“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
— T.S. Eliot, Class of 1906
Milton awarded diplomas to 181 seniors during the School’s commencement exercises on June 5, 2015. One longstanding tradition of the ceremony is students electing their student speakers, which assures seniors that they will, at their last Milton gathering, hear from classmates they have chosen. This year, students selected Bobby Gilmore and Kate Stockbridge. Delivering the commencement address was alumnus Ned Sahin Ph.D., Milton Academy Class of 1994. Ned is the founder of Brain Power, a neurotechnology firm that uses cutting edge brain research and technological advances to affect lives. Brain Power is transforming wearables like Google Glass into assistive devices for children with autism.
Class of 2015 Graduates
Karla Veronica Alvarado-Chavez, Chelsea, MA
Peter Julian Ambrus, Milton, MA
Abisayo Olubintan Animashaun, Malden, MA
Joshua Eli Aronson, Framingham, MA
Ellen Leanne Askey, Carlisle, MA
Harry Geoffrey Wilson August, Jamaica Plain, MA
Miles James Hansen Awofala, San Francisco, CA
Mark David Balboni, Rye Beach, NH
Laura Katherine Barkowski, Boston, MA
Aleya Kelly Barnes, Kingston, Jamaica
Charles Redington Barrett, Dedham, MA
Olivia Madison Beaupre, Assonet, MA
Olivia Lynn Bell, Dover, MA
Gianna Marie Beniers, Hingham, MA
Katie Clark Berry, Cambridge, MA
Shaheen Abdullah Bharwani, Belmont, MA
Katherine Margaret Edith Blauer, Yarmouth Port, MA
Alison Evans Bodner, Cohasset, MA
Emily Lynn Bosworth, Boston, MA
Sean Peter Brennan, Stony Point, NY
Michaela Rae Brickley, Hingham, MA
Jeffrey Aaron Brown, Roslindale, MA
Jake Michael Burchill, Cohasset, MA
Ariela Sarah Buxbaum Grice, New York, NY
Iris Keyla Carbonel Estepan, Boston, MA
Alexander James Chaffers, Wellesley, MA
Adrian Chang, Los Angeles, CA
Sean Bharat Chanicka, Dorchester, MA
Steven Thomas Char, Milton, MA
Matthew Alexander Chea, Nassau, Bahamas
Caitlin H. Cheng, Hong Kong
Ji-Yoon Allison Choi, Waban, MA
Caitlin Delia Connelly, Quincy, MA
Frederick Sinclair Connelly, Milton, MA
Jessica Elizabeth Conway, Weston, MA
Lucy Culleton, Milton, MA
Leah Ghebre Daniel, Randolph, MA
John Lothrop Daniels, Dedham, MA
Rajan Ketan Davae, Needham, MA
Alexander Minh-Anh Day, Milton, MA
Sean Walker Deery, Mattapoisett, MA
Louis James Demetroulakos, Marblehead, MA
Ecclesiaste Ginord Desir, Brooklyn, NY
Nicholas Channing DiGiovanni, Milton, MA
Gibson Hazard Dintersmith, Jamestown, RI
Henrik Dion, Lagrangeville, NY
Richard William Dionne, Cambridge, MA
Isabella Megginson Dunn, Milton, MA
Tatiana Hemenway Faris, Watertown, MA
Elizabeth Brooke Finer, Swampscott, MA
Katherine Clark Flaherty, Dorado, Puerto Rico
Marina del Carmen Fleites, Hingham, MA
Samantha Fong, Hong Kong
Adam Michael Friedberg, Milton, MA
Benjamin Wood Gagnon, Milton, MA
Alison Jean Garber, Cambridge, MA
Alexander Cary Garnick, Weston, MA
Richard John Gedney, Milton, MA
Robert Eben Gilmore, Milford, MA
Arooshe Pahooja Giroti, Wellesley, MA
John Rolf-Dieter Glasfeld, Mystic, CT
Andrew Robert Godwin, Westwood, MA
Julia Kelley Grace, Lincoln, MA
Oceana Isabelle Gumbs, Saint Barthélemy
Andrew Hahm, Irvine, CA
Jackson Cavanaugh Hartwell, Hyde Park, MA
William Emmanuel Hawkins, Lexington, MA
Clay Griffin Heater, Milton, MA
Kathleen Love Higgins, Summit, NJ
Hannah Ilana Hoffman, West Newton, MA
Nathan Joseph Honey, South Lyon, MI
Drew Joseph Hotte, Ambler, PA
Claire Menga Huffman, Portland, OR
Hannah Freedman Iafrati, Wellesley, MA
Mark Anthony Iraheta, Houston, TX
Isabella Jean Iwanicki, Norwell, MA
Arthur Murry Jacobs, Scarsdale, NY
Connor Peter James, Weston, MA
Amanda Rao Jiao, Alberta, Canada
Sophie Scott Kaufman, Milton, MA
Kathryn Elizabeth Kehne, Northampton, MA
Ian Churchward Kennedy, Milton, MA
Dianne Jiyoon Kim, Seoul, South Korea
Ju Young Kim, Seoul, South Korea
Max Abraham Kliman, Needham, MA
Sang Yoon Kwon, Seoul, South Korea
Erika Amalia Lamere, Weston, MA
Serena Lan, New York, NY
Matthew Roger Langen, Dover, MA
Lisandra Lao, Chelsea, MA
Jonathan Black Lawson, Ontario, Canada
Daniel Lee, Chapel Hill, NC
Sophie Hertberg Lenihan, Hingham, MA
Mark Leon, Wrentham, MA
Christopher Washington Lewis, Kingston, Jamaica
Guangshen Li, Hong Kong
Richard S. Li, Hong Kong
Ruting Li, Shanghai, China
Isabel Marie Licata, Burlington, VT
James Isaac Little, Brookline, MA
Lauren Sydney Loop, Wellesley, MA
Siyu Lu, Shanghai, China
Beier Luo, Cheng Du, China
Alexander Charles MacDonagh, Norfolk, MA
James Warren Maguire, Darien, CT
Emma Rose Martin, Westwood, MA
Jesse Madrid Martinez, Walpole, MA
Juliet Keziah McCann, Newton, MA
Lily Frances McCarthy, Milton, MA
Molly Claire McCullen, Lincoln, NE
Conor Barton McManamy, Newburyport, MA
Laura Peace McManamy, Newburyport, MA
Emma Mehta, Wellesley, MA
Kiana Medina Mendes, Boston, MA
David Julien Mercier, South Burlington, VT
Erik Austin Mohl, Milton, MA
Jamie Carolyn Murray, Jamaica Plain, MA
Jodie Sian Mustin, Street, England
Lucy Fay Nachmanoff, Boston, MA
Afshan Nasseri, Sharon, MA
Isaac Josue Ordoñez, Maspeth, NY
Courtney Maya Page, Laurel, MD
John Nealon Panariello, Milton, MA
Faith Samantha Pang, Hong Kong
Colby Bradford Parsons, Norwell, MA
Hari Giles Kanu Patel, Weston, MA
Jennifer Pema, Revere, MA
Maria Laura Peña Zabala, Dorchester, MA
Nicholas John Peponakis, Astoria, NY
Samantha Jae Peponakis, Astoria, NY
Christina Anne Perry, Bethesda, MD
Elias Sawyer Peterson, Cambridge, MA
Destiny Janai Polk, Boston, MA
Giselle Oliveira Prado, Newark, NJ
Dev Ajay Ramkissoon, Bronx, NY
Mariah Alexis Redfern, Randolph, MA
Kevin Patrick Reilly, Marshfield, MA
William Peter Vanderbeck Remsen, Dover, MA
Deanna Gladys Reyes, Bronx, NY
Cassandra Elizabeth Peto Rice, Milton, MA
Oliver David Albert Rordorf, Newton, MA
Victoria Séraphine Ruvkun, Newton, MA
Iladro Lee Sauls, Somerville, MA
Yoav Segev, Newton, MA
Jae Hyung Sim, Walnut, CA
Thia Simon, Milton, MA
Jadesara Bajemar Simon, Boston, MA
Jude Cantave Simplice, Dorchester, MA
Lily Lee Slocum, Norwell, MA
Zaria Donique Smalls, Queens, NY
Christian Carson Febiger Spahr, Milton, MA
Charles Hutton Stenhouse, Dover, MA
Connor Burke Stewart, Wellesley, MA
Kate Rose Stockbridge, Milton, MA
William Gilbert Strang, South Orange, NJ
Rachel Hiu Wai Sun, Sydney, Australia
Nicole Anne Swirbalus, Westwood, MA
Neel Anand Taneja, Wellesley, MA
Davis Hartley Rosselot Tantillo, Weston, MA
Tegan Elizabeth Liu Treacy, Needham, MA
Shanlyn Tse, Milton, MA
Jared Michael Whitmore Turner, Waban, MA
Conrad William Tyler, Guerneville, CA
Neekon Vafa, Chestnut Hill, MA
Kingdell Shakim Valdez, North Andover, MA
Milton Andrés Vargas Jr., Lawrence, MA
Constantine Souter Velmahos, Dover, MA
Alexander Walls Vivado, Marshfield Hills, MA
Santiago Vivar Jr., Bronx, NY
Caroline Bright Wall, Greensboro, NC
Nereese Elana Watson, Kingston, Jamaica
Ethan Goodwin Webster-Zinn, Newton, MA
Richard Anthony Wichhart, Makati, Philippines
Kathleen Dorothy Widenmeyer, Langhorne, PA
Josephine Hannah Wilson, Newton, MA
Jaejung Justin Yoon, Nashville, TN
Nicola Rose Young, Needham, MA
Alexander Ning Yu, Philadelphia, PA
Charlotte Jeanette Zonis, New Canaan, CT
Ian Hunt Zylstra, Dedham, MA
Speech by Kate Stockbridge '15
Thank you Ms. Karp.
Mr. Bloom, Mr. Bland, Mr. Ball, Ms. Bonenfant, Mr. Ruiz, Faculty, Staff, students, family friends, and the Class of 2015.
I peaked in the eighth grade. As in, I reached the prime of my life at the ripe age of 14 and since then, there has been nowhere to go but down. And first, just to give you some context, eighth grade me had a bowl cut, braces, and perpetually crooked glasses. I had NO sense of humor, NO sense of style, and my athletic ability was average at best. But, I was smart. And that’s all I really needed. I had such absolute confidence in the fact that I had found my niche in life, that one thing that would define me and set me apart from everyone else. I would be the “smart girl” and I was perfectly content with that. Until freshman year, when Milton effectively demolished my confidence and tore my identity right out from under me. Freshman year was rough, to say the least. Suddenly, I wasn’t the “smart girl” because everyone was smart. I was just one smart girl, in a sea of smart girls, except these smart girls were also athletic, artistic, musical and could sing, dance and play four instruments while horseback riding and dribbling a basketball. So I had to start looking for other ways to define myself. First, I tried orchestra. I had been playing the violin since the third grade, and by middle school I had become a proficient air bower meaning I would move my bow with the music in a way that made it look like I was playing when I really wasn’t. But within 30 seconds of my first orchestra class at Milton I realized that here students were actually expected to play, like with the bow touching the strings. And they were all good. Even the kids that they stuck in back, where you’re supposed to put the bad kids, were amazing. So long story short: My music career didn’t last long. I knew singing and dancing were out of the question because I am both tone-deaf and have no rhythm. And it soon became apparent that I couldn’t paint, draw, write poetry, sculpt, or do any of the other random artistic things that kids at this school do. I had lost my niche and couldn’t seem to find another one and as all of us students know, Milton has a way of making even the best of us feel inadequate at times, and I certainly was not the best of us. I was lost. And I’m standing here four years later and I’m still very lost. I have yet to discover my unique talent, only added on to that I have now experienced ALOT of rejection through the college, I’m supposed to learn how to be an independent functioning grown up human being with the next three months, and I still don’t know exactly who I am or who I want to be. So, why, you might ask, am I the person representing this class on our graduation day when I clearly don’t have my life together? I’m not really sure to be honest. (There’s no way that I, or any single person, could adequately do justice to the amazing and yet very individual and personal things that Milton has given to each us during our times here.) So, you could say that I am, right now, standing in front of all of you, in way over my head. BUT, luckily, if Milton has taught me nothing else, it has taught me to embrace this feeling of drowning. Of being so out of my comfort zone that all I can do is tread water and hope that either I can make it to the shore or that someone tosses out a lifeline. Over the past four years my peers and I have become excellent at just barely keeping ourselves afloat. It’s like we all entered Milton thinking that we were Olympic swimmers, but when we got here, we realized that not only could we not swim but that we needed those little floaty things that kids wear on their arms and that the pool wasn’t actually a pool but the open ocean, and it was full of sharks and responsibilities and grades and extracurriculars. And then we were just thrown right out into the middle of it, and had to adapt. At times the water was really rough and we were constantly being pulled in all directions by waves of assignments and expectations; we felt lonely and isolated and couldn’t see one another through the storm. We had to learn how to manage our workloads, and our social lives, and hormones, and it was a lot sometimes. But, even if we didn’t know it then, we were never actually going to go under. Because Milton is a community before anything else, and there is always someone willing to row out into the middle of the storm to support you through the worst of it, or to point you in the right direction when you are particularly lost. And although that metaphor might be a little heavy handed and make my Milton experience sound both miserable and damp, it’s in these moments of fear and discomfort, that Milton students thrive. And it took four years of us feeling like we were going to drown to prove that each of us has the strength to keep ourselves and each other afloat in any storm.
When I think about an experience at Milton that adequately encompasses these feelings of drowning, the first thing that comes to mind is Honors Biology. Coming off of a pretty successful year in regular sophomore chemistry, I was thinking that maybe science was my “thing.” Maybe I was going to cure cancer, or save the environment (Bobby!) and it was my obligation to mankind to take this honors class so that I could fulfill my potential. But my dreams of a Nobel prize in Biology went right out the window the second we started to talk about protein enzymes and meiosis and oxidative phosphoralation. I looked around at the students in my class, and realized that I had made a big mistake. Somehow I had wandered into a corner of Milton life where all the really smart kids were. Like the kids who are actually going to cure cancer, were in my class. One thing was not like the others and I was that thing. Talk about being lost. So there I am, a couple weeks into Junior year, sitting in honors bio as information is flying right over my head, when Mr. Edgar announces that we will be picking our own partners for the first lab of the year. Now, I might not be the smartest student in the science building, but I’m no dummy. And I knew that I needed to take fate into my own hands. I pulled my hair back into a pony-tail, double knotted my converse sneakers, and prepared to pounce. I had my eye on two possible lab partners; I had carefully observed each of their science capabilities and knew that we would work really well together, and by work well together, I mean that they could get me an A. While Mr. Edgar was explaining the lab, I was busy stalking my prey. I stared across the table at my first choice and tried desperately to make eye contact with him. At first I thought he was just oblivious to my advances. But then I noticed that he was purposely averting his eyes. So, whatever, I moved on to my next victim. Again, eye contact averted. What I didn’t know was that apparently the smartest kids in the class had called a meeting and decided before hand that they would form a group themselves. Selfish, yes. Were they hoarding all the knowledge. Absolutely. Did I secretly hope that all of their brine shrimp died. Maybe a little. So that left me and my fellow, less scientifically inclined students to form a group. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Like seriously no idea. But despite having so little faith in ourselves, I don’t remember a time when we actually believed that we couldn’t do it, because Mr. Edgar had this incredible and unwavering faith in our ability to succeed. And that support means everything in a place like Milton. Because having a strong support system and people that care about you, is the only difference between drowning or staying afloat. And that’s what I’m going to remember 20 years from now. I can promise you that I won’t remember how form fits function in the sugar phosphate backbone of a nucleic acid, or literally anything related to calculus. But what will remain with me, long after I leave campus, are the relationships that I have made here. The many simple acts of kindness that I have been shown while at Milton have made me realize that at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is people. How you treat people, how you make people feel, and the people you choose to surround yourself with. We live in a world that values success and accomplishment over everything else. We have spent four years chasing after grades and leadership positions and college acceptances, but now that it’s over, and we are moving on, all that really remains are the relationships that we have built during our time here. And it’s those relationships that have shaped me into the person that I am today. The only difference between the girl that arrived here on the first day of orientation, and the girl who is standing before you today, is that now, I’m okay with being lost. I’m okay with being really bad at things, failing often, and then failing better the next time. And I’m okay with admitting that I have no idea what I am doing or where I am going because now I know how to ask for directions when I need them. I know how to look around when I am feeling particularly lost, and to pick out that landmark that will guide me the right way, that friendly face in the hallway, or the teacher who will believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Milton has taught me to embrace being lost, because I now know that as long as we surround ourselves with the right people, we will always be able to find our way.
So, Class of 2015…I don’t love all of you, and I am certainly not loved by all of you. But we have learned with and from each other during a really crucial time in lives. Everybody’s lost in high school. Everybody’s insecure and just trying to figure it all out for themselves. It’s awkward, and it’s messy, and but it’s also sort of great. And we all got to be lost together, out in the middle of the ocean with our little blow up floaties on just dog paddling against the current. I have no idea what the next few years of our lives have in store for us: who we will be; where we will go. But that’s the best part. We’ll get lost again at some point in our lives, we’ll be hot messes, with no idea what the future holds. But we as Milton students will be be prepared. We won’t hesitate to dive into the uncomfortable, the unknown, the messiness and to just figure out everything as we go. We’ll laugh at ourselves, we’ll lean on our communities, and we’ll just keep moving forward. Because we’ll know that being lost is when all the really good stuff happens. And that eventually we’ll end up exactly where we are supposed to be, surrounded by the people that matter.
Speech by Bobby Gilmore '15
Hello everyone. My name is Bobby Gilmore, but most of you call me Bob, Rob, Robert, Robby, B-Rabbit, B-Sizzle, G-Unit, Chocolate Eagle, or Big Juicy Juicy — which I never really understood. I would like to start this baby off by extending a few thank you’s. If I miss you, that means I’m not thankful for you. Please never speak to me again. No — guys, I’m just kidding. We’re gonna have a little fun today. In fact, I want this graduation to be the party of the summer. And I know what you’re thinking and yes. This is more than 10 people, and yes I did clear it with the dean’s office — so we’re all good. Actually, speaking of deans and other administrators, I’d like to just first give a quick thank you to Mr. Bland, Mr. Ball, Mr. Ruiz and Ms. Bonenfant. I’ve always thought of you guys as Milton’s own Jedi Council. Comparable in both your wisdom and your skill with a Light Saber — you guys are kinda an intergalactic dream-team.
I feel many things right now. First, I feel honored. To stand here in front of all of your lightly perspiring faces, to see those programs desperately fanning back and forth. It makes me think wow, I’m super important. I have the power to make everyone sit in the hot sun for as long as I want… But, truly this is quite the honor. I feel the way Obi Wan Kenobi felt when Anakin Skywalker dueled Count Dooku aboard General Grievous’ droid starship in Star Wars Episode III. So yeah, you know what I mean when I say I feel honored.
The next thing I feel is proud. And, this is a feeling I’ve felt for quite a long time. In fact, if there is a single word to describe my Milton experience — besides hungry — it’s proud.
I remember how proud I felt the day I got the “big Orange envelope” in the mail. I was in eighth grade. My Dad is a fifth grade science teacher in my hometown and I went down to his classroom to open it up. We celebrated pretty hard that day. I recall giving my Pops a high five, feeding Sasha the class tortoise a fresh head of lettuce — just cuz — and I think we wrapped up the celebration with a nice steak and cheese sub from D’Angelo’s, thus satiating my incessant hunger. So in other words…It was awesome. I knew the second I had my Dad read the word “Congratulations” for me, that I was going to be a Mustang. And not a healthy looking Mustang, a gross shaggy Blue and Orange Mustang — the kind you just wanna ride all the way to the vet to get checked out. And, after watching the transformative experience my sister Molly had here at Milton, I knew I had to hop aboard this gravy train. And, that’s what Milton is — a gravy train, departing every hour from the corner of Success Way and Wow- What-an-Opportunity Drive…gravy…oh…my…goodness…I’m sooo hungry.
So, let’s start from the beginning. The first reason I am proud to be a Mustang is because of the overwhelming sense of community here at Milton.
I remember moving into Norris House as a feeble young freshman, looking similar to many of you here today. In fact, it may seem hard to believe, but I was once far from the curvaceous young man you see before you. I was frail…and, I was entering football preseason, a dangerous combination. I remember playing scout defense. Which is basically a ragtag group of eager, skinny, half-limping freshmen and sophomores who voluntarily go against the primarily junior-senior varsity offense. It’s a guaranteed bloodbath, but, if you’re serious about football, it’s a vital step in your development as a player. It shows the coaches “hey I’ll get flattened, but I like this sport enough to keep coming back.” So there I was, all 6’4” inches of lanky 15-year-old, ready to do my duty as human cannon fodder. And, I got destroyed, decleated, decapitated and slightly disheartened. So this went on for the first few days of preseason until finally, I had a breakout play. I managed to slip past one of the offensive linemen and tackle the running back, the guy with the ball. I popped up all proud of myself, when I heard:
“Gilmore! Dude WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO TACKLE HIM! JUST TAG THE VARSITY RUNNINGBACK! YOU’RE GONNA HURT SOMEONE!”
See I didn’t realize that the varsity offense can hit the scout defense, but the scout defense isn’t supposed to touch the varsity offense. So I had half the team yelling at me for doing something I thought I was supposed to do. It seemed so backward and wrong. I was really discouraged. I was new to this place, but in that moment, felt like nothing was going right. So I walked back to Norris House later that night, went in my room, and cried. Just like a little baby…baby back ribs…ok, if anyone has any food…do you guys have some food? No…
So there I was all sad ‘n stuff. Feeling like I wanted to go home. In fact, I called my parents that night and said “Can you come get me? These aren’t my people. I wanna come back to Milford.” They said something along the lines of “Oh honey…no…” And right as I got off the phone, I heard a knock on my door. I open it, and there he was. Perhaps the most classic Milton kid I’ve ever seen. Just your casual 6’4” Moroccan kid from Poland, who happens to be the best lineman on the team as a junior. In his crazy deep voice he said “what’s up man, wanna chill in my room?” As I tried desperately to wipe my little baby back tears, I said — sure. He explained how he made mistakes all the time. He told me that he didn’t really understand any of the plays or rules for that matter, and that although a couple people yelled at me, the coaches were happy to see that I was trying. He told me not to feel discouraged. Instead he welcomed me — to Milton, to the team, to the dorm. It seems so crazy, but I don’t know if I’d be standing here today if it weren’t for that act of genuine kindness. He saw that I was down in the dumps, feeling a little left out, and swooped in. And, maybe this is the theme of Milton. Students looking out for one and other. Kids reaching out their hand, and pulling each other out of the darkness.
Anyway, I’m sure we’ve all had similar moments at Milton: times when we’re feeling down or stressed out, and somebody in this community has saved us. I think, in a way, we’ve all had our own giant Moroccan Polish kid looking out for us. And, that’s just one reason why I’m proud of this community.
While I will always appreciate the students here, for their endless support and unwavering friendship, I feel equally grateful and proud of the faculty here at Milton. Beyond being exceptional educators, the faculty here make-up a full armada of academic warriors, each armed to the teeth with passion, smarts, care, and love. It’s kinda like in Star Wars when Master Yoda lead the Storm Troopers to Geonosis to help rescue Obi Wan, Anakin and Padme from the Petranaki arena — where they were left to battle an acklay, a reek and a nexu with their bare hands!
They’re wicked smaaaht…wicked good at teachin’ — all that book learnin’ stuff. Stuffing…mmm…Ok, you know what…I told myself I wouldn’t but (removes cold-cut sub from beneath podium)…I gotta do it…want some?
(to sub) I’ll see you later baby (kisses sub).
In addition to being good at books and knowledge and wisdom and stuff, these teachers instill moral and ethical values that no book could possibly ever encapsulate. And I know there are a bunch of English teachers now thinking, “No, that flower from Hemingway’s whatever was the protagonist’s moral compass, and family ties burn hotter than the flames of hell” or some crazy horse poopery like that. And maybe the books we read…or don’t read …help build character and pose important questions about the human condition. But honestly, I feel like the most important and transformative aspects of a Milton education are the relationships built between students and faculty. I know this is going to sound kind of strange, but it’s almost like the students and faculty here at Milton are…friends… in the least weird way that adults can be friends with adolescents. I’m sure the seniors sitting up here today can think of a faculty or staff member with whom they were kinda friends. I mean, I’ve had teachers who really made me laugh — and that I could make laugh — maybe we had inside jokes or running gags in a class. Teachers here ask us how our days are going, they come to our games and plays and performances. We babysit their kids or take their dogs for walks. We live and work and play together. To see this as a place where “the teachers teach and the students learn” doesn’t really capture the essence or the magic of what Milton’s all about. I’m so proud of this incredible community because of these amazing relationships.
So, now I’m standing here, seven years after first stepping on campus to help my sister move in to Hathaway, and it’s finally starting to sink in. We will never all be together again. No more proms, no more Nobles Day craziness, no more classes, no more advisor meetings, no more…us.
I came in here not really knowing any of you. And, now the idea of never seeing some of you again is just kind of surreal. I mean I really like you guys — as individuals, as a group — and it kind of bums me out to know that this is the end. I’m gonna miss you guys. So, today, let’s enjoy, have some food, celebrate, hug each other, eat a little more, say good-bye, and promise to stay in touch. Thank you.
Speech by Dr. Ned Sahin, Class of 1994
Class of 2015!!
When I was here, right here, like you are here now, this – today’s world – was a future I could not have predicted. However, in part because of Milton, it was one for which I was well prepared.
So my first message is about how to prepare for the future, even if you cannot predict the future.
When I was here, I took Mr. Hilgendorf’s history class. Yes, it was in that same classroom, with mostly those same posters, but if there was someone on a poster I didn’t know, I couldn’t have looked him up on Google – because Google didn’t exist! More importantly, Google wasn’t even predicted.
Bill Gates wrote a book after I graduated called The Road Ahead, and famously opined how anemic this internet thing was, and barely even mentioned the web. Even he couldn’t predict.
When I was here, I took Mr. Fricke’s English class. No one used iPhones, and no one was checking Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter … you guessed it, because none of those existed! More importantly, again, they would not have been predicted. In college I asked the administration if they would put the book we had with each student’s picture, name and hometown – only that – onto the college web site. They said, “no one would want such sensitive information to be so public”! Ha!
And that wasn’t that long ago! (No really, that wasn’t that long ago – please, it wasn’t!)
What seemed outlandish then is now old hat; and yet some things that were predicted then have not materialized. That is the way it goes.
Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel famously quipped, “we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” – referring of course to Twitter.
In short, the future is happening fast, almost faster than the brain can grasp, and the future you will know is becoming less and less predictable. This leads to the first piece of advice. Are you thinking about the next 4 years (and about starting over at the bottom of the totem pole)? Are you thinking about what comes after? What field should you study, what career should you pursue? Here’s a clue:
Look around. See what is really hot. Pay close attention to what people on the cutting edge are talking about, rushing into, and declaring is definitely the future … and then DON’T DO THAT!
You’re too late. They have been training for a decade or more and are at the top of their game. You still have a long way to go. When you get there, “there” will be somewhere else – somewhere you cannot predict. However futuristic something may sound now, from 3D-printing oif organs or even thoughts, to data analytics to forecast those thoughts, it is still going to be passé when you get there.
Aside from the old standby professions, chances are the job you will later take doesn’t even exist now! We may not even have a word for it yet.
Don’t worry, though. Even if you cannot predict, you can prepare.
“Dare To Be True,” says our school motto. 1798, and yet Milton is still relevant – still part of the conversation. How have we managed that? Well, note that the motto is not “Dare to start the next Snapchat”! Nor is it, “Dare to build the next cotton gin,” or whatever would have been cool in 1798. Key principles remain timeless.
Learn how to learn. Ask elegant questions. Sharpen your mind and learn how to tell fact from fantasy: this is as necessary on the web now, or someday when our brains connect directly to each other, as it ever was in our quill pen and leather tome past. Learn also how to love, how to respect, how to inspire, how to bring hope. Avoid junk food for the brain like pettiness, and jealousy, and rancor.
When I sat there exactly where you are sitting, I could never have predicted that I would someday be standing here. I certainly could never have predicted that I would be wearing Google Glass. That I would be using it to help children with autism see the world through it in a way that is most compatible with how each of their unique brains learns. Yet, I was prepared, for when those possibilities came along. Milton Academy was a real part of that, and you should feel proud and lucky to be surrounded by that culture: of daring, and of embodying and seeking truth.
But wait a minute – if things were so different when I was here, is your Milton the same as my Milton? How can we know? Believing strongly in data, I came back to campus in April, and spent a full Milton day, from 7:15am to 8:30pm, immersed amongst you all. Thank you for that opportunity, by the way.
The results? Great news! Core Milton principles are alive and well, but things are even better now! Milton is more maturely in touch with its diversity, with its place in the changing world. You are a more supportive, interconnected student body, much more tolerant of each other. You are brilliant scientists, humanists and artists, you have informed opinions (and quite strong ones it seems), you are passionate, you care about social justice, you want world peace and you also have and will use practical tools to do something about it.
So: Class of 2015!
You are the smartest, most supportive class ever!
Give yourself a round of applause!
Yeah, feels good – enjoy that! … You have one year!
Whoever is standing here next year will say the same thing!
In all seriousness, you are wonderful; and you have given me a great honor by inviting this speech. It is well known that one of your previous graduation speakers was Bill Clinton. That is an exhilarating act to follow! It truly is wonderful to be back here.
Looking out into this sea of bright faces, I have to say, you all look so elegant and finely dressed.
Which is amazing, because there are some of you I thought didn’t own anything but shorts!
And of course, without all the Lulu Lemon pants, I can’t even tell who the “DSGs” are!
Ah, but I have an app for that! Let me show you. Oh, my phone is in my backpack. Wait, has anyone seen my backpack? … Oh, now I remember, I left it in front of Mr. Heard’s office!
Haha, so you see I learned a few things about today’s Milton Academy, when I was here that day in April.
I even learned that a lot of you are secretly “hardo’s”, but you try to keep it “low key”. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.
Yet that does mean that you might want to hear a bit about a neuroscience career.
After all, you did invite a neuroscientist / entrepreneur / futurist to speak. After Milton I studied neuroscience at Williams College, Oxford, MIT, and Harvard. What a pleasure to be around such impeccable minds, and clearly I was on a traditional track to be a professor.
Then what? How did the topic become autism? How did it become a company? I bring it up because several of you on the selection committee specifically mentioned that you were intrigued by not only the humanitarian focus on families of autism, but also this mid-career shift.
Well, there is a story to it. I hope you don’t mind if I share. It was 2011 and everything was fine. I was doing a post-doc and publishing my science, and my wife was a long-time senior executive in her company. Everything was fine, but we both felt there was something bigger – bigger than what we were doing – yet we didn’t know how to access it. Suddenly, we upped and left, sold or donated nearly everything, and traveled for a year with no phone, no wireless devices, no GPS, no mailing address … and no future guarantee of employment.
You could say that was pretty bold and risk-taking. In fact, I’d say it was “mad loose”!
Not as mad loose as Destiny shaving her head in front of the whole school, but definitely mad loose!
To be fair, we weren’t flippant – my wife and I had paid our dues – but it was definitely a scary step. The good news is we landed – we both started companies upon return. One of the many lessons from that trip that might be worth highlighting is this:
You can do good, AND do well.
Of course I am still just trying, on both accounts! The lesson, though, is that doing good, for others, need not be charity (though charity may well be in your heart), rather it can be the core of a self-sustaining career. To wit, you needn’t choose between an NGO in a war-torn country, and working at Lehman Brothers. (I use Lehman, to not offend any parents currently at one of the big firms.)
Back in 2011, when I had that nagging feeling inside that something bigger was possible, that my scientific career was just part of the puzzle, I sensed that parts of me were not finding an outlet. Parts that wanted to improve the daily lives of others, parts that wanted to build a large team to do so. So, I “dared to be true”, to myself, and took a risk. It could have gone either way, and I can’t stand here and say it was right. Yet you did ask, about career shifts. So, I will stand and opine that it is worth taking big risks.
And… I am about to do it again!
This is a first-time public announcement in fact – you are about to hear it here first. Along with some of my family members, in fact!
Next week, I am taking some of my staff in an RV and traveling from town to town across America – 6,000 miles – to meet with families touched by autism whose voices are seldom heard. We will be podcasting videos daily from each town, and covering the RV with artwork of kids from each stop.
Yet again, a non-traditional move.
So how does any of this apply back to you?
Aside from the various ruminations above, I would also say, don’t be overly afraid to fail.
Remember what the first syllable of Success is.
No, really, what is the first syllable of “success”?
That’s right – the first iteration of most things is not pretty. Also, most things are not much fun until you are good at them. Keep at it!
This is particularly important for you – so-called “Millennials”.
I really hate to bring any bad news, but those who have come before you have sullied the water, and given a negative reputation to your generation. My advice is to proactively to surprise adults — with your respect, humility, professionalism, grammatically perfect emails, and coachability. Temper your brilliance with a demonstrated conviction that you still have much to learn, and then you will, and you will succeed faster!
In parting, I want to leave you with a thought and exercise. Our world is a giant conversation, and it is getting ever busier and faster. Being from Milton Academy, you probably want to be part of that conversation. Well, your works and deeds will ebb and flow but in the end you may be described and remembered by only a few lines, let it be those hallowed 140 characters. That is, the tweet of your life! As you go forward from here, occasionally look back and ask yourself what would make it into that single tweet? What would you want it to say? Be mindful and intentional in what you do, as to when you are and aren’t working on something that would be worthy of a place in those 140 characters.
And while you think about that a bit, let’s have another round of applause for those who really got us all here, onto this lawn – To our families!!
Again, thank you so much for letting me share in this wonderful moment. In recognition of some of that diversity that Milton has pulled off so well, I am going to close using just a few of the languages spoken in the senior class: Merci, Spasiba, Asante, Koszonom, Tesekkurler, Gracias and Good Luck!
Dr. Ned Sahin ’94, Brain Power Founder
Todd Bland, Head of School
Kate Stockbridge ’15
Bobby Gilmore ’15