma’s take on the ceremony reflected tradition, much of which NSCDS commencement is rooted in. After each senior received their diploma and a round of applause, the auditorium filled with recessional music as everyone made their way outside to the bell. The song soon blended into the seniors’ singing “Wake the Echoes,” symbolically for the last time as students. The Lifers then brought down the flags and folded them up together. They approached the bell, one by one, with a triumphant tug of the rope to ring it out through campus and conclude their 13-year-long journey as North Shore Country Day School students.
“I share great memories with every single person that is sitting up here. They have been truly amazing people to share the last few years with,” said Santi. “I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing school, and have no doubt that one day down the line, when I am sitting in my rocking chair, and if you’ll remember, sipping iced tea, and listening to that Ella Fitzgerald record, I will be able to cherish many great memories of high school. Not the big ones, but the little ones. And the little ones are so much more meaningful. Thank you all, and my most sincere congratulations to the Class of 2017.”