It's an independent school that prides itself on providing an excellent education.
But long hours of study and bookwork weren't the overriding themes during Sunday's 33rd commencement of The Community School.
Relationships built between people were mentioned over and over by 27 graduates and their proud teachers as being the biggest thing they might take away from their Sun Valley high school experience.
Head of School Andy Jones-Wilkins said in his opening remarks, "Relationships between teachers and students make this school so great."
Upper School director Brian Yager in his congratulatory remarks said, "Personal connections often mean more than individual accomplishments."
Wondering aloud in his senior speech about how to master what he called the "art of living," Fordham-bound Harry Dreyfuss said his current theory on being happy equated good relationships with love and compassion.
Commencement speaker Mike Stevens, a Middlebury College graduate who is president of Lava Lake Lamb and Livestock, joined the chorus. He advised grads to "find a place in the family of things and rejoice in that place."
No one was more articulate, somewhat illogical and delightfully funny in his assessment of relationships than outgoing Science Department Chair Harry Weekes. He gave the faculty speech for the second time in three years and once again did a bang-up job.
Star Trek aficionado Weekes, a 1986 Community School graduate, is stepping aside after 17 years of teaching at his alma mater to pursue other interests.
Praised by colleagues as the essence of a lifelong learner, Weekes didn't elaborate on those interests. But Weekes did say he must be getting dumber as he stick-handles into his 40s, having spent four years in high school on his first go-around and 17 years the next.
Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise once said, "The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play." Weekes, a disciple of traveling to the second star to the right and straight on 'til morning, brought a bagful of toys and used them for his speech called "Six Degrees of Separation."
Weekes wandered a bit from actor Kevin Bacon to rubber monsters to mowing his lawn in dress socks, and using a pocket moleskin pad to scribble down his thoughts. But his points were crystal clear: Magic is important; life drifts from the script; embrace yourself; do things now; and be sure to do the little tasks well.
He summed up, "Relationships are everything. They are vast webs and rarely linear. Graduation marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another and it's done in the presence of our accumulated relationships.
"The road ahead is different from the one on the map. Fundamentally, life is weird."
Weekes received a standing ovation and Jones-Wilkins put a period on his well-received appearance, saying "Wow."
It was truly a special day for the seniors, with their parents, grandparents and friends in the audience of 675 persons. The ceremony included a song by Rika Péré and a poem written and read by Caspar Brun.
Senior speaker Keller Gibson told the audience she had been at the school since the age of three and, although an only child, felt she had 26 siblings.
In two memorable visits to the podium, the other senior speaker, Harry Dreyfuss, displayed the wit, charm and stage presence of his father, the actor Richard Dreyfuss—and did it in his own inimitable fashion.
Mattie Griswold and Reed Stokes made the Yearbook Dedication—the only graduation award decided by the student body—to Harry Weekes and Theater Chair Fritz Brun.
As its senior gift, the Class of 2009 represented by Bronwen Raff and Scotty Phelan gave a ping pong table to the school and donated over $750 to Blaine County Hunger Coalition.
By school tradition, the highlight was "Senior Reflections," short speeches given over 45 minutes by the 27 seniors, several of whom had spent 14 full years at the school.
Madeleine duPont said, "Life is a garden, so dig it." Emmy O'Reilly said, "This school is so RAD, on so many different levels." Peter Atkinson made sure not to forget his mother in his thank you remarks.
And Eddy Albarran, headed for Stanford University, said, "The Community School was an unforgettable experience. Thank you so much to the faculty—they were great teachers but even better friends."
Cutthroat award recipients
The Upper School faculty selected most of the award and scholarship winners revealed during Sunday's two-hour and 30-minute commencement and also during Friday's awards program in the school gym.
Courtney Hamilton received The Beaupre Award, the school's oldest honor. It goes to seniors who maintain high standards of scholarship, leadership, citizenship and athletic achievement.
Bronwyn Raff earned the Headmaster's Award. Picked by Jones-Wilkins with faculty input, the award goes to the sophomore, junior or senior who has made a significant difference in school life.
The Senior Project honors went to Charlotte Anderson, Elizabeth Beesley, Taylor Benz, Riley Berman, Caspar Brun, Mattie Griswold, Courtney Hamilton, Sylvie Krekow, Scotty Phelan and Bronwen Raff.
The Bill Benjamin Memorial Scholarship for Senior Project Proposals went to Mattie Griswold and Courtney Hamilton.
Sam Farnham accepted the Laura S. Flood Memorial Award, announced at the ceremony by her sister, Heather Flood Daves.
In his booming and theatrical voice, Fritz Brun remembered drama teacher Tom Johnson as a "Falstaffian" figure from the early days of The Community School theater program. Brun then handed the 18th Tom Johnson Memorial Awards for excellence in performing arts to Harry Dreyfuss and Caspar Brun.
This year's Idaho Mountain Express Award in the amount of $1,000 was presented to Bronwyn Raff. The award has been given since 1988 to a graduate likely to contribute to the community in the future.
Winner of the 19th Dixie Grabos Memorial Award for the appreciation and love of literature was Caspar Brun. Presenter was Fred Grabos.
Charlotte Anderson earned the Trophy Sagebrush Award for imagination as a vital part of education.
Harry Dreyfuss, Sam Farnham and Riley Lynn were winners of the Klingelhofer Senior Speech award in memory of George Klingelhofer.
Selected as graduating winners of the Peggy and Sigi Engl Memorial Achievement Awards were Madi duPont and Taylor Benz.
The Engl awards, announced by TCS Class of 1980 grad Kristin Orr, go to students at each grade level who demonstrate significant improvement in performance through effort, determination and hard work.
Other recipients of the Engl prize at Friday's awards assembly were:
Junior class, Madison Murach and Maggie Flood. Sophomore class, Zoey Olbum and Eli Albarran. Freshman class, Tim Kanellitsas and Katie Dumke.
Eighth grade, Timo Gould and Ellie Swanson. Seventh grade, Jolie Blair and Georgy Goodwin. Sixth grade, George Kanellitsas and Alexa Szombathy.
Memorial scholarships were an important part of school awards.
Recipient of the Karen Wright Cardozo Memorial Scholarship was Sofia DeWolfe. Noah Koski earned the Greg Allison Memorial Scholarship.
Selected as the winner of the Carrie Bashaw Hislaire Memorial Scholarship was Arielle Rawlings.
Zana Davey accepted both the David Dorward Memorial Scholarship and the Tom Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship.
Jackson Bates received the Philip B. Detwiler Memorial Scholarship, and Paul Davis won the Frederick Chandler Memorial Scholarship.
Book awards, special school and local grants included:
Dollars for Scholars winners were Eddy Albarran, Courtney Hamilton and Bronwen Raff. The Ketchum/Sun Valley Rotary scholarships went to Courtney Hamilton and Bronwen Raff.
Honored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts Scholarship Program were Nellie Brown, Bryce Ervin and Rika Péré. And the Boo Bushell Youth in Performance Art Scholarship was given to Rika Péré.
Book awards went to Audrey Kirk (Wellesley College), Melissa Becker (Smith College), Wyatt Bunce (Williams College), Jon Atkinson (Colby College), Zana Davey (Whitman College) and Kerry Lee Nelson (Grinnell College).
Given for the 26th year, faculty scholarships were awarded to Kayla Cloud, Meredith Pintler and Taylor Adler. Noah Koski received the Class of 2005 Scholarship. The Anne Reed Gallery Awards went to Charlotte Anderson and Elizabeth Beesley.
Headmaster's Scholarship recipients were Kyla Jarrett, Meredith Pintler and Taylor Adler. They are continuing scholarships through their graduations.
Winners of the Middle School Community Award were Zach Lindahl (eighth grade), Arielle Rawlings (seventh grade) and Sydney Hagenbuch (sixth grade).
Earning the Bob Doyle Service Awards were Hailey Zanes and Taylor Figge. Other community service awards went to:
· Gold (50-plus hours): Charlotte Anderson, McKenna Anderson, Jon Atkinson, Morgan Atkinson, Peter Atkinson, Jackson Bates, Melissa Becker, Elizabeth Beesley, Austin Bourret, Camille Bourret, Wyatt Bunce, Cassidy Carson, Chelsea Cloud, Kayla Cloud, Zana Davey, Zach Dolenar, Katie Dumke, Sean Dumke, Madi duPont, India Emerick, Bryce Ervin, Ricki Eshman, Taylor Figge, Tanner Flanigan, Fynn Funke-Riehle, Emily Gillespie, Brian Gillespie, Charlie Grabow, Courtney Hamilton, Alexandra Harten, Kelly Hennessy, Charmayne Inman, Jamie Jameson, Kyla Jarrett, Tim Kanellitsas, Audrey Kirk, Sylvie Krekow, Julianna Lamb, Riley Lynn, Anthony Martin, John Martin, Madison Murach, Chris Nalen, Kerry Lee Nelson, Zoey Olbum, Emmy O'Reilly, Rika Péré, Gabi Perenchio, Meredith Pintler, Morgan Pintler, Isobel Pollock, Dylan Prescott, Bronwen Raff, Arielle Rawlings, Tate Reed-McDorman, Daniela Stokes, Anita Vorsteveld, Natalie Vorsteveld, Colin Waycott, Emily Williams and Hailey Zanes.
· Silver (35-plus hours): Taylor Adler, Nellie Brown, Alex Conn, Tom Crosby, Julie Doan, Maggie Flood, Chloe Jory, Eric Runkel and Alex Sloan.
· Bronze (25-plus hours): Eddy Albarran, Collette Block, Katie Feldman, Reta Flynt, Mattie Griswold, Dane Inman, Nick Krekow, Claire Siderman, Hunter Weaver and Sarah Williams.