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Cate School Celebrates Graduates with Awards, Parting Words

Headmaster reads a personal reflection about each of 76 seniors before presenting a diploma

By Sarah Kidwell for Cate School |

Cate School held its traditional commencement exercises on Saturday, with Headmaster Benjamin Williams conferring diplomas on the 76 seniors who make up the school’s Class of 2012.

Vanessa Lizarraga of Los Angeles accepts the William Shepard Biddle Cup, the school's highest honor.
Vanessa Lizarraga of Los Angeles accepts the William Shepard Biddle Cup, the school’s highest honor. (Mary Fish Arango photo)

“We have seen you shine on this Mesa in the years that accompany youth,” Williams told the graduates. “Now that you leave this phase of your life, and know the light that is in you, may you never fear its manifestation nor shy from its brightness.”

In the presence of Cate’s Board of Trustees, underclassmen, faculty, family and friends, Williams read a personal reflection about each senior before presenting a diploma.

Brooks Hansen, a creative writing teacher, was selected by students to deliver the faculty address, which he titled, “The Trouble with Instinct.”

“Do not fool yourself into thinking that your heart is interested in what comes easy,” he said, “because your heart, as it turns out, is not interested in the downhill slope, or what you’re pretty sure you can handle. Your heart really just wants to expand, and it’s using you to do it, so the hardest thing you can imagine — that is exactly what your heart wants to do.”

Miles Barney of Fresno was chosen to address his fellow seniors. He offered both insight and gratitude to the school and his classmates.

“We aren’t seniors because we aced all our classes. There are ways that Cate can prepare you for life that cannot be judged by an AP test,” Barney said. “To my class of 2012, I have full faith that each one of you is prepared to embark upon life as a successful individual. I wouldn’t have spent these past years with anyone else, so thank you.”

In addition to diplomas, the school’s highest honors were given out during the commencement ceremony.

Senior Vanessa Lizarraga of Los Angeles received the William Shepard Biddle Cup, the school’s highest honor. Named for one of Cate’s most distinguished alumni, this award recognizes a senior who best exemplifies and demonstrates the qualities of humanism, idealism and the desire to achieve that Cate seeks to teach its students.

Johannah Farner of Ojai and Jacob Winnikoff of Santa Barbara shared the Scholarship Award, the school’s highest academic award.

Cate’s Class of 2012 will matriculate to many of the nation’s leading colleges and universities in the fall. Among the top choices for the graduating class are Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Barnard College and Sarah Lawrence College. In addition, members of Cate’s graduating class will attend Harvard, Brown, MIT, Cornell, Yale, Bowdoin College, Williams College, Georgetown, Colby College and Hamilton College, among others.

Click here for the list of names of Cate’s Class of 2012.

— Sarah Kidwell is the director of marketing and communications for Cate School.

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