Bravely, Faithfully, Happily: Episcopal’s Ninth FFF Vespers

Nine years ago, Beau Wilson Jr. ’72 came to Episcopal to speak at the last Chapel service of the year. In his talk, he spoke of a life-changing injury. As he recovered, Wilson kept returning to these three words: “Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter,” the Latin motto of our School. Every year since, we have invited an alumnus or alumna and a graduating senior to speak about Episcopal’s impact on their lives.

A Legacy of Leadership
Austin deButts ’12 began his address by explaining his most prized possession, a “ratty old brown polka dot bow tie” that belonged to his Uncle Fred. deButts wore the bow tie during every significant event, from high school football games to Episcopal’s Commencement and college lacrosse games. “Every time I put it on, I’m reminded of Uncle Fred and of all the family and friends in my life whose legacy lives on through me,” he said. “It allowed me to never forget who I am and what I represented.” True to tradition, deButts wore the bow tie at the podium of Callaway Chapel.

As one of many family members to graduate from EHS, deButts found his place at Episcopal through sports, especially football and lacrosse. He shared wisdom from one of his football coaches: “Pressure is a privilege. Pressure can help you narrow your focus, and by revealing your weaknesses, you can figure out where your true strength lies.” This perspective helped him navigate his journey from aspiring professional athlete to his current role in renewable energy. He ultimately has found fulfillment in his work with Sun Tribe Development, a clean energy company founded by fellow Episcopal alumnus Danny Van Clief ’95.

In a heartfelt conclusion, deButts paid tribute to his father, Boota deButts ’76, who will retire at the end of June. deButts recognized his father’s impact at Episcopal as the chief financial officer, teacher of entrepreneurship, advisor, and friend to all. “Dad, on behalf of generations of Episcopal students over the last 19 years who have left this campus a better person than when they found it because of you, I want to say thank you.”

The Road to Resilience
Callaway Chapel erupted with applause as senior Ava Sawi ’24 made her last remarks. Sawi started with a brief reflection on the past four years, which began during the pandemic. Despite these initial hurdles, she emphasized how the Class of 2024 transformed these challenges into strengths. “We grew into a class that led Episcopal into this new era post-Covid as one of the best classes on this campus,” she said proudly.

Sawi’s journey to Episcopal was a testament to unexpected paths and familial support. Growing up only 20 minutes away from campus, she never expected to go to a boarding school so close to home. Despite initial doubts, she embraced the opportunities that Episcopal afforded her and jumped in wholeheartedly.

After an incredible first two years, Sawi suffered an unfortunate meniscus tear during her junior year, derailing her college recruitment hopes. “Junior year is the hardest year academically, but for me, it was the hardest year emotionally,” she said. Amid these challenges, the support from her father became a cornerstone of strength. “My dad, however, told me every day, ‘It’ll be over soon.’” Though expressed in subtle ways, this support made a significant impact, helping her navigate one of the most challenging years of her life. Next year, Sawi will play basketball at Radford University, a testament to the senior’s strength and determination.

In closing, Sawi drew inspiration from the School’s motto: Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter. “Feliciter can also mean good fortune, and I’m most fortunate to have had my high school experience here,” she expressed.