Team Detail

Vermont Academy's 140th Commencement

On a sunny day in May, family, friends, faculty, and of course, the Class of 2024, gathered on Vermont Academy’s South Lawn for our 140th commencement ceremony.
Bagpiper Ben Partridge ’06 emerged from Fuller Hall followed by Head of School Dr. Jennifer Zaccara, Trustee Chair Jeremy Herbert ’99, Academic Dean Lorna Schilling, and Assistant Head School Brian Gilloran. The remaining VA faculty processed behind them. Class Marshals Ruby Besson ’25 and Charlie Hodgson ’25 held the key, a Vermont Academy tradition in which a senior artist is selected to paint their class year on the key (this year's artist was Abby Mellen ’24) and led the Class of 2024 to their seats on either side of the podium. 

Director of College Counseling Maryann McArdle took to the podium to deliver the Invocation, inviting the audience to offer congratulations and best wishes to the graduating class. She then welcomed Vermont Academy Student Association (VASA) representatives Sydney Palmiotto ’24, Bowen Xiao ’24 , and Cole Allen ’24 to the stage to share in a moment of reflection with their peers. Bowen emphasized his joy for the opportunity to represent VASA and address the audience. “As we gather here to celebrate this significant milestone, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude and pride.” Cole looked back on their collective time together with a metaphor. “Each moment of our time here is a thread woven into the tapestry of our student life.” Sydney extended thanks on behalf of the remainder of the graduating class to friends, family, and faculty who helped guide them during their time at VA. “To our teachers and staff, your dedication and passion has inspired us to strive for excellence. You’ve not only imparted knowledge but have also taught us to think critically, to be curious, and to never stop learning.”

Earning the honor of Salutatorian and Valedictorian, Bowen and Sydney then took to the podium to share their speeches. 

Bowen’s thoughtful salutatorian speech was marked with inspiring words. He shared his experience of transferring to VA as an international student, and said that “[his] journey has been marked by perseverance and self-belief, with the support of our school community.”

Sydney gave a meaningful delivery of her valedictorian speech, her words serving as a look back on four years that “taught [her] the power of trying,” she shared. “What has made VA such a special experience has been the encouragement and support of the people around me. I know we are all itching to get out into the world, but take a moment to remember how each of us has made a difference in one another’s lives.”

In his address, Chair of the Board of Trustees Jeremy Herbert ’99 shared a poignant quote from an unassuming source— a piece of paper from a fortune cookie he has had taped to his office wall since 2006. It says: “Life always gets harder near the summit.” He tells the graduates that life gets harder before it gets easier, but reminds them to never give up, and to savor life.

Lorna Schilling stood to present the AnnaMae D. Fenney Medals which are awarded to students who have maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.67 and who have achieved high honors for each of the 2023-2024 academic trimesters. This year’s recipients were:

Olivier Bergeron
Sofia Bianconi
Maria Byrne
Cecilia Coldwell
Delaney Cox
Nathan Gagnon
Mathison Hole
Zoe Jacobs
Hazel Kekic
James Mikos
Khiêm Nguyen
Elias Norton
Sydney Palmiotto
Shane Prusak
Kiersten Rasmussen
Bowen Xiao

Prior to the presentation of diplomas was the award ceremony, a traditional component of Vermont Academy graduation. The following awards were presented. 

Dr. Greg Martin presented the Grant V. Frazer Award. The Academy endowed this 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 Patrick Pajcic.

Ms. Amanda Hodgson presented the Robinson Prize, which 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 Diallo Ingraham.

Mr. Jonathan Barron ’96 presented the Charles Jackson Award, which is awarded 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 Khiêm Nguyen.

Ms. Lisa Eckhardt McNealus ’79 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 Natalie Kucerova.

Mr. Charles Butler presented the Ford Improvement Prize, originally 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 Elias Norton.

Ms. Hodgson presented the Larry Smith Award, which recognizes a member of the senior class for the traits of cheerfulness, acceptance of responsibility, and wholehearted devotion to a job to be done, which were characteristic of Larry Smith. Larry always did quiet but superlatively efficient work behind the scenes to help others and to contribute to the life of the school. This year’s recipient was Cole Allen.

Dr. Martin presented the Robert L. Long Leadership & Service Award, 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 Delaney Cox.

Dr. Martin presented the Shanaman Cup, which goes 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 Sofia Bianconi.

Dr. Zaccara presented the Head of School award, which is given to someone who has upheld the school’s motto, “Be True to Your Best Self.” This individual already understands what it means to be courageous, lean in to a teachable moment, and to hope for change and progress in our world. This year’s recipient was Bowen Xiao.

Ms. Hodgson presented the Barrett Medal, 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 Sydney Palmiotto.

Sofia Bianconi ’24, Librieonna Cooper ’24, Caitlin Masure ’25, and Maya Sbardelatti ’25 then came to the podium to lead everyone in the singing of the Vermont Academy Evening Song. 

Once all were seated again, Dr. Zaccara delivered her commencement address, titled “Becoming You,” in which she asked the audience to think about the question “Do you have an essential self?” She referenced several works that analyzed the essential self, such as Joshua Rothman’s essay for The New Yorker about the dual perspectives people have in regard to the self. Some have more of a broader viewpoint, while others live more day-to-day. “Whether you have an episodic, live in the moment life, or you see a continuous fabric to your existence, you are in charge,” she advised. She encourages the graduating class to continue to “be [their] best selves,” highlighting that goodbyes are bittersweet that they are being sent off with pride. “Parting is “sweet sorrow,” and as we hug goodbye in a few moments after you receive your diplomas, just recognize that you have been known here.”

Assistant Head of School Mr. Brian Gilloran came to the podium to read the students' names where each received their diploma from Dr. Zaccara. 

Once the diplomas were awarded, Ms. Nora Dock took to the podium to deliver the Benediction. 

“We leave this gathered community, but we don’t leave our connection, our concerns, our care for each other,” she encouraged. “Until we are together again, friends, be strong, be well, be loving. Be true to your best self.” 

The Class Marshals returned to their place in front of the podium and motioned for the students to rise. Dr. Zaccara presented the audience with the Class of 2024 as she instructed them to move their tassels from right to left, and ceremoniously toss their mortarboards in the air! They officially became graduates of Vermont Academy. 

The Class Marshals led the recessional to South Walk, where students walked the path in front of Fuller Hall, where faculty waited to greet them. Handshakes, warm embraces, and tearful exchanges were aplenty. A chorus of fond farewells, excited cheers, and sentimental reflections ensued. 

On behalf of the Vermont Academy community, we wish the Class of 2024 all the best as they enter this thrilling new chapter of their lives.

Watch the full 2024 commencement ceremony here

Photos from the event can be found here.
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.