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Class of 2019 celebrates at commencement

Ransom Everglades’ 115th commencement celebrated the members of the Class of 2019, the teachers that helped shape them and the promise of new beginnings. It also acknowledged the pure sadness of leaving a place populated by lifelong friends. Commencement speaker and legendary math teacher Jean Duty, retiring after 34 years of teaching as 141 graduates cast off to 65 different colleges, captured the spirit of the event in her address. 

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She urged students to be grateful, offered thoughtful advice, and said an emotional goodbye. “Thank you for the lessons you have taught me,” she said. “Go forth and give the world your best. We are proud of who you have become. We believe in you.”

She closed with a quote from Winnie-the-Pooh: “How lucky I am,” she told students, “to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” (Find the full text of Duty’s address here.)
Ransom Everglades board chair Andrew L. Ansin ’81 urged the Class of 2019 to cultivate the “higher irreverence” favored by the late Dan Leslie Bowden, who for the first time in decades did not occupy a front-row seat at commencement. The former RE water polo player asked the graduates a number of questions – “Did you attend Ransom Everglades, and work hard, just to be considered average?” and “Is your goal as a Ransom Everglades graduate to be considered on par with Gulliver?” Ansin's playful queries elicited laughter and the desired, full-throated responses.

Valedictorian Anna Mistele ’19 entertained her peers with an appropriately irreverent address that poked fun at the complications seniors had endured because of the ongoing construction of the coming STEM Center. “When the final bell rang last Friday,” she said, “we grabbed our bathing suits and towels and took off at full speed, arriving on the field on Monday afternoon as, due to construction, we had been re-routed through the Florida Keys.”

Mistele – whose brothers Matt '13 and John '17 also were valedictorians at their commencement exercises (see Miami Herald story here) – grew serious at the end, noting the positive impact made by the politically engaged students involved in the Parkland tragedy, and reflecting on how much she loved her time at RE.

“Some members of our class will walk confidently from this auditorium into their futures, some will tiptoe, and some will run,” she said. “I, for one, may have to be dragged away from Ransom Everglades. What makes it so hard to leave this place is that this is where I’ve found so many incredible teachers and mentors, where I’ve met my closest friends, and where I’ve made so many cherished memories.
“We Ransom Everglades students love our teachers, and we also love talking about how much we love our teachers. Teachers, you are what make Ransom Everglades so special.” (Find the full text of her address here.)
Head of School Penny Townsend welcomed the seniors, thanked their parents and ticked off 10 things she would most remember and admire about the class that always responded “10 days” when she asked during assembly – beginning in January – how many days remained until graduation.
“You have served the community in many ways,” Townsend said. “It would be impossible to list all that you have done during your time at Ransom Everglades, but I can tell you that you brought great distinction to the Class of 2019.”
The head of school also handed out the most significant awards presented to seniors. Mistele claimed the Faculty Cup; Henry Schermerhorn ’19 received the Head of School Cup; Calliste Skouras ’19 received the Marie B. Swenson Founder’s Cup; and Juanchi Roca-Paisley ’19 was awarded the Paul C. Ransom Founder’s Cup.

Head of the Upper School Ken Mills, who is departing to become head at the Gifft Hill School in St. John, V.I., awarded the valedictory and salutatory cups to Mistele and Valeria Vela ’19, who gave an address during the May 19 Senior Send-off. (Find her address here.)

Jon Hamm, the head of RE’s performing arts department, led RE musicians in the school’s alma mater, “Rise Up For Old RE." RE singers provided a closing song as Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr., offered the benediction.

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Coconut Grove, FL 33133
Middle School2045 South Bayshore DriveTel: 305-250-6850
Upper School3575 Main HighwayTel: 305-460-8800
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.