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Bidding Farewell to the Class of 2023: Packer's 176th Commencement

For more photos of the event visit our Flickr album.

During a well-timed patch of sunny weather between thunderstorms, faculty, staff, and families gathered in the Packer Garden to celebrate the class of 2023. 

It was a bittersweet evening, as speakers recalled the growth, transformation, and unity of this year’s seniors in the face of unprecedented challenges, recognized their unique contributions to the Packer community, and offered some advice for their next chapters.

In a return to tradition, faculty and staff in full regalia joined the procession and looked on from the audience as students received their well-earned diplomas. The ceremony was also live-streamed to family members and loved ones across the world, with nearly 600 people tuning in.

Several members of the class of 2023 delivered moving and joyful musical performances: Julien de Bréchard, Nate D'Albert, Max Guryan, and Kayla Johnson were joined by Gabe P. '24 to offer their rendition of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven; Sam Dickinson, Nick Fleisher, Ian Liu, Thomas Rose, and Liam Zuckerman performed All Your Favorite Bands by Dawes; and Kate Enger, Phoebe Shira Krebs, Valentina Lizarazo, and Elli Stern sang Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.


As dusk fell, seniors rejoined their families, friends, and other Commencement guests to soak up some last moments as Packer students during a reception in the Commons. 


Enjoy excerpts from each of the Commencement speeches below:

“Some of you know that I love learning Chinese. When you want to congratulate a graduate in Chinese, you can say: 

Zhu ni geng shang yi ceng lou. 祝你 更 上 一 层 楼

This means: I wish that you will climb to a higher floor in the pagoda.

My hope is that from today, you keep on climbing, striving for more understanding. This is not just about school and studying—this is perspective and wisdom gained from the variety of opportunities and challenges you will find in all aspects of your life going forward. 

You have the tools and values for this—I have seen it in each of you. You think deeply, you listen actively, you speak courageously, and you act with purpose and heart.”


“There’s this pressure when you’re a teenager to want to grow up as fast as possible, to be super mature. But honestly, I think there’s more emotional maturity in embracing what makes you young… For example, children have wonderful imaginations. They aren't afraid to dream. They embrace hope and have an innate conviction that only the best and the brightest future awaits them. Children also laugh with little or no provocation. They just find humor and joy in the tiniest things. Children see the best in others… They reach for the stars over their heads, because no one has yet convinced them that they are unreachable. In their innocence, children are the masters of their world. Nothing is unreachable. Nothing is unknowable.”

— Nicholas Fleisher

“There’s no script for doing this, which scares me the most. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about building a community at college and how to go about achieving this, and I keep going back to one word: reflection. By reflecting on our time at Packer, we will better understand what works and what doesn’t. By thinking about the impact of this community, the individuals that stand together on this stage, we’ll be able to build a stronger sense of self and carry this to our next chapter. Life came at us quickly, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that you can’t always create a plan, sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment. This is the final time we will all be together in one spot, and I’m so grateful I get to be here with you all.”

— Rohan Patel

“Yes—going to college and beyond is about learning, and much of that will happen in a classroom. But I also challenge you to seek knowledge and lessons from the people and situations around you—just as I’ve learned from you. Be open and curious about the world and what it has to offer. I really don’t think I’d be as good as an educator without my almost decade of waiting tables and being able to hold so many disparate needs in my head at once. And like I said, don’t just learn in classrooms. Learn from the way your sibling checks in on you while you’re at school. Learn from the sacrifices your parents and families made so that you could be sitting here tonight. Learn from the friend who tries to help you grow in uncomfortable ways—because growth isn’t comfortable. And learn from the opportunities to get out of your comfort zone.”

— Jeremy Hawkins
Dean of the Class of 2023

“And to my dear class of 2023, thank you also for being you. You are a very special class for me. You and I started at Packer together four years ago. I’ve been an advisor to some of you, taught some of you, traveled with some of you, and continuously watched over all of you. In many ways, I feel that we’ve grown side by side as we navigated the adventure of what it meant to be in school over the last four years. So today as you graduate, I feel as if I’m graduating from my first round of Packer Upper School as well. 

Class of 2023, you have reminded me at every moment of what matters. I hope you have felt seen. I hope you have felt cared for. I hope you have had good years. Knowing you, I trust they are just the start of many more to come.”

— Maria Valentina Nunes
Upper School Division Head

“Every class has a personality. The Packer Class of 2023 was forged through adversity. During your high school years, you have lived through extreme political polarization, devastating gun violence, existential climate threats, a racial reckoning and a terrifying global pandemic.  Beautiful things can emerge from facing adversity and you are living proof of this statement. The grit and resilience that each of you developed over your high school years are traits that will serve you for the rest of your lives…

Which got me thinking…what makes Packer special is how our mission, vision, and lived values embody the importance of the so-called “soft” skills.  We talk about the importance of listening actively. Acting with purpose and heart. Being an “empathetic and engaged member of an interconnected world…”  As I sit here and look out on the class of 2023, I see these values deeply ingrained in every one of you. 

And let me tell you something, when you’re older, no one is going to care what your GPA was or how you did in AT Calc. Your life’s work will be evaluated on how you show up in the world as a person, as a friend, as a parent, as a human. Class of 2023, you are extremely well prepared.” 

—Megan Sheetz P’23, P’24, P’26
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

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