By Katrina Lovegren ’21 Front Page Editor
As expected, the Class of 2020’s Commencement ceremony will be held online this year. While this is rather unfortunate for the departing seniors, Mercersburg Academy is committed to celebrating them. Here is everything you need to know about virtual Commencement!
Naturally, the traditions of Commencement are numerous, but many will not be able to transpire due to the remote nature of the ceremony. Nevertheless, many will still be included such as the reading of graduates’ names, the awarding of the diplomas, the presentation of academic prizes and other awards, and the playing of the seniors’ musical selections.
Sean Fiscus ’20 and Shannon Fan ’20, valedictorian and salutatorian respectively, are two of the student speakers at this year’s ceremony. Others are the Schaff Orators, Aiden Ferrin ’20 and Caroline Kranich ’20, and the student body and senior class presidents, Aba Sankah ’20 and Jesse Zhang ’20, respectively. The class marshals are Grace Lewis ’20 and Campbell Prentiss ’20.
Traditions are important to Mercersburg Academy’s identity as a school and a community. As Head of School Katie Titus puts it, “I hope that we will not focus on what we’ve lost, but rather on that unique moment we will all have together, albeit virtually, to honor and celebrate our seniors. And while celebration is important, commencement is also about closure.”
It is important to keep in mind that while this digital commencement is rather unorthodox, such times require a tight-knit community to unite, whether face-to-face or screen-to-screen, in order to honor the deserving 2020 graduates. Titus also reminds the community that, “To commence is to begin, and it is important that we officially launch our seniors to their new beginning.”
Although it is easy to see the downside of these unprecedented circumstances, they will serve as the foundation for the next chapter in the lives of our seniors, so it’s important to honor this transition period in their academic lives.
This year’s Commencement speaker, Vincent Rey, graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 2006. Originally hailing from Far Rockaway, New York and Bayside High School, Rey played football at Mercersburg and continued his career at Duke University, playing from 2006-2009. During his freshman year at Duke, he was highly successful, playing all 12 games of the season. In the following years, he earned accolades in both the ACC and NCAA for tackles and forced fumbles and tackles. He won ACC Player of the Week following his game against Northwestern (2007), Defensive Back of the Week after his game against the Naval Academy (2008), and received the Blue Devil Heart Award (Spring 2010). Rey went on to play professional football for the Cincinnati Bengals, originally drafted in 2010 as a free agent.
In 2014, Rey was one of 32 nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors outstanding players and their volunteer and charity work. All nominees, regardless of whether they win the award or not, receive a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice from the NFL. Similarly, he was nominated for the Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year Award in the 2015/2016 NFL season, an award that recognizes community service from dedicated, philanthropic players in their hometowns. Rey was nominated by his teammates for his work with United Way, Lighthouse Youth Services, Envision Children, the Aruna Project, and the Marvin Lewis Community Fund; much of his work is directed at families in need and young women involved in the sex slave trade.
Rey makes it very clear that he values giving back to his community. In an interview with ESPN, he said, “‘I’ve been given so much growing up, just from role models like my father to teachers to coaches, and I just want to reciprocate that and do the same thing.’”
Given the continuation of many honored traditions, talented graduating speakers, NFL player Vincent Rey, and the beloved Class of 2020, Commencement will still serve the same special purpose it always has. Although it is disappointing that the school cannot be together as a community one last time to honor its seniors, the Mercersburg community can value the fact that it has the means to celebrate in the first place. Mercersburg’s spring term has been unconventional, but nothing will erase the memories of the seniors and the relationships Mercersburg has enabled them, as well as their schoolmates and faculty, to create.
The school community is proud of the Class of 2020 for persevering through these less than ideal circumstances and wishes them the best of luck moving forward.