Vermont Academy’s 138th Commencement

Beneath blue skies and towering pines the Vermont Academy community gathered to celebrate the commencement of fifty-eight members of the Class of 2022.

Longtime faculty member and director of the Program in Outdoor Education Christine Armiger delivered the invocation followed by welcoming remarks from Vermont Academy Student Association representatives Leighton Geragthy, Danielle McCarthy, and Riley Walsh. Each of the students spoke of the impact their time at VA made on their lives. Danielle shared, “I am saying goodbye to a place that has given me more than I ever thought possible.” Leighton described the experience as transformative and credited the faculty and staff for their tireless work during the pandemic. “I’ve grown so much as a person over the last four years due to the challenges I faced and the opportunities I was given,” added Riley. 
The trio recognized their VA friends, “We pushed each other to be the best we could be, inside and outside of the classroom,” said Riley. They also shared advice with their classmates. Work hard and stay humble, said Danielle. Riley suggested her classmates, “Enjoy the power of now. Stay in the minute.” Leighton advised not to value achieving goals over the relationships in your life. “Our relationships are the cornerstone of happiness and living a full life,” he said.

Salutatorian Amalia Allen commented on the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic but added that the past has shaped every graduate “into the exact people who made this year so special.”

Kim Perusa, valedictorian, talked about finding herself at VA through exploring new activities and the encouragement of faculty, staff and friends. “Never try and change for people who are not in your corner.” Everyone here is a unique individual who deserves to be themselves. The right people will support you,” said Kim. 

Chair of the Board of Trustees Chris Cota delivered humerous and heartfelt comments warning the students of all the sights and sounds they would miss upon leaving home. “You’re going to miss teachers who know you, who coach you and live in your dorm.” He urged the class to remember the suggestions from those who care.

Awards were presented to many outstanding students. See the full list of awards and recipients below. Following this, Ashley Storrow and Abby Hawkins led the community in the singing of the Vermont Academy Evensong, accompanied by Steve Cady.  

Head of School Dr. Jennifer Zacarra concluded the formal remarks with a speech entitled, “Two Ways of Seeing a River.” Referencing Mark Twain’s comments on being a young man on the Mississippi River, she compared his exploration with the sweetness of discovery, of being young and spontaneous. She encouraged the graduates to hold on to that playfulness while learning what is means to be “disarmingly responsible.” For the full speech see

Lorna Schilling next presented the AnnaMae D. Fenney Medals which are awarded to those students who have a grade point average of at least 3.67 and who have achieved high honors for each of the 2021-2022 academic trimesters. This year’s recipients were:
Amalia Allen
Eliza Asante
Cameron Boardman
Hunter DeMarco
Leighton Geraghty
Andrew Gould
Mia Hennum
Ty Higgins
Lauri Kallio
Andrew Lussier
Danielle McCarthy
Julia Mespléde
Emma Morel
Kim Perusa
Maika Paquin
Lilly Varga

Mr. Joe Echanis '79 presented the Grant V. Frazer Award. The Academy endowed an annual award in Mr. Frazer’s honor, an award to be given to that student who best exemplifies this teacher’s own dignified humility, quiet strength and constant drive toward excellence. This year’s recipient was Andrew Gould.

Ms. Christine Armiger presented the Robinson Prize. The Robinson Prize is awarded for conduct of a life which reflects the values, sensitivities and actions of an individual of faith, as these qualities permeate all his/her activities. This year's recipient was Omela Mudogo. 

Mr. Dan Burmester presented the Charles Jackson Award, which is given to a senior who has contributed substantially to the life of the Academy in areas such as performing arts and/or journalism, and who has been a loyal and concerned member of the Academy. This year’s recipient was Mia Hennum.

Ms. Whitney Barrett presented the Bernice B. and Olin D. Gay Award, which recognizes a student who personifies the qualities of friendliness, cooperation, kindness, and concern for his/her fellow individual that should not be allowed to pass unnoticed. This year’s recipient was Maxine Moore.

Ms. Christine Armiger presented the Larry Smith Award, which is given to a student who has excelled and shown leadership in all areas of our community and beyond, including academics, athletics, and the arts, as well as community service, while also supporting her peers and the greater community. This year’s recipient was Ian Robinson. 
Mr. Drew Choos presented the Robert L. Long Leadership & Service Award, which was endowed in honor of Robert L. Long, former Academy Headmaster. This award is given to a senior whose leadership and service to Vermont Academy has earned our respect and gratitude. This year’s recipient was Danielle McCarthy.

Ms. Robin Patch presented the Ford Improvement Prize, which is presented by Daniel Ford to recognize that student in the senior class who has not only contributed to the success of school activities but has also won the respect of his/her teachers and peers through notable progress and improvement in scholastic activity. This year’s recipient was Casey Colby.

Mr. Joe Echanis '79 presented The Shanaman Cup, which is presented to a member of the senior class who by his/her loyalty, diligence, and devotion to the best interests of the school, has exemplified and upheld the ideals and traditions of Vermont Academy. This year’s recipient was Patrick Geraghty. 

Dr. Jennifer Zaccara presented two Head of School Awards. Each of these awards was given to a one-year student at Vermont Academy recognizing the positive involvement in our community during their short time on our hilltop. This year's recipients were: Amalia Allen and Aidan Healey.

Ms. Amy Lanterman presented the Barrett Medal, which is awarded annually to a member of the graduating class for all-around achievement in citizenship, scholarship and athletics. It is the Academy’s highest award. This year’s recipient was Kim Perusa.

Ms. Ashley Storrow and Abigail Hawkins then led the gathering in the Vermont Academy Evening Song.

Dr. Zaccara then presented her commencement address, which can be found here.

Students were then presented with their diplomas.

Class of 2022 member Omela Mudogo gave the benediction, noting that “a benediction is the blessing at the end of something. A goodbye is a concluding gesture. Both are part of the ritual of leaving. And Class of 2021, you are leaving! Leaving Vermont Academy. Leaving beloved friends, teachers, mentors, coaches. Leaving a really difficult academic year filled with COVID protocols, loneliness and a multitude of losses. A year when you were expected to love each other without ever touching. A year when you were expected to learn over a screen. A year when you couldn’t compete in the sports that define you. A year when you were away from family for long, long stretches of time.”

The class marshal then returned to the stage, with Dr. Zaccara presenting the audience with the Class of 2022! The class marshal then led the recessional to South Walk. The faculty lined both sides of the walkway in front of Fuller Hall to congratulate students and family members. 


Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.