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Graduation 2020: A Ceremony Like No Other

The OES Class of 2020 experienced a final semester unlike any other, so it was only fitting that our 78 graduates had a commencement to match. Socially-distant graduation speakers, private awarding of diplomas, surprise video messages from our grads, car decor and a parade . . . and it was all broadcast live!

This year’s socially-distant graduation began with each graduate and their family arriving on campus to what felt like a tailgate party, with celebrations outside the back of cars (parked in every other space), the DJ pumping out hits, formal and not-so-formal photographs, and each graduate receiving a bag of goodies.

Upper School Vocal Music Teacher Adam Steele kicked off the outdoor festivities by leading a live singalong to Bill Withers’ Lean On Me.

"Stretched across this campus and spread across this globe, we begin this extraordinary graduation in these extraordinary times for these extraordinary soon-to-be-graduates of the OES Class of 2020," said Upper School Chaplain and College Counselor, the Rev. Jenny Cleveland, who gave the invocation.

Videotaped speeches inside the OES Chapel by Board President Dan Drinkward '95, Head of School Mo Copeland, faculty speaker Ryan Holland, and student-elected speaker Ian R. ‘20, were broadcast to the audience outside who were livestreaming the event on their phones and tablets. Keynote speaker the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, the presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, addressed the graduates remotely.

"You have had to conclude your education at OES ... in different ways. And in some respects, you've made a real sacrifice. What you have done as students in not being able to be physically present in school, your actions may well have helped others," said Curry. "If you live your life in the way of unselfish, even sacrificial love, you can make a difference in this world."

After the speeches, each graduate and their family drove one-by-one to the Belltower, where they were greeted upon exit by Bishop Michael Hanley, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. This was followed by a “red carpet” interview with Assistant Director of Residential Life and Theater & Performing Arts Teacher Peter Buonincontro.

Then, each graduate walked up the center aisle of the OES Chapel trailed by their families while—surprise!—their video message to their loved one played on the overhead projector. With few dry eyes in the Chapel, Head of Upper School Asha Appel said a few final words of encouragement, and carefully placed each student’s diploma on a small table for them to pick up on their way to a photo station. 

OES's eight overseas graduates—from Jamaica, South Korea, Vietnam, Spain, Thailand, and China—were patched into the ceremony via Zoom when it was their turn to receive a diploma. Several graduates rose in the wee hours to attend due to the time differences.

To end the night—after a surprise parade through a line-up of faculty, staff, and coaches—each family parked their car on the school's practice field. The 2020 grads circled together one last time, sang Lift High The Cross, an OES tradition, and then, after a 20-second countdown by Upper School Physical Education Teacher and Twelfth-Grade Dean Coleen Davis, gleefully tossed their caps in the air.

Thank you to everyone who played a role in making Graduation 2020 so special! Thank you to The AV Department for the amazing live production, and congratulations to the OES Class of 2020!

If you missed the broadcast, you can still watch it here and check out the *plethora of photos of this amazing event!

*Graduates and their families will be sent a link to our full photo gallery, including diploma photos, later this week.

Some photos courtesy for Jim Fitzhenry and John Holloran.