Celebrating the Class of 2020
June 5, 2020
For the graduating Class of 2020, the end of the academic year is a time for tradition, celebration, and preparation as they head on to the next chapter of their lives. Cheshire Academy marked the occasion with online events, gifts and visits to seniors’ homes, and through some online presentations to honor the school’s newest alumni. During what would have been graduation weekend, the school launched a celebration webpage highlighting the graduates’ accomplishments, offering video messages and other online congratulatory surprises.
On Cheshire Academy’s 2020 Celebration page, graduates, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to honor recipients of year-end awards; review this year’s matriculation list; watch footage of Head of School Julie Anderson, Associate Head of School David Dykeman, and other faculty and staff visit members of the senior class; and watch videos from honored guests, including planned commencement speaker Dr. Suzanne Austin ’70, who was one of six girls to graduate in the first year of modern-day coeducation at CA, and actor James Van Der Beek ‘95, a Cheshire native and Town Scholar.
“While we are not together today to celebrate, I hope that you think of this day as the end of your accomplishments at Cheshire Academy and as the beginning of the next phase of your life,” stated Anderson.
She continued, “You have made history by being the senior class at Cheshire Academy during the COVID-19 pandemic. You have learned grace, compassion, and resilience. I know that you will take these skills with you as you move on and continue to do great things in your future.”
In his message, Van Der Beek reminded members of the graduating class that, although they did not have a conventional graduation ceremony, they will take with them four years of memories, knowledge, friendships, relationships, and mistakes. “What a crazy time to be graduating, but what an amazing time because amidst all this chaos, there is opportunity. You guys are perfectly situated to be going out into the world and figuring out where that opportunity is.”
Austin congratulated the Class of 2020, announcing that she is hopeful she will still be able to speak in front of the graduates at an in-person commencement tentatively planned for Aug. 16. Austin, who was recently appointed provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the College of Charleston, shared her optimism for the future of the class.
“As someone who’s worked in colleges and universities my entire adult life, the future for all of you is very exciting. I know things are a little bit uncertain right now, but they will be resolved very soon. You are off on the next phase of your lives, your academic careers. You’re going to do great things, and I look forward to getting to see all of you, in person, when commencement takes place.”
The class’s valedictorian and salutatorian—Cheshire residents Julia Gillotti and Dante Strollo, respectively—are also recognized. Both were informed of their tremendous accomplishments in person by Anderson, Chief Academic Officer Laura Longacre, and other faculty and staff during this year’s senior visits.
Gillotti will be double majoring in psychology and English at Wesleyan University this fall, with plans to become a clinical psychologist. Strollo will be studying philosophy, anthropology, and neuroscience at the University of Chicago.