65 Graduates Celebrate Commencement

The 65 members of The Agnes Irwin School’s Class of 2020 celebrated Commencement exercises last week, receiving diplomas earlier in the week before coming together for a special, pre-recorded online ceremony.

Student speaker Madison Thompson remarked that the Class of 2020 is one that has experienced numerous firsts. “The Class of 2020 has truly proven what it means to be an Agnes Irwin girl,” she said. “We have proven ourselves flexible and persistent even under these circumstances.” Thompson also reflected on the concept of home — specifically, that which she and her classmates have found in community at Agnes Irwin. “We represent 150 years of resilience and determination and as the world around us fills with fear and uncertainty, ...and we wonder if we’ll begin our new lives in the fall as we’ve always dreamed of, I now know that home is where the heart is. … Know that no matter where you are in this moment, and the many moments to come, we are together in spirit, and forever will be.”

This year’s Commencement speaker, Sandra Moser ’94, reflected on uncertainty, while encouraging students to embrace this unknown as they leave the halls of Agnes Irwin and step out into the world.

Moser is an experienced trial lawyer and a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, where she co-chairs the firm’s Investigations, Government Enforcement, and White Collar Criminal Defense Practice. Prior to her current position, Ms. Moser served for more than 12 years in the Department of Justice. She began her DOJ career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark, New Jersey and, at the time of her departure, was chief of the white-collar crime criminal Fraud Section in Washington, D.C., which handles many of the world’s most significant foreign corruption and economic crime cases. She received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in both 2014 and 2016 and in 2018 was named one of the world’s “Top 100 Women in Investigations” by Global Investigations Review.

Moser began her address by acknowledging the unique circumstances faced by the Class of 2020, but noted that uncertainty is not an inherently negative concept. “Although it can prove a challenging state of being — one difficult to navigate even in the best of times — it’s also something to be embraced as you take those next momentous steps toward adulthood and independence.”

Moser also encouraged graduates to hold firm to the strong foundation that The Agnes Irwin School helped provide. “I know firsthand that it has taught you strength of character, of conviction, and to have confidence in your abilities and views — and most vital for young women, to stand up and share those views and convictions,” she said. “You can know yourself, your worth, your strength without knowing all the answers.” Moser urged graduates to be bold and ask ‘why’ as they move forward, “because you are the ones who will be positing the suggestions, the proposed resolutions, the ways to make it better.”

“[As] difficult as all the uncertainty we have been living through might be, I have a feeling you’re not just surviving,” she added. “You’re thriving. … All of us could not be more proud of you or eager to watch you go out into the world with the question ‘Why’ on your lips. On this day, of that, you can be certain.”

Prior to the presentation of diplomas, prizes in the arts, classics, English, history, mathematics, modern language, science, and overall academic achievement were awarded to seniors.

  • The Agnes Irwin School Arts Prize, presented to a senior for distinguished work in the visual or performing arts: Elizabeth Dixon
  • The Bertha Laws Classics Prize, awarded to the senior who has shown the greatest understanding of the classical languages and of the classical concepts that are the cornerstone of Western civilization: Asiyah Ball (Latin), Natalie Pansini (Greek)
  • The Alumnae Association English Award, given by the alumnae of The Agnes Irwin School in memory of its first president, Elizabeth Elliot Wiener, Class of 1913: Katherine Glaser, Lia Della Porta
  • The Agnes Irwin School History Prize, given in memory of the founder of the school for the best work in history: Elizabeth Dixon, Leann Luong
  • The Phyllis Belisle Mathematics Prize, given by Mrs. Armand A. Belisle in memory of her daughter, chair of the Department of Mathematics from 1957-1957, for the best work in mathematics: Colette Cavazos
  • The Agnes Irwin School Modern Language Prize, awarded by the Modern Language Department to the senior or seniors who have shown the greatest degree of excellence in study of the language and culture: Leann Luong (Chinese), Ciaran Scott (Spanish), Asiyah Ball (French)
  • The Edith C. Gall Science Prize, presented by the Class of 1963 to a senior who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in the field of science during the year, given in memory of Mrs. Edith C. Gall, beloved teacher: Caroline Shaver, Mara Zwilling
  • The Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Delaware Valley Award, presented to an outstanding senior who embodies the Phil Beta Kappa ideals of academic achievement, character, and a love of wisdom and learning: Leann Luong

Additional senior accolades were presented at the Class Night Awards on Tuesday night, including:

  • The Daphne Apostolidis Award, given in honor of Ms. Apostolidis for her 33 years of service as a Lower School teacher to The Agnes Irwin School. This award recognizes a student who embodies selfless commitment to the Agnes Irwin community: Cheney Williams
  • The Head of School Award: Asiyah Ball
  • The Jeanne Clery Award, presented to the student who has demonstrated the qualities of courage, compassion, and leadership in her associations with her classmates and in her contributions to the school: Waring Fleitas
  • The Joanne P. Hoffman Award, given by the Class of 2018 in honor of the former Director of the Upper School Mrs. Joanne P. Hoffman. This prize is awarded by the director of the Upper School to the Upper School student who embodies the spirit and ideals of Mrs. Hoffman. This student is a mentor to her peers, continuously makes an effort to include everyone, and demonstrates the same love of fun and spontaneity that Mrs. Hoffman modeled in her time at The Agnes Irwin School: Dayna Thomas
  • The White Blazer Award, awarded to a student chosen by the Athletic Department as an outstanding senior athlete exhibiting a unique combination of athleticism and mental toughness while displaying the ideals of sportsmanship and leadership: Natalie Pansini 

Head of School Dr. Wendy Hill praised the many accomplishments of the Class of 2020, particularly in this Sesquicentennial year. “You took on the mantle and all the responsibilities of being seniors in our school’s 150th year, and you did so with grace and charm,” she told seniors. Dr. Hill reflected on several certainties upon which the graduates might rely, including the love and devotion of their families, the lifelong mentors they have at The Agnes Irwin School, the loyalty and friendship of their classmates, and the ability to address the uncertainties on the path before them. “I am confident...that you — the talented and resilient AIS Class of 2020 — are ready to handle the unknown and shape the future.”

View the full list of Class Night Awards.

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