May 22, 2022 – On a hot, sunny day, family and friends gathered under a large tent pitched on Miller Brothers Field as Northfield Mount Hermon honored the 197 members of its Class of 2022 at its 139th Commencement ceremony.
The event, which was livestreamed around the globe for those who couldn’t join in person, was full of traditions and singing, including the school song, “Jerusalem,” and, in an especially emotional moment, of “The Northfield Benediction,” led by music teacher Sheila Heffernon, who retires this year after 42 NMH commencements. Molly Goggins Talbot ’93, P’21, president of the NMH Alumni Association, welcomed the Class of 2022 to the association, while the Rev. Lee-Ellen Strawn, the school chaplain, offered a benediction.
Senior Charlie Brandt, who was selected by faculty and fellow students as the class orator, delivered a speech about the value to be found in our most vulnerable moments, which present opportunities for connection and reflection — an especially important message for a group of newly minted high school graduates heading off into their futures.
“As we leave Northfield Mount Hermon to commence the next stage of our lives, I hope all of us will find ways to express our vulnerability,” Brandt said. “We have been taught by a group of educators who fight for their students to grow into bright and honest people. And as such, we are just about to receive our diplomas with heads held high and hearts open. The nature of commencement prompts us to assume these poses of openness to take on our futures.”
The graduates and their guests also heard from Maurice Coleman ’87, who was invited by the Class of 2022 to deliver the commencement address. A Bank of America executive, Coleman has spent his career helping advance communities through investment in affordable housing, education, entrepreneurship, and other vehicles for lifting people and neighborhoods. “Maurice is one of our own,” Head of School Brian Hargrove said in his introduction of Coleman. “He lives to serve, and he does it with gratitude in his heart.”
In his address, Coleman recalled arriving on the NMH campus for a post-graduate year, after attending high school in his hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. His mother, sensing how nervous he was about entering this new, different environment, reminded him of the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
“Class of 2022,” Coleman told the graduates. “I need you to keep moving forward. I need you to keep moving forward to achieve your goals.”
For all his successes at NMH and beyond — including two degrees from Columbia University, a career built on helping others, and a supportive family, including his wife and two children — Coleman said, he’s also experienced challenges, from an injury that threw a wrench in his college basketball career to family tragedies and hardships. What helped him through, he said, was the power of persistence, something he learned at Northfield Mount Hermon. “NMH showed me I was built for it,” he said.
“Class of 2022, you must keep moving forward,” he continued. “I want you to understand that you must persist. I want you to understand that you must stay humble and hungry. But most importantly, I want you to understand that you must follow your heart. Be committed to not just doing things right, but be committed to doing the right thing. Live a life of purpose.”
Hargrove, too, reminded the graduates of the importance of carrying NMH’s values with them as they go out into the world. “Your NMH diploma brings tremendous privileges, rights, and responsibilities,” he said. “You are endowed with the tools, skills, and knowledge to serve and lead. You know what it means to stand with those who are underrepresented, to be the champion of those whose voice cannot be heard. Friends, you will change the world with your voices and your actions.”
(Photo by Alex McCullough ’23.)