We applaud you for the achievements you have made during your time at Webb, and we congratulate you for earning the distinction of becoming a Webb graduate. Today is about honoring and celebrating you, the Class of 2019. Today, each of you will walk up on this stage as a graduating senior to receive your diploma, but you will walk off of this stage as an alum of Webb School. Today, Webb School of Knoxville becomes your alma mater.
So began Webb School President Michael McBrien’s opening remarks at Commencement 2019, Sunday, May 19, in Webb’s Lee Athletic Center – marking the 61st year since Webb School of Knoxville celebrated its first graduating class of just four boys in 1959. This year, 110 members of the Class of 2019 officially received their high school diplomas, closing one chapter and beginning another as Spartan alumni.
Commencement 2019 marked the culmination of numerous events – Subject and Special Awards Days, Lower School Crane Ceremony/College T-Shirt Day, Alumni Council-Sponsored Senior Lunch, Baccalaureate, and Senior Supper – that celebrated the seniors’ journey through and their legacy at Webb School. For many – 25 percent of the graduating class – that journey began in kindergarten in Webb’s Lower School. In addition, 17 members of the Class of 2019 were alumni legacy graduates.
This year’s graduates had much to be proud of with 100 percent college placement and 436 offers of admission to 159 different colleges and universities (click HERE for the list of college desinations for the Class of 2019). They also received more than $16 million in merit awards and scholarship offers. Twenty percent were named to Webb’s Cum Laude Society and an exceptional number of Webb’s Class of 2019 earned Advanced Placement Scholar Awards.
Throughout their four-year tenure in Webb’s Upper School, Webb’s senior Spartans celebrated 19-plus state championships across nine sports, and many were repeat titles or titles achieved for the first time in the history of the program at Webb. They also earned regional, state and Player-of-the-Year honors. In addition, senior artists, musicians and actors/singers garnered regional, state and national recognition while at Webb, and many performed for standing-room-only crowds in school musicals and concerts. Webb’s senior servant-leaders also accumulated more than 12,000 service hours at over 120 charitable organizations since freshman year.
At this year’s Commencement, Anna Bryn Williams was awarded Webb’s MARGARET AND LEONHARD SCHEUERMANN TROPHY, the highest award presented to a senior girl who best exemplifies the ideals of character, personal integrity, leadership, and high academic achievement. Upper School French teacher Meredith Peccolo presented the trophy. Please select the below link for a copy of her remarks.
Jonathan Oates was named the recipient of Webb’s DR. S.J. CHAPMAN MEMORIAL AWARD, the highest honor presented to a senior boy who best exemplifies the ideals of scholarship, leadership and personal integrity. Strings Director, Bethany Cantrell, presented the award; select the below link for a copy of her remarks.
Webb Class of 1962 alumnus and alumni parent and grandparent Dr. George M. Krisle III was presented with this year’ ROBERT WEBB SERVICE AWARD, which recognizes a member of the alumni body who has distinguished him/herself through outstanding service and leadership to the Webb community.
A cardiovascular disease specialist in Knoxville, George Krisle is a graduate of Harvard University. He later graduated from Emory University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Susan, are parents of Spartan alumni Kevin Krisle ’90 and John Krisle ’92, and Whitney (Krisle) Bell ’97, and the proud grandparents of Bennett Bell ’30 and Blake Bell ’33. A longtime Spartan fan, attending numerous Webb sporting and school events, Krisle served on Webb’s Board of Trustees from 1977 to 1983, and has returned to that role on Webb’s current Board.
President McBrien noted that Krisle grew up in Forest Heights, just around the corner from Webb School founder, Robert Webb, and his wife, Julie; and in his younger days, Krisle sometimes mowed the Webbs’ yard. “George still remembers the day when Mr. Webb knocked on his parents’ door to encourage them to send George to Webb,” McBrien told the audience. “His parents listened to Mr. Webb, then his father said that all his son was interested in was sports and that he never studied. Mr. Webb responded with ‘your son has unrecognized potential’ and that Webb would provide him with an exceptional education.” Krisle went on to become president of the Student Government Association, a member of the Honor Committee, played on the Spartan basketball and football teams, and graduated Valedictorian of his Class of 1962. “Like our school’s motto, he was a leader at Webb,” McBrien said.
“George loves this school more than anyone I know,” McBrien continued, and commended Krisle for his selflessness. “When he found out he was going to receive this award,” McBrien explained, “George wanted to make sure we knew that he felt the most important Webb graduates were the graduates sitting here with us today.”
For his address to this year’s graduating class, President McBrien framed his comments in the context of the various haircuts he has had in his life and what lessons he learned along the way. From getting his first buzz cut after having a trendy, early ’70s Bobby Sherman hairstyle; to meeting his wife, Betsy, for the first time in college and her noticing his haircut; to deciding to get a haircut when others were taking shelter from an impending hurricane; to having to share his grandson’s first haircut experience with the rest of his family, McBrien related lessons in trusting the wisdom of others; the value of perseverance, resilience, grit, and drive; forging your own path and not always following others; and surrounding oneself with people who care.
“It is my hope that these lessons can assist you as you do in fact write your own story,” McBrien said to Webb’s Class of 2019. “As you write your own story, allow yourself to listen to words of wisdom when someone who cares for you offers them up . . . Secondly, when you set your heart on something, don’t let it slip away. Don’t be discouraged. Go for it, go for it with a burning desire . . . Thirdly, go against the wind sometimes. Be spontaneous and do something others are not doing. You don’t always need to do the expected; sometimes the unexpected will bring you greater joy, more laughter, more adventure . . . And lastly, do great things that will command an audience. Surround yourself with others who bring out the best in you and not the worst. Allow others to join you on your journey when you think you should go it alone.”
Select the link below for a copy of President McBrien’s full Commencement Address.
In his Valedictory address, titled Embrace the Unexpected, Shiva Senthilkumar touched on his journey through Webb’s Middle School and described how the goals he set for himself as an Upper Schooler took a back seat to several unexpected experiences in high school and how those events defined the Class of 2019.
Senthilkumar recounted how his grade came together at the last minute for the annual sophomore Sertoma Party. While he and his classmates saw the occasion back then as a way to give back to the community, he now views it as a catalyst to his class’ maturation. “On that night, people from different friend groups had meaningful conversations,” he said, “and by being under one roof, we were able to start breaking the social barriers that divided our grade. An event we never expected to provide unity did exactly that.”
Senthilkumar also related the time when his friends unexpectedly joined him and his family at the hospital while his father was undergoing surgery for oral cancer. “I had no idea that they would be there that day, but I’m glad they were since their presence alone brought comfort and encouragement,” he said, adding that their actions were a testament to their character and representative of the compassion and selflessness that the Class of 2019 embodies. “I’m not the only person here who has encountered challenges – we all have – but in these unexpected circumstances, we have been able to rely on our classmates, the friendships we formed, and the community we created,” he continued. “Whether that was spending time at the hospital for a friend’s season-ending injury or attending a funeral for the passing of a classmate’s family member, we have been there – boldly, presently and resolutely.
Lastly, this year’s senior Chapel talks revealed to Senthilkumar just who the Class of 2019 truly is. His classmates’ willingness to share their deepest insecurities and life struggles, as well as personal triumphs made this year’s Chapel a worthwhile experience, he noted. “The stories I never expected to hear made me laugh and cry; they made me realize the sacrifices you all were willing to make in your respective crafts – waking up at 5:00 a.m. for practice, spending hours upon hours in the art room, dance studio, and the theater, and pursuing career interests at such a young age. These Chapel talks illustrated how talented and determined this class is, but more importantly, showed that with this astounding group, there is always more than what meets the eye. I didn’t anticipate loving Chapel as much as I did this year, but the senior class’ leadership and the trust we have in one another made this Webb tradition something I will dearly miss.”
For Senthilkumar, it was the unexpected moments like the ones he described that forged a sense of unity and a spirit of camaraderie in the Class of 2019. “As we head off to college; me to Vanderbilt in my high-water khakis,” he concluded, “I would like to challenge you all to embrace the unexpected and to take it for what it’s worth.”
Select the link below for a copy of Shiva Senthilkumar’s full Valedictory Address.
Webb alumnus George M. Krisle III ’62 named recipient of Webb’s 2019 Robert Webb Service Award. For photos from this year’s graduation, got to: https://webbschool.smugmug.com/Webb-School-Graduation-201951919/
TO VIEW THE LIST OF COLLEGE DESTINATIONS FOR THE CLASS OF 2019, CLICK HERE