“Let the Lion Roar”: Episcopal’s Class of 2021 Graduates

Members of the 176th graduating class of Episcopal High School crossed the Commencement stage on Saturday, May 29, and, with smiles and a few tears, stepped from a historic year and into a future that shines brightly because of their talent, resilience, and courage.

“We are the class that survived Covid, but because of it, we are also the class prepared to take on this expansive and complicated world,” said Head Monitor Clay Sailor in his welcome to the Commencement audience of family, friends, and faculty gathered inside Hershey Athletics Center. “To all my brothers and sisters in the Class of 2021, continue to fuel the fire that burns inside of you and don’t be afraid to let the lion roar, because as of today the great world is in our hands and it is up to us to be the change we would like to see.”

Gigi Friedman, chosen as valedictorian by her classmates, traced the history of the class, beginning with the traditional four-night overnight Burch Trip for freshmen, the trip’s 10-mile hike, and a shortcut that landed some in waist-high creek water. She spoke of her personal growth in theater as she overcame stage fright. “Episcopal,” she said, “has instructed us to confront our challenges rather than adopt a shortcut as an easy, effortless way out.”

While the pandemic “presented opportunities to shortcut our experiences,” she added, “we as a grade upheld the values that this school has instilled in us — we did not rely on shortcuts to thrive.” 

These newly minted EHS graduates join the School’s alumni body, which is more than 5,000 strong. They will attend nearly 60 colleges and universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Twenty-four members of the class earned induction into the national Cum Laude Society for their academic accomplishments, and 20 will continue their athletic careers at the college level.

In ceremonies over the past two days, students received school awards for their academic excellence; achievement in athletics and the performing and visual arts; and their character and commitment to the School and their classmates. 

Head of School Charley Stillwell praised the seniors “as just the right group” to help the School navigate this historic year. “I would imagine that very few senior classes in our school’s long history have faced the kinds of obstacles and challenges that you have faced,” he said. “This group retained a remarkable spirit and found ways to support each other and our younger students when it was needed most.”

Commencement Weekend began on Friday, May 28, with the Baccalaureate Service and Awards presentation. Two Class of 2021 parents helped lead the service and set the tone for the weekend. The Rev. John Barrett — father of Johnny Barrett ’21 and Henry Barrett ’18 and chaplain of St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach, Fla. — gave the invocation and spoke of the “truly amazing” growth the seniors had experienced. “Because of the mission of this School, the dedication and sacrifice of the faculty and staff, they have been equipped with moral and intellectual courage to go out in the world and lead with their whole being,” he said. “May these young men and women always see farther throughout their lives and more clearly because of having lived upon the Hill, this rarefied community with its deep and abiding friendships and relationships.”
The Rev. Dr. Hyeon Gu Lee, father of Debby Lee ’21, delivered the Baccalaureate Address. The Rev. Lee, senior pastor at Lexington Korean Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Ky., urged the class as it moves to change the world to listen to God’s direction. “Don’t be anxious about going fast,” he said. “The world we live in now is so obsessed with speed. However, life is not about speed, but about direction. It is not about being the first person to do something but about doing it right.”
  • Commencement Exercises (Part I and Part II)
  • Baccalaureate and Awards Presentation (Part I; Part II to be added shortly)
  • Baccalaureate Invocation excerpt — The Rev. John Barrett, father of Johnny Barrett ’21
  • Baccalaureate Address excerpt  — The Rev. Dr. Hyeon Gu Lee, father of Debby Lee '21
  • Valedictory Address excerpt — Gigi Friedman '21