Congratulations, Class of 2024!

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School celebrated its 74th commencement Saturday, May 25. Parents, grandparents, friends and special guests convened on The Hill and others joined virtually to celebrate a myriad of accomplishments. This year’s class of 129 graduates is a diverse representation of cultures, with students from not only Austin but also 13 cities across Texas; two other states, Michigan and Kansas; and 12 foreign countries, including China, Congo, India, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The members of this class are matriculating to 72 colleges in 23 states and on one international campus. Fifteen graduates have plans to play NCAA sports. From The Hill to the world, the entire St. Stephen’s community is excited to see what these graduates will accomplish in the next chapter of their lives.

On graduation day, hundreds of family members and friends also celebrated a number of awards given and listened to addresses delivered by Chloe Benardete '24 and History Instructor Luis E. Murillo, Ph.D. who became emotional when speaking about his inspiration, Coach Yvonne Adams who passed away in November of 2023. The senior class nominated Benardete and Dr. Murillo to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony. It is tradition for the senior class to vote on a fellow senior and a member of the faculty to share remarks.

“I wear this robe [regalia] to remind myself and you in this audience of the powerful legacy of Coach Yvonne Adams; she loved this school and this place in particular,” said Murillo. “While not possessing a formal doctorate, she certainly had one in tolerance and seeking social justice. Coach Adams noted in 2021, ‘I am staggering under the weight of American history that we are living right now – despite that’ she claimed, ‘I am shifting into more hopeful view’ and that more hopeful view rose from her confidence in you, here in this Chapel, to fight the good fight and to look for what John Lewis called ‘good trouble.'"

Benardete urged her fellow classmates to transform the world the way her class transformed The Hill, literally and symbolically, throughout their St. Stephen’s tenure.
“As I reflect on our journey over these four years, Class of 2024, I am amazed to think about how we have transformed this hill into so many unique, beautiful, warm spaces and environments. We inherited a vacant place and once again made it vibrant. And along the way, we made a group of about 130 people all with different stories and backgrounds into a supportive, intelligent and deeply kind community,” said Benardete. “All that remains is for us to leave this place and begin the work of transforming the world around us and if the past four years are any indication, I believe we are well prepared.”
Following her speech, Benardete won two of the school’s highest awards: the Bishop John E. Hines Medal and the Velberta Asher Towner Award in the Performing Arts. Named after John Hines, the founder of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Bishop Hines was a man of extraordinary vision and bold action. He started the school with the idea that the St. Stephen's education would be used as “as an enduring basis for moral decisions and would equip the student with content and satisfaction in both his or her academic and devotional life.” Benardete is described to exhibit “a love of learning in all of her courses.” In her four years at St. Stephen’s, she ran track and cross country, served on the Athletic Council, began the Next Gen Women in Sports Club, and participated in Theatre Focus all while maintaining the highest GPA.
The Velberta Asher Towner Award in the Performing Arts is given in memory of Velberta Towner, a former St. Stephen’s faculty member from 1958-1984. Known to the St. Stephen’s community as ‘Bert,’ she was a long-time Fine Arts Department chair who built a program in which students could explore and excel in the arts. As a winner of this award, Benardete is described as one of the most dynamic, hard-working and receptive students. 
The William Brewster Medal was given to Thomas Groff-Barragan '24. The award was established in honor of the school’s founding headmaster in the 1960’s. Brewster wanted a school where students learned by studying and by living in a community grounded in a Christian tradition of respect and concern for others. Each year a faculty committee chooses a recipient who, in the eyes of the committee, has made the greatest total contribution to the life of the school.
“This student [Thomas] uses all of his talents to bring people at St. Stephen’s together,” read Head of School Chris Gunnin. “He is very engaged with the school community, as well as with the larger world community — a gifted writer, a real leader, a good friend to many. In a world fraught with many problems that seem insoluble, he manages with enthusiasm and verve, energy and optimism to chart a path that is positive and admirable.”
The Dobbie Leverton Fenton Medal was awarded to Aliza Chauthani '24 who is described by college counselor Claire Fenton '93 as someone whose “advocacy has not only raised awareness, but has also ignited meaningful change, fostering an environment where every voice is heard, respected and valued.” Inspired by the beloved teacher, advisor, and friend who lived a life of compassionate service with a St. Stephen’s career spanning 33-years, Dobbie began as an 8th grade boarding student and graduated in 1963. Through her own words and actions, she celebrated differences, was slow to judge others and ministered to all she met, believing that everyone deserves equal and respectful treatment. 
Dobbie’s work on campus is reflected in Chauthani. “While many wait until later in life to pursue this kind of work, [Aliza] is already out there – already working to repair and empower marginalized communities, as well as challenge systemic injustices, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable society. Indeed, [Aliza] possesses an unwavering drive to engage with the most urgent and pressing issues of our world, both global and local. And she is committed to defending against the affronts of injustice anywhere and any time,” read Fenton.
Middle School Closing Ceremony
The Middle School Closing Ceremony was held on May 31, 2024. Seventy-one 8th grade students were promoted to Upper School and a number of awards were given across the Middle School division during the ceremony. Not only were high awards presented to students but English teacher Rachel Holiman also earned the Teacher Excellence Award. Head of School Chris Gunnin delivered remarks and awards were given by Head of Middle School Magnus Maccow. 
Three students were recognized for maintaining the highest academic standing: 6th grader Elizabeth McDaniel-Chang, 7th grader Maya Lawrence and 8th grader Hana Milosavljevic. 

Several 8th graders including Rajasi Agarwal, Carmen Losada Sanchez, Oliver McDaniel-Chang, Hana Milosavljevic, Ellie Ton and Emerson Yorio were inducted into the Academic Hall of Fame.
The St. Stephen’s Episcopal School award for Spiritual Leadership is awarded to the student who has embodied the Gospel message: ‘the way to greatness is through service’. Living generously and selflessly, this student has been an extraordinary servant leader, and has put into practice our mission to “respect the dignity of every human being.” On campus and in the larger community, this year’s winner, Bryce O’ Sullivan '28 is said to live ‘a life characterized by the virtues of faith, hope, and love and has demonstrated a commitment to the spiritual journey.’

The Priscilla Foster Award is named for the person who was head of the Middle School for many years. Priscilla and her husband were at St. Stephen’s when the doors first opened. She exemplifies all that is good about this place, and Nadine Benson '28 was chosen to honor Foster’s good work.
Finley Wilson '29 won the Spirit of Hope Award which is given to a Middle School student who best exemplifies an attitude of giving both within our own community and to the world beyond our campus. Finley demonstrates a genuine interest in our world, looking for creative ways to respond to important needs. Because of this person’s example, others in our community are motivated to be more responsive and generous, hence creating a spirit of hope within the Middle School.
Two top athletic awards, the Anne Teel Athletics Award and the Hunter Paschall Athletics Award, are both given to an athlete who has played a sport every term during their Middle School career and who represents the integrity and core values of St. Stephen’s. Sydney Durrett '28 won the Anne Teel award and Cole Davenport '28 won the Hunter Paschall award.
Head of School Chris Gunnin said, “We gather to celebrate the accomplishments of all our Middle School Spartans who have engaged in the life of our community, who have invested themselves in our programs, and who have embraced the ideals, values, and habits of our community. Middle schoolers, we are very proud of the work you have done, the ways you have grown and the skills and passions that you have developed this school year.”
To watch recordings of both the Upper School graduation and the Middle School Closing Ceremony, click here and be sure to read a full list of awards in the upcoming Spartan summer magazine. Congratulations to the Class of 2024!
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213