“Graduates, this morning we gather in Chapel to honor the ways you have grown in your time as Spartans,” Head of School Chris Gunnin told the Class of 2019 at the school's 69th Commencement Exercises on May 25.
“As I have imagined this day together over the last few weeks, I have reflected often on our school prayer,” Gunnin said, adding that the phrase, “seeing our lives as a journey together” resonated deeply with him. “This prayer that we have offered together, shoulder-to-shoulder, hundreds of time in this sacred space has always defined our relationships, our connections, our experiences and our work as lifelong endeavors.
“Certainly you have left your mark on us,” he added. “In turn, when you head out into the broader world, you will take our love, our prayers, our deepest wishes for your success with you. The world needs St. Stephen’s graduates.”
English teacher Andy Aceves, who was selected by the senior class to address them during graduation, echoed that sentiment in his remarks. “There’s an injured world beyond these walls, my dear friends, but what I’ve learned from you, more than anything else, is that we can rescue it every day through nothing more than our actions and our intentions,” he said.
Aceves sought to dispel any belief the seniors might have about him being a “wise mentor,” brimming with sage advice. “What could I hope to teach you about working hard or making an impact in your community that you have not already demonstrated all around The Hill and in this very Chapel?” he asked. “The most constructive use of these final moments I get with you is not to give you advice about the type of people you should strive to be after you collect your diplomas, but rather to give you license to trust in the type of people you already are.
“You can be anything you want in this life, if you work hard and believe in yourself,” Aceves said. “You can be kind and brave, strong and sensible. You can be a good neighbor or friend or classmate, father, mother, brother, sister. You can be the hardest working person in every room you enter, the first person to speak out against an injustice you see in the world around you, or the last person standing up for something or someone precious and defenseless.
“If your motivation comes from within — if it is rooted in the wisdom and passion and kindness you brought to this campus every day ? then there will be no such thing as a wrong turn on the path you follow,” he concluded.
Following Aceves’ remarks, the ceremony proceeded with the presentation of major awards and diplomas. Jacob Hale then took the podium to present the senior speech. A long-standing tradition, the senior speaker is chosen by the outgoing class to summarize their collective campus experience.
Hale told his fellow classmates that their class legacy could be summarized in one word: heart. “We treat each other with love and compassion,” he said. “When one person is down, there are several right behind ’em to lift ’em back up. The kindness displayed throughout the class, even between people who otherwise have little in common, is unparalleled … because we live with passion.
“This characteristic is more than a legacy we leave behind on The Hill,” he added. “Rather, it is something we will carry for the rest of our lives.”
The commencement ceremony closed with a recitation of the school prayer and the benediction, led by the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Congratulations, Spartans!
Medals and Honors
The Bishop John E. Hines Medal was named after the Rt. Rev. John Hines, founder of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, who was a man of extraordinary vision and bold action. The Bishop Hines Medal is awarded to the member of the senior class who maintained the highest academic standing throughout their junior and senior years. The 2019 Bishop Hines Medal was presented to Jordan Cobb.
Named for the school’s first headmaster, The William Brewster Medal was established in 1960 by the St. Stephen’s faculty to recognize a member of the senior class who has made the greatest total contribution to the life of the school. The recipient is an engaged and talented student — strong across all disciplines and genuinely interested in “the life of the mind.” The 2019 Brewster Medal was presented to Jacob Hale.
The Dobbie Leverton Fenton Medal is awarded annually to a member of the senior class who promotes the values of social justice. This year’s Dobbie Leverton Fenton Medal was awarded to Riley Nichols.
The Velberta Asher Towner Award in the Performing Arts was named for a longtime member of the St. Stephen’s faculty and former chair of the fine arts department. This award is presented to a student who has excelled in the performing arts. The 2019 Towner Award was presented to Brooke Silverstein.
The Don Cunningham Memorial Awards are presented to a female and male senior who have lettered in three sports in their senior year and have demonstrated outstanding talent, leadership, dedication and sportsmanship. This year’s Cunningham Awards were presented to Travis Dowd and Riley Nichols.
Diplomas with High Honors