Bearcat Pride Fills the Air During 132nd Graduation Ceremony
Hotchkiss Graduation 2024

View photos of graduation events

View recordings of graduation events

Speakers relay keys to success for the Class of 2024

By Catherine Calamé 

Beneath the azure canopy of a bright May sky, sunlight reflected off of Lake Wononscopomuc for the 132nd commencement ceremony on May 31. Anticipation filled the air across campus and mingled with the buoyant spirits of graduates, families, faculty, staff, and guests. 

Head of School Craig Bradley addressed the members of the Class of 2024 as they took their seats on Harris House Lawn and contemplated the culmination of their many accomplishments that have come to define their Hotchkiss experience. 

“This is a significant moment. The hard work of Hotchkiss is done,” Bradley said. “Whether you entered as preps or as post-graduates, you have faced academic, social, emotional, and physical challenges. You have endured a global pandemic, an experience that reinforced our awareness of our interconnectedness and our interdependence as humans sharing this planet. These experiences have made you stronger, smarter, and more capable than you were when you arrived. And when you leave campus today, you will take with you innumerable lessons learned, deep and lasting friendships, hard-won confidence, and memories deeply etched.”

Bradley briefly touched upon rites of passage and then challenged students to remain curious throughout their lives. “Rituals help us mark the passage of time, accept and embrace change, and move on with our lives. They define beginnings and ends. They also bind us together in a powerful way, as a group of people experience the same rite of passage together,” he said.

“As you look forward to the summer, to college and other experiences, and to the adult lives you are envisioning, there is a single deep and abiding attribute that I hope you will carry with you always. And that is the lifelong embrace of curiosity,” he continued, emphasizing that he hopes the graduates find the “inherent joy” in seeking and mastering knowledge.

Bradley concluded his remarks by referencing the popular student band MB140. The group performs often at campus events and plays music from many genres and decades. “I particularly enjoyed MB140’s final performance at the All-School meeting on Tuesday and the final line of their final song by REO Speedwagon, which I gladly borrow as my final line to the great Class of 2024: Keep on rollin.’”

Hotchkiss Graduation 2024 Anji Ashaye and Jacquo Pierre

All-School Presidents Share Messages of Love and Support

All-School Presidents Anji Ashaye ’24 and Jacquo Pierre ’24 brought palpable Bearcat pride to the stage in their unique and spirited way. 

"Let’s start with a huge round of applause for the Class of 2024 and welcome to the funnest of Fun Fridays: Graduation Day! Almost as exciting as our 10:10 a.m. block in Walker Auditorium, am I right?” Anji joked. Jacquo added, “Most importantly, thank you to our parents, guardians, and other off-campus support systems. Without your enduring encouragement, advice, and love, the seniors would not be where we are today.”

Love, appreciation, and support were key themes for the presidents’ speeches. “Over our past four years together, you have shown up for each other, bringing eager encouragement to uplift your peers,” Anji said. “While brainstorming for this speech, Jacquo and I landed on one potential reason why our class has been uniquely prepared to propel these goals of spirit, engagement, and communal support.”

Jacquo continued, “It is a little something you all might remember from the beginning of our prep year. And before you all understandably groan at the thought of yet another drawn-out COVID reference, just humor us for a couple moments. As lucky as we were to be on campus together while many others across the world were in less idyllic conditions, quarantine was unquestionably hard for our young selves. There was a hidden gem that emerged from that time of our lives. Our time spent almost exclusively with our quarantine pods was ironically crucial in forming our class’s ability to connect with anybody, from anywhere, with a multitude of interests. Our grade’s interconnectedness has remained one of our defining traits.”

Jacquo provided more details about the Class of 2024’s bond. “Just last night, as we seniors ran around campus, refusing to let sleep get in the way of savoring every last moment we had on campus … we sat around a fire reminiscing and laughing. I looked around the circle of my peers, closely huddled together, and I saw one homogenous group of seniors, not the typical cliquey high-schoolers you see in movies, but a cohesive and interconnected group of the most diverse community of people I’ve ever been a part of. The Class of 2024 is truly something special.”

After sharing humorous and touching anecdotes about their years at Hotchkiss, the duo offered final words of wisdom for their class.

Anji: “As you leave the Hotchkiss bubble for the last time and continue progressing through social, professional, or athletic experiences, think back to the interconnectedness that galvanized our grade. Immerse yourself in diverse groups of people, gain new perspectives and connections—truly develop the sense of community necessary to make a home out of a new, strange environment.”

Jacquo: “Hotchkiss provides us with the space, opportunities, and people to find out who we are; what we love to do, and what meaningful issues are important to us. These values that will guide us through life—an intangible but unequivocally vital type of knowledge—is what we can thank Hotchkiss for.” 

Anji: “In 15 years, when we gather here again for reunion and pick up the familiar practice of celebrating each other, measure your success with these questions: are you healthy, are you happy, do you have purpose?” 

Jacquo: “Have you immersed yourself in your community and developed diverse and meaningful relationships like you did at Hotchkiss?”

Anji: “Not all of us will go on to fly spaceships, run for president, or break box office records, but what we can say with confidence is that if we are living true to our values, we will make a difference in the world, however small we might think it is. And to Jacquo and me, that’s the truest form of success. Our class had fun, created lasting memories, while displaying the values that make us so great. How could that not be a success?”

Hotchkiss Graduation Speaker Andre Swanston

Commencement Speaker Andre Swanston ’99 Promotes Hard Work, Connections, and Curiosity

Following a beautiful musical performance by flutist Sophie Elliott ’24, Hotchkiss proudly welcomed Andre Swanston ’99 as the commencement speaker for the Class of 2024. Swanston is a tech entrepreneur and innovator who directs much of his philanthropy to help empower underserved people. He co-founded the successful data marketplace platform Tru Optik with Alex Geis ’00 in 2013. As the major stockholder, Swanston sold the company in 2020 to TransUnion, making it one of the top 10 largest acquisitions for any Black American CEO and founder. 

In “true blue” Hotchkiss form, Swanston offered valuable advice for seniors about to embark on the next phase of their academic careers. 

“Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about this rite of passage, of going to The Hotchkiss School, and it’s one of self-doubt mixed with self-motivation,” he said, adding that when he was looking at high schools in the mid-1990s, Hotchkiss was not on his list. “Why would I want to go to a school where the kids are like brainiacs and they do three to five hours of homework every night and they go to school on Saturday?” he joked. He then shared how he met Pat Redd Johnson, former associate director of admissions and head of multicultural affairs at Hotchkiss, and she told Swanston that she fully believed in his potential. She knew Hotchkiss would change his life. “I never forgot her saying that.”

Everything fell into place, albeit very slowly. Eventually, he assimilated at Hotchkiss with the help of caring faculty and advisors. Along with more ups and downs that included illness, various detentions, and tough love, he excelled in sports, made friends with students from all over the world, and bonded with teachers. “I don't remember much of anything I learned in any class at Hotchkiss,” he joked, “but what I remember and what I will never forget are the conversations and even the debates that we’d have in the dorm about life, about goals, ambition, politics, religion—it was really the best education that I could really hope to have. The things that will always be invaluable to you are the relationships that you’re able to make and the connectivity and the curiosity.”

Hotchkiss connections have contributed to much of his career success, calling upon classmates and alumni to support him personally and professionally. “Life is challenging; you have to put your all into it,” he said. “And sometimes when you put your all into it, you’ll still be disappointed. But that disappointment is temporary if you learn from it and keep going.”

He then asked the seniors to look around at their classmates. “They will be the teachers, and the lawyers, the bankers, the military officers, the writers, actors, philanthropists, accountants, venture capitalists, artists—some of the most influential and important people in the world 25 years from now. They will also be your groomsmen, your bridesmaid, your kids’ godparents, the ones to call to congratulate you when you have successes … the relationships that you have built today are more important than I think you’ll ever know.”

Swanston, who was the January 2024 Alum of the Month, was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont to the Board of Connecticut Innovations responsible for the state's venture fund to promote economic development and innovation. Additionally, Swanston is an active investor in minority and women-owned businesses and, with his wife, generously donates to education and community-based initiatives throughout the country. He was recently awarded an MLS NEXT Pro expansion soccer team.

Inspired by Johnson, he also funded the Pat Redd Johnson Scholarship to support students receiving financial assistance at Hotchkiss.

Hotchkiss Graduation

Closing with Fair Hotchkiss

After the members of the Class of 2024 received their diplomas, they joined together to sing Fair Hotchkiss one last time.

Fair Hotchkiss, hear our song of praise,
Through joyful and endearing days
We’ll cherish all the mem’ries dear
That cluster round our sojourn here.
Fair Hotchkiss! Tho’ we come and go,
While o’er thy wall our ivies grow,
We still shall love, shall love thee and be true
To dear, to dear old Hotchkiss and the blue.

Hotchkiss Social

Hotchkiss Facebook
    Hotchkiss Instagram
      Hotchkiss Twitter 
        Hotchkiss Instagram