Graduates Say Thank You to Faculty, Family, Friends
Before an audience of 750 family members, faculty, and friends, 59 seniors became Indian Springs School alumni on May 26 at the school’s 63rd Graduation Exercises held beside Springs’ iconic lake on the Town Hall lawn.
Student speakers celebrated the lessons they have learned at Indian Springs and the people who made these lessons possible.
Allen Xu ’17, who was selected by faculty and student vote to present the opening remarks, called his speech “a thank you letter to the education and help I received here that shaped me into who I am today.”
From almost getting stranded at O’Hare International Airport on his flight from Shanghai to Indian Springs four years ago, to dealing with stage fright while singing in Springs’ acclaimed Concert Choir, Xu gave examples of how Springs teachers and friends have guided, inspired, and supported him.
“There are so many names on my thank you list that I can’t spell them out one by one, but almost every day I gain some positive energy from a speech, a conversation, or a simple smile,” said Xu. “In recent years we have gone through lots of changes, and I am proud to claim that what makes Springs unique has always been here.”
Adam Aldaher ’17, who served as mayor of the school community in fall 2016, thanked parents and teachers on behalf of all of his classmates: “Without the support of my family and the enriching environment of Springs, I would not be the man I am today,” he said.
Aldaher, who joined the class as an 8th grader, said that five years ago, he compared Indian Springs to a game of chess: With strategy and patience, he thought, “high school would be a breeze.”
“I was dead wrong,” he said. “High school was nothing like chess, and no amount of critical thinking and advice could have prepared me for the years to come. I could never have anticipated standing in front of hundreds of people right now giving a speech while just a few years ago when I auditioned for the 8th grade play, I asked Mr. Ellington if I could audition alone in his office because I was so scared even to give an audition in front of eight of my close friends. In all honesty I’m just as nervous now as I was then, but hey, just as Dr. Cooper would say, ‘Adapt and overcome.’”
Now, Aldaher thinks of his time at Springs as the opening for the game of chess that is the rest of his life. “Just as no two games of chess can be the same, each of the members of the graduating Class of 2017 will embark on their own unique game of chess, and Indian Springs has given each of us the best opening possible to set us up for the rest of our lives. Thank you.”
In reflecting on what makes Indian Springs special, spring 2017 mayor Dewey Wilbanks ’17 recounted hitting the sign at the school’s front entrance with his car not long after the sign had been installed. “I was driving back into campus on Labor Day for one of Coach Arner’s conditioning practices. I don’t want to point fingers, but if there is anyone to blame, it’s him for scheduling a practice on Labor Day,” Wilbanks teased.
“I had just started driving, so it was kind of a traumatic experience,” he said. “And when I got out of the car, some people say I might have possibly cried—maybe. News travels fast, and Mr. Vaughan was already walking out of his house to come over and give me a hug, and boy did I need it at that time. Now the tears really started flowing because it had sunk in what had just happened, and I looked up and said, ‘I’m sorry I hit your sign.’ Mr. Vaughan looked at me, and in that thick Welsh accent said, ‘Dewey, Dewey, things don’t matter. People matter.’”
To Wilbanks, the moment exemplifies what is special about Springs. “In a way, everyone here has hit the sign, and every time they have, Indian Springs was there to tell them that they matter.”
In closing remarks, Emma Turner ’17 said Indian Springs is “a place where failure is not looked at as a negative, rather a place from which to grow.”
She recalled complaining as a 9th grader about the ways she didn’t fit into the school community. An upperclassman, Matt Price ’15, asked her, “So what are you going to do about it?”
“Logically, I ignored him,” she joked. “But his question stuck with me. There were teachers, students, and administrators all around me willing to bring me into this community. But I had to make the effort.”
Indian Springs, Turner said, has taught her to dare. “The support of teachers is one thing that gives our students the confidence to do things they didn’t think they could do,” she said.
“Not only does Springs create courageous students, but the institution itself is a daring one,” she said. “It takes almost 300 students and tells them to chart their own course. We are treated like adults rather than a group of students who are meant to be wrangled and molded. We are given the freedom to make choices and help mold ourselves.”
This gift of Indian Springs, she said, is “priceless”: “We are all changed forever for knowing each other and being here at this time in our lives.”
Before the awarding of diplomas, Head of School Dr. Sharon Howell presented Emma Turner ’17 and Taylor Hinch ’17 with 2017 Leadership Awards, selected by faculty on the basis of exemplary leadership and character shown through participation in student activities. The awards are given in memory of Charles Jordan McDavid ‘58.
On behalf of the Class of 2017, Faculty Emeritus Mac Fleming presented Caroline Grady ’17 and Gavin Young ’17 with 2017 Spiritual Awareness Awards, which recognize the qualities of dignity, humanitarianism, and spiritual awareness. The awards are given in memory of Allan Le Voy Furniss ’63 and Robert Barry Kartus ’68.
“I want to tell you what an honor it has been to arrive here for your senior year, and to spend this year with you,” Howell told the Class of 2017. “You will always own what you did and said and accomplished here. You will always have the people you have known and loved here, and I hope you will always recognize the soul and happy genius of this place as you yourselves take to the open road to become who you will be. Springs will abide here and will always be your home.”
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Class of 2017 College Matriculations
Birmingham-Southern College (2)
Carnegie Mellon University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Goucher College (2)
Grinnell College (2)
Hampden-Sydney College (2)
Indiana University at Bloomington
Jackson State University
New York University
Oxford College of Emory University
Rice University (2)
Rollins College (2)
Savannah College of Art and Design
Sewanee: The University of the South (2)
Spring Hill College
University of Alabama (2)
University of Alabama at Birmingham (5)
University of Alabama in Huntsville
University of Arkansas
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of Florida
University of Mississippi
University of Montevallo
University of South Carolina
University of Southern California
University of Virginia
Washington University in St. Louis