Brooks Graduates Class That Faced "Unimaginable" Challenges

Under a blazing sun and sprawling tent overlooking North Andover's Lake Cochichewick, 94 members of Brooks School's class of 2021 graduated on June 6.

Watch livestream recordings of graduation and see who won awards on our Celebrating Commencement 2021 page.

The 90-degree temperature was fitting, considering the metaphorical heat that'd been turned up on these students during the COVID-19 pandemic, as their modes of learning and schedules were frequently shifted, testing and health restrictions became prevalent, and normalcies including interscholastic athletics and in-person theater were denied.

"On March 7 of last year, 15 months ago tomorrow, we all headed into spring vacation thinking we would be back here in less than three weeks," Head of School John Packard said to the audience gathered to watch the Prize Day ceremony. "As we know all too well, no one returned for six months, and this class of 2021 embarked on a sixth-form year unlike any in Brooks School's history."

Commending the graduates' resilience, Packard declared that he wanted them to know "in no uncertain terms how proud we are of them; how impressed we are by them; how vital they have been to seeing their school through a previously unimaginable set of circumstances."

See all the photos from Brooks School's 2021 Lawn Ceremony.

Celebrating success was central to the school's 90th graduation festivities, held on back-to-back Sundays this year with a "senior week" of fun in between, including a whitewater rafting trip to Maine and day of community clean-up.

The Lawn Ceremony took place on May 30, featuring a series of arts, athletics and academic awards along with student speakers, followed by the traditional "Boo Hoo" service in the Frank D. Ashburn Chapel with farewell songs before a procession of emotional goodbyes.

"I cannot overstate the degree to which this class of 2021 carried their school . . . this year [on campus, on screens, all over the world]," Packard said during the graduation celebrations. "They did this by showing up for one another; by supporting one another; by fighting through masks and distance to be with one another because it mattered deeply to them. They reminded us on a daily basis of how important close relationships and making real contact are to having a great school."

"This class of 2021 gave a great deal more to their community than they took from it, at a time when we needed that more than ever," he continued. "COVID-19 was no match for this lot. These soon-to-be graduates willed us in the direction of the familiar in important ways that kept us connected to who we are. They pushed us to reach beyond the familiar and comfortable in order to make our school more accessible to all. They held their school together and raised its consciousness about what must be better all at once. That's not easy to do, and they did so beautifully."

See all the photos from Brooks School's 2021 Prize Day.

On Prize Day, June 6, a trio of faculty members were awarded, as well. Spanish and dance teacher Tess O'Brien received The Reverend George F. Vought Prize — given by the Sette-Ducati Family and awarded by the head of school to honor a member of the faculty who in their first few years has made special contributions to the school and exhibited notable professional growth. English teacher John H. Haile and Chair of Science Department Randy Hesse were appointed faculty emeritus.

"You should all feel extraordinarily proud of yourselves," class of 2021 speaker Matthew Mulvey '21 urged his classmates during his address in the tent packed with loved ones, classmates and others in the Brooks School community. It's a sentiment that Packard clearly believes as well.

"As they move on today," the head of school said about the graduates, "it is important that they know they mattered, now and always; that they made a difference; that they are leaving their school better than they found it; that their example will stay with those of us who continue; that we will forever be proud of what they have done. It has been an honor and a privilege to have traveled this distance with them."

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