Members of the graduating class of 2016 were invited to be courageous, embrace risks and failures, and to give back to society, during the 105th commencement exercises that were held on June 3, 2016.
“In whatever you choose to do, move forward with the courage of your values, passions and convictions", said Sigrid Kaag, the UN Representative in Lebanon and an ACS parent, who gave the keynote speech.
Some 68 students graduated from ACS this year, with 66 among them already accepted into college. Nearly 40 percent of the graduating class (or 27 students) have chosen to pursue their studies in the United States.
The graduation ceremony opened with a procession of faculty and members of the Board of Trustees followed by the students and a welcome word by Head of School Hamilton Clark, who congratulated the graduates, wishing them “great adventures ahead.” He added that ACS’s founders would have been proud of where ACS is now, 111 years after it was first established.
“Diverse and dynamic our students will enroll in eight different countries,” Clark said. “They have competed in regional sports competitions, exhibited art … They are a terrific group who are ready to go out to make a change.”
Quoting T.S. Eliot, Clark encouraged students to be bold and take risks: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
Following Clark, Nina Joukowsky Köprülü, President of the Board of Trustees, also congratulated the Class of 2016 for their achievement, encouraging them to embrace the challenges ahead.
Joukowsky Köprülü invited the audience to give a big round of applause to Ham and Ceci Clark, who are leaving ACS to establish a new school in Brazil.
Through her six main messages to students, Kaag encouraged the graduates to seize every opportunity; explore new places and people; have the courage to stand out and be different; create their own stories; give back to society; embrace risk and learn from failure; and to walk the talk and play to their strengths.
“Today you are graduating from one of the best schools in the country, in the region,” she said. “You have been equipped intellectually to begin thinking critically and constructively about some of the great challenges facing the world, the region, and the very communities to which you belong.”
During the ceremony, Ambassador Richard Jones, the ad interim chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy, presented 25 students who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, integrity and intellectual depth, with the President’s Education Award.
Reading a letter by President Barack Obama, Jones addressed the students: “Please accept my congratulations on receiving the President’s Education Award … America looks to students like you, whose dreams and determination know no bounds …. Your commitment to your education demonstrates the creativity and energy that will chart the course of our unwritten history, allowing us to reimagine reality and seek new frontiers. I’m inspired by your motivation and work ethic, and it gives me great hope to know our future will be written by ambitious young people like you."
Jones himself also congratulated the graduating class, saying, “Life will challenge you, force you to adapt, to consider new perspectives about the world, and that is indeed its beauty ... How you approach adversity, learn from your mistakes, and muster courage to tackle the difficult is what will define your success.”
Jones also commended “the many contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Clark, the ACS faculty and staff, and, of course, the parents and friends of this extraordinary class of scholars.”
This was Clark’s last graduation ceremony at ACS before leaving for his next project.
Following the distribution of the President’s Awards, High School Principal Robert Evans called out the names of the recipients of the Farah Family Athletic and Leadership Award, the Blair Harcourt Award, the Fine Arts Award, the Citizenship Award and the Walter Prosser Outstanding Student Award.
In her speech Kaag had reminded students that life is “no straight arrow, but a rather zigzagged road with many bumps.”
“You are fortunate to belong to a generation whereby many pursue different pathways to happiness, far removed from the metric of money, possessions and general material wealth,” she added.
The ACS Orchestra, led by music director Robert Fedorak, entertained the audience with several numbers from “Mamma Mia on Broadway.”