May 22, 2022 — This year, two students were named co-valedictorians of the Northfield Mount Hermon graduating class: Yiwen “Richard” Li and Gretta Xie. Each had their chance to shine and share special remarks with their classmates at separate events during the lead-up to Commencement this past week.
Yiwen “Richard” Li
Li delivered his remarks during Class Day exercises in Memorial Chapel on Thursday, May 19. In addition, members of the graduating class were recognized with awards for high achievement, and students who earned a spot in the Cum Laude Society were officially inducted into the independent school national honor society, the secondary school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa.
In his speech, Li reflected on his time at NMH, saying, “I have found a balance between personal development and enjoying my daily life — a balance between grades and my passion. I would not have changed a single thing.”
Li, who is from Shanghai, is a member of the boys’ JV cross country team and of the NMH Debate Society. After giving his speech, he noted that he has particularly enjoyed taking photography at NMH because it sparked creativity he hadn’t realized was inside of him and filled him with pride.
“I can’t really draw and most definitely cannot sing well,” Li said. “Yet, the photography experience changed my presumptions. That was when I realized that I can actually create art.”
While Li is grateful that his academic achievement was recognized by his being named as a valedictorian, his journey at NMH has been driven by a holistic approach to education and “doing the things I love,” he said. “The journey itself is in itself the most valuable experience. The lessons I learned about clinging to my passions, staying tenacious in face of crises, and embracing all perspectives and voices have been truly transformative.”
Xie, who is from Nanjing, China, delivered her co-valedictory remarks at the Baccalaureate service in Memorial Chapel on Saturday, May 21. Traditionally, Baccalaureate is a worship service offered by a school for its graduating class and their families and friends; at NMH, the service is non-denominational and inclusive.
Xie is an artist and a writer who spent countless hours at the Rhodes Arts Center during her time at NMH. She’s also a member of the NMH Debate Society and has been involved in the theater program.
During her remarks, Xie said that, at NMH, she has found that pursuing her artistic interests has helped her let go of her need for control which, in turn, has opened up for her a world of possibilities.
“One of the most memorable classes I’ve taken at NMH is ceramics, where I struggled with controlling clay, a blob of squishy material that doesn’t always do what I want it to do,” she told her classmates. “It cracks sometimes, refuses to center on the wheel, and ruins my sweaters. While there is a chance that my teapot will come out of the kiln broken, there is also the possibility that beautiful surprises will emerge from the unexpected.”
She continued, “When we recognize the things we can not control, we empower ourselves with a new freedom to act. Against the paralyzing fear we all feel when faced with the unknown and the uncontrollable arises a courage to let go and take risks.”