Class of 2023 graduates after a delay due to unhealthy air quality


Heidi Thalman

Student speaker Joseph Jones addresses his graduating class in a speech

By Griffin Haber

On June 8, the class of 2023 graduated in the Jerome M. Marco stadium at 6:00 pm. This year’s graduation ceremony is the third to be held outside on the football field, a decision implemented in 2021 to prioritize COVID safety.

Poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke from Canada delayed the start of the ceremony from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The air quality index (AQI) was originally in the purple range at 9:00 am, which indicates “very unhealthy” levels of pollutants in the air. However, by 6:00 pm, it had moved into the red range, denoting an “unhealthy” air quality.

The class’s student speakers — Shreekanya Mitra, Gabby Flemming, Charlotte Horn, Jack Mandell and Joseph Jones — each brought personal reflection and inspiring messages as they discussed their past at Whitman and their future after high school.

“Freshman to senior year, this day has been looming in the distance, yet somehow the prospect of graduating snuck up on me entirely,” Horn said. “Knowing we are leaving for the summer and not returning in the fall led me to reflect on my time at Whitman.”

Mandell explained in his speech that while the ideas expressed by commencement speakers such as President John F. Kennedy, Conan O’Brien and his fellow student speakers about preparing for life after school were important, graduates should spend their time relaxing and celebrating their hard work and accomplishments.

Adas Israel Congregation Senior Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt was the ceremony’s keynote speaker and addressed four distinct points in her speech. She tried to motivate graduates to discover what makes them unique, build their community, find a cause to give their lives greater meaning and enjoy the ride. 

“Find something else to give your life greater purpose,” Holtzblatt said. “Whatever it is, find something that ignites you, [and] pushes you to think outside of yourself, to build something that will serve others long after you are gone.”

Principal Robert Dodd was the last to address the audience and encouraged graduates to leave a positive impact on the places they visit in the future. 

“I am certain of two things,” Dodd said. “The communities of the world need you, and you can leave them better than you find them.”