As 101 students received their diplomas from on Friday, veteran English teacher Margaret Kasprak sent them off into the world with these words: “Lose yourself.”
Kasprak, who was selected by the students to be the featured speaker, said she wasn’t going to advise students to “find themselves,” but to focus instead on getting lost in something they love.
“The way I hope you might lose yourself is not in shallow distractions, but instead in active engagement in deeply absorbing pursuits. This is, in the long run, the best way to lose yourself.”
“Don’t worry about finding yourself – you know yourself already,” said Kasprak. “Try things … you’ll love it so much you’ll forget you’re working. And by finding something that allows you to lose yourself, you will have, in many ways, found what actually is most of you.”
Kasprak was introduced by senior and aspiring English major Christopher Presto as someone who is “sparkling.” There were several inside jokes about her love of Shakespeare – Hamlet in particular. To thunderous applause, the teacher and yearbook advisor concluded: “Have a sparkling life, please come back often, but for now – get lost!”
The beloved English teacher related how this class is "outwardly quiet and modest" with talents and leadership skills not exhibited for attention or resume-building. They taught her "you can't judge a book by its cover." While the class may "get the job done, no fuss," as Kasprak noted, several students showed off their lighter side: Siobhan McIlhoney wore bright red Converse sneakers with her dress; Jameson McKeown shuffle-danced his way off the stage; and Benjamin Cowper snapped a photo of himself on stage.
KO Head of School Dennis Bisgaard delivered a charge to the senior class in which he noted this year is the school’s 100th commencement. He reflected on how KO has had to adapt to changing times and reinvent itself yet remain faithful to its core values. He spoke of how KO needs to help students meet the challenges of the 21st century – in many ways preparing them for jobs that don’t yet exist.
"The most important learning tools are your minds, hearts and hands—working together,” said Bisgaard, who reminded students to heed the lessons learned from Joseph Grano, chairman and CEO of Centurion Holdings LLC, who recently spoke at a school assembly. Grano was severely injured in the Vietnam War and was told he would never fully recover. He found this prognosis “unacceptable.” Through physical and mental will, he did fully recover and went on to become a successful businessman and philanthropist. Grano told the students, “When you run into adversity, the lesson there is to call upon the power of your mind.” The Hartford native also reminded students they live in a country where “anything is possible.”
Bisgaard quoted Grano as telling the students to “lift and embrace. Reach for the stars and reach down to help those in need. Use both arms to embrace America.” Bisgaard added, “Embrace each other, your family and KO. Go and do good. Make a difference in the world. Make us and yourselves proud.”
Fear of rain moved the graduation from the Senior Green to the cavernous indoor hockey rink. But other KO commencement traditions held steadfast: girls were dressed in white, carried red roses and wore silver charm bracelets that were gifts from the KO Alumni Association. Boys wore their gifts of red and black ties with a rose boutonniere pinned to their blue blazers. Keeping with tradition, the students in Form 6 (grade levels are called “forms,” English-style) were not official graduates until they shook the hand of every member of the faculty and KO staff, who formed a long receiving line after the ceremony to officially say goodbye.
The processional was led by bagpipers William Marceau and Damon Matus. The invocation was given by Theodore Levine, history teacher and the benediction was provided by History Department Chair Ann Serow.
KO, which includes Forms 1-6 (grades 7-12) and Upper Prep (grade 6) does not name a valedictorian, but the closest academic award to that is the Dux Prize, given to the senior with the highest GPA for the senior year. This year’s winner is Sarah Steinberg. She was also awarded the Goodman Banks English Prize, the Ernest W. Smith Prize for Spanish and shared the Stewart Lindsay Jr. Prize with Eshani Bhalla. The KO student newspaper reported Steinberg will attend Middlebury College in the fall.
Other top prizes include The Gold Seal, “the highest citizenship award the school can bestow, given to a girl in Form 6 for outstanding qualities of character,” this year awarded to Samantha Udolf, who will attend Harvard University; The Primus Medal, “the highest citizenship award the school can bestow, given to the boy in Form 6 who has contributed most during the past year to the life of the school,” awarded to Jason Stein, who will attend Amherst College; and the Merritt Prize, awarded to Ty Adams (Appalachian State University) and Kim Spring (Salve Regina University), given to students who “best exemplify the results of the KO education.” (For a complete list of awards please see above PDF.)
KO, located in West Hartford, was just named the top private school in Hartford Magazine for the fourth straight year. According to KO Director of Enrollment Management, Jim O’Donnell, this year the school had the highest yield since 2007 of new students (100) and the highest yield since 2006 of new freshmen (40). A press release from the school indicated a majority of KO’s graduates during the past five years have been accepted to Barron’s “Most Competitive” and “Highly Competitive” colleges.
The following is a list of the 2012 graduates:
Dimitri Adamidis, Ty Joshua Adams, Monica Teresa Ambrozej, David S. Anavim, Lindsey Shaw Bailey, Jordan Blake Barlow, Caroline Jane Bascetta, Nathaniel Clay Bedford, Brandon Jemell Best, Eshani Bhalla, Catherine Taylor Boyle, Justin Clark Bram, Emma Andrews Brennan, Austin J. Bronson, Ramona Bullock-Johnson, Kaleigh Alexandra Cannon, Colby Alexander Carlone, Erin Caroline Casey, Anna Claire Cook, Logan Coletti Corbett, Claudenae Jodi-Ann Cousins, Benjamin Carlton Cowper, Arielle Marie Dufour, Jacqueline Anne Dunn, Flinn Bingham Esselstyn, Morgan Lauren Falconer, Todd Michael Fichman, Emily Ford, Rebecca Jeanne Lund Frank, Helene Juhl Frost, August John Fusco III, Jaime E. Gelman, Kayla Ward Gervino, Thomas Andrew Giardini, Rosalie Louise Gluck, Celine C.
Haeberly, Paula Rose Hagopian, Benjamin Howard Halter, Brian William Halter, Catherine Skye Calloway Harger, Caroline Hamilton Harvey, Todd William Kelmar, Varun Khattar, Lucien Amani Campbell Konan, Casey Lynn LaTorre, Jonah Morris Lazowski, Lucas James Lefrancois, Kelly A. Lessard, Dana Franci Levin, Scott Adam Levine, Seth Daniel Lieberman, Michelle Germain Liva, Gabriel Tantengco Lorenzo, Christopher J. Macca, Carolyn Nicole Marcello, Siobhan Rae McIlhoney, Jameson F. McKeown, Samuel T. McKeown, Allison Margaret Mendola, Benjamin James Miller, Dipali Mistri, Carolyn Elizabeth Mitchell, Zarah Mohamed, Hunter B. Morgan, Kathleen Elizabeth Morgan, Matthew Mark Mulkern, Maleeha Naqvi, Chiamaka C. Temitope Ndibe, Julia Leal O’Connor, Jake Pavlik, Christopher James Presto, Daniel M. Puckowski, Marcus Jordan Pugliese, Madeline Sophie Reich, Zachary Richard Restifo, Nicholas Peter Rezuke, Xochil Ariela Rivera, Hannah Rosenthal, Alexander Charles Roth, Michele Margaret Ruffee, Catalina Salazar, Mary Lynn Shimkus, Ben Samuel Shoham, Rohan Singh, Colin Richard Sonstrom, Kimberly Ann Spring, Bridget C. Stack, Jason Eitan Stein, Sarah Ilana Steinberg, Schuyler Grant Stockman, Sabrina Olivia Strom, Emily Rose Sullivan, Rebecca Bates Taylor, Samantha Eli Udolf, Zoe Joelle Waldman, Benjamin Graham Washburn, Taylor Scott Waybright, Nicole Amanda Wetsman, Gabrielle Kassel Wolinsky, Henry P. Zaccardi, Alec I. Zimmerman.