100 Years of Nightingale Graduates: Commencement 2024

JUNE 30, 2024

On the morning of June 13, families gathered at the Church of Heavenly Rest to celebrate the Class of 2024’s Commencement. This year’s exercises marked an important milestone in Nightingale’s history, as the Class of 2024 was Nightingale's 100th graduating class. The ceremony commenced with the traditional procession of the professional community, historically led by the late Ms. du Nouy, our former associate head of school and head of middle school who died this past January. In a poignant tribute to her, Middle School co-presidents Ryan A. ’28 and Beatrice K. ’28 assumed her role, gracefully leading the procession.

As the familiar notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the air, all eyes were on the senior class as each student processed down the aisle, one by one.

After words of welcome from Head of School Mr. Burke, Senior Class Co-president Lexie Berggrun ’24 presented the Class of 2024.

“This day, until recently, seemed as if it would never come, but here we are. We actually made it. For some, it took 13 years and for others it took less. But regardless of the amount of time spent at Nightingale, each of us have left our mark and contributed to Nightingale and the world around us in our own way.”

Lexie then asked her peers a series of questions, and requested that they stand if the question applied to them. Her classmates rose if they participated in an internship, served as a leader on a board or club, played a varsity sport, performed at a concert or musical, and more—highlighting their significant involvement in and dedication to extracurriculars and remarkable achievements while at Nightingale. By the end of the presentation, all seniors had stood several times.

After singing along to the tune of “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates, Student Council Vice President Olivia Yim honored each outgoing senior board officer, and recognized the students who would serve during the next school year. Each incoming leader was presented with a medallion originally created by Daria de Koning ’98 to honor their new roles—each etched with the words “Veritas, Amicitia, Fides.”

Mr. Burke took a moment to acknowledge members of the Nightingale professional community—who had been part of the community for over ten years—and who would be departing in June, with special recognition to Ms. Linda Field P’14 P’16, with the longest tenure of 42 years. Mr. Burke also initiated a moment of silence to remember Ms. du Nouy.

As tradition calls, the Class of 2024 student speaker is selected by their peers. Senior Class Co-president Isabella Robertson then introduced her friend and Class of 2024 Student Speaker, Allyson Kahne ’24.

“Some of you know her for her undeniable love for all things Nightingale. From her devoted participation in basketball and volleyball every year since fifth grade, to the pride and energy she brings from the sidelines as an athletic sport representative, she has always amplified school spirit to its fullest…The Class of 2024 knows her as one of our very own; an integral part of our proud, outspoken, and close knit group of 57. I speak for our entire class when I say there is no one better suited to represent us today. And with that, I am so proud to welcome one of my dearest friends, Allyson Kahne, to the podium.”

With a round of applause, the two exchanged hugs and Allyson began her speech, by thanking the families, friends, loved ones, and professional community members, for being there for the Class of 2024’s special moment, specifically Ms. Guimaraes, Mr. Burke, Mr. Montenegro, Ms. Beveridge, and former Head of Lower School Ms. Mansfield.

“At the beginning of each school year, Ms. Mansfield would stand tall on the auditorium stage and preach ‘All you ever need is a pocketful of friends.’ Although I didn't know it then, I consider this to be one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received,” she said.

Allyson proceeded to reflect on her Nightingale experiences alongside those of her classmates, and how their pockets deepened with each new addition to their class that came along the way.

“This is the Class of 2024. You all have been a crazier family than I could have ever dreamed of, but also everything I could have hoped for. And today, as we say goodbye and leave these comforts—the comfort of each other—behind, know that this chapter doesn't have a conclusion, because this isn't the end. We're simply turning the page and closing this pocket of friends to make room for the next one, but you can always reach in and grab whatever you need. So don't be a stranger. Reach in and reach out. Continue to lean on and grow from each other, knowing that your classmates will catch you if you fall.”

After the community sang “Simple Gifts” by Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. and Justin Warner, Student Council President Mya Bembury ’24 introduced this year’s commencement address speaker.

“As you all may know, the Class of 2024 means business. In our class's unique platter of interests, we serve as leaders in every field. When our class met to discuss what we wanted from a commencement speaker, our class only had one guideline. We found it imperative that this person be established and successful in their career choice.”

With a round of applause, the Class of 2024 welcomed Nightingale alumna, current parent, trustee, and Director of the Ailey II Company Francesca Harper Cohen P’87 P’29 to the stage. As Ms. Cohen began her speech, she acknowledged this particularly profound moment, as her mother had been her own commencement speaker 37 years prior. She shared her own journey to Nightingale, which began with her mother’s dream to become an artist, which resulted in moving her family to New York City.

“I followed her lead to define my own path and my own dreams as I encourage you all to follow yours. On that very day of commencement, she stood before us and she said, ‘You are about to take one of the greatest leaps in your life. You are about to assume one of the many mantles of adulthood and independence. This is your time,” she said. “Having the courage to explore, to continue to learn how your mind functions—entering a time to explore without the pressure of feeling like you have to produce as the next step. Exercising your own internal parental voice that sometimes pressures you and, on the other hand, steadies you. To read widely, not to protect yourself from the barbed questions of history requirements, but to satisfy your own curiosity about a world that you will soon be a part of. This is your time.”

She continued: “You are now those humans who will inspire others because of the honest work you poured into your practice through the investment that you have made. This moment is truly an achievement; a milestone. You have been working arduously. You stand unique in what has been driving you and what you have achieved—not only academically, but personally, and despite all of the challenges, You are here. This is your time…Build and honor your communities that inspire and lift others. Be bold, be courageous. Know that your failures shape you, define your character, and establish your ethics. Remember your worth, look around, breathe in the moment and relish in all that you have accomplished. Know that the vastness of these accomplishments will impact generations to come. This is your time.”

After a round of applause, the Class of 2024 welcomed President of the Board of Trustees Kathleen McCarthy Baldwin P’31 P’33 to present their diplomas.

“I don't think anyone could have imagined this day 100 years ago: a cathedral full of people bursting with pride at the academic, athletic, artistic and humanistic accomplishments of 57 remarkable young people,” she began. In her speech, Ms. Baldwin outlined three core beliefs supported by Nightingale’s Board of Trustees, including their mission to ‘future-proof’ Nighthawks, and to ensure Nightingale graduates students with an adaptable skill set that is relevant both now and in an unknown future.

“Today, let's recognize and celebrate that Nightingale graduates are extraordinarily skilled at the things that cannot be replicated by microchips, and are actually pretty challenging for most human beings,” Ms. Baldwin said. “Nightingale graduates know how to pursue things that they are curious about. They know how to take on challenging work with courage and joy. They think critically about what they hear, read, and see. They know how to seek the truth. And finally, they know how to build relationships, friendships, even across difference. Graduates, as you celebrate this milestone day, I hope you feel the confidence in yourselves that we have in you. Today is such a joyful day for the entire Nightingale community, because we know we can look to you as leaders for a world well beyond the blue doors.”

Head of Upper School Ms. Foster-Hinds then read the names of each senior as they made their way to the stage to receive their diploma from Mr. Burke and Ms. Baldwin. After each row received their diplomas, they turned toward the audience and moved their tassels to the left. Once the final member of the Class of 2024 received their diploma, the Class of 2024 tossed their graduation caps up high, and a wave of applause erupted from the audience.

Upper School Chorus members then sang “Lift Thine Eyes,” followed by closing remarks from Mr. Burke. He spoke of the Class of 2024’s senior video and pages in the 2023-2024 yearbook—both filled with baby pictures of the Class of 2024.

“Admittedly, I find this to be curious. This doesn't happen at all schools. It's a Nightingale thing, fully embraced by our seniors, as a Class of 2024-thing. We are all familiar with the good feeling that surfaces when we view baby pictures. We pause and allow ourselves to be pulled into seemingly easier days. Photo collections can do that; bring back the good stuff and downplay or delete the hard stuff. This happens in celebratory moments as well—moments like right now, when we tend to accentuate the good times. This is natural and probably should go unchallenged. Dear 2024, when you look back at your Nightingale years, I hope you remember the good stuff disproportionately: the shorter steps, the longer strides, the laughter in the hall. I also hope that you don't delete the hard things. It is worth noting that this class excelled at the hard stuff of school. Through your studies in our classrooms, you sought truth in a world when truth can be decidedly and dangerously out of fashion. In doing so, you've come to embody academic excellence at Nightingale.”

He continued: “When Miss Nightingale spoke to your counterparts 100 years ago this month, she implored them to put ‘first thing’s first’; to ground their lives in the school's newly coined motto of truth, friendship, and loyalty. 100 years later, I stand behind Miss Nightingale's latest graduates, and I can attest to the fact that you have already heeded her call. You have repeatedly put first thing’s first, and you will now walk down this aisle together and—one by one—you will go out those doors onto a sun-splashed Fifth Avenue and into the broader world. And you are ready…You are both those baby photos from yesteryear and the representation of the promise of a better day. All of us here today are grateful for both.”

Click here to view a reel of the ceremony.