Brewster Confers 110 Diplomas at Lakeside 2023 Commencement

Brewster Confers 110 Diplomas at Lakeside 2023 Commencement
Suzanne Morrissey

On Saturday, May 27, the graduates of Brewster Academy’s Class of 2023 processed onto Brown Field to the sounds of a bagpipe, with proud families and friends looking on with smiles and tears as the 2023 Commencement began. Picture-perfect weather and lake views enhanced the day’s ceremony and joyful feelings. 



Class Marshals Will Budnik (left) and George Wood

Class Marshals Will Budnik and George Wood guided their classmates to their rows in front of the stage as parents sitting behind the class spotted their graduates and snapped the first photos of the day.  

Rev. Donna Muise from the First Congregational Church, Brewster’s campus neighbor, shared an Invocation, asking for a blessing as the gathered group “celebrates the discoveries revealed, the challenges overcome, the shadows encountered, and the accomplishments realized among these young adults and their families.”

Head of School Kristy Kerin then stepped to the podium, and with her signature warm and welcoming style, invited all in attendance to enjoy the day’s special moments, remember all the hard work and dedication that led to this moment, and feel gratitude for the deep, lasting friendships that students have formed at Brewster. 

Head of School Kristy Kerin at the podium

Kerin recognized VIP guests who joined the festivities on the field, including members of our Board of Trustees; Trustee Emeriti Dan and Kathy Mudge, who have been devoted to Brewster for more than 26 years; Sheila Smith, an influential former Director of Admission, and David Smith, Brewster’s longest serving Head of School and a founding father of the Brewster Model. She also thanked the school’s faculty and staff for their devotion to ensuring each student is seen and supported in their Brewster journeys.

The Head of School, Brewster’s 13th in 203 years, then addressed the Class of 2023, using the student tradition of counting down the days of graduation as a jumping off point to encourage those same students to pause and appreciate all the moments and memories, extraordinary and ordinary, that they have made together as a class. She invited students to see their experience through the eyes of alumni, relaying a story of an alumni breakfast in the Estabrook, and noting how the memories that seem to carry on are not always the ones you’d most expect. She shared what will be her lasting impressions of this class, both their impressive accomplishments and the joyful community culture they have built together, and encouraged them to use these memories and lessons as a source of inspiration for their lives of purpose.e memories and lessons as a source of inspiration for their lives of purpose.

Valedictorian Lam Kellye Nguyen


As is tradition, Kerin presented the Headmaster's Prize to Valedictorian Lam Kellye Nguyen, saying, “When she first arrived at Brewster for her junior year, our 2023 Valedictorian immediately demonstrated her excellent academic abilities and willingness to involve herself in our community. Widely regarded by faculty and students for her unshakable positivity and effervescent personality, Kellye is the personification of our theme for the year, embodying what it is to uplift others.” She noted that Nguyen also commanded the stage, winning Brewster’s Poetry Out Loud competition each of the past two years and performing key roles in the school musicals. “You might know her as one of Cinderella’s Step-Sisters or Annabeth Chase from The Lightning Thief, but we know her with respect and admiration as our class of 2023 Valedictorian, Lam Kellye Nguyen!” Kerin said. 

Nguyen, who is a Brewster Global Scholar and member of the National Honor Society, will attend Union College in the fall. In her speech to the gathered Commencement audience, the two-time Brewster Poetry Out Loud competition winner wowed the audience with a beautifully lyrical address, one that used the Vietnamese proverb— “Đi một ngày đàng học một sàng khôn,” or “Each hand-span of road brings back a basket full of wisdom”—as a metaphor for the journey this class has made, and will make, together. She commended the moment brilliantly, sharing with graduates that “...At this momentous point of intersection, I urge you, fellow travelers, to allow yourself a moment of rest. And as you do so, I want you to think about the places you’ve walked on, ran through, crawled by, both physically and mentally, that have gotten you here. Cherish them, and know that it is enough. You are enough.” 


At Commencement, awards voted on by faculty are given to graduates for their academic achievements or contributions to the character of our community. At the 2023 Commencement, those award winners were  
Turner Elliott: The Ronald “Buzzy” Dore Memorial Award for the graduate who exemplifies the qualities of our alumnus and friend, showing outstanding leadership in the areas of academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities, and who is a friend to all. 

George Wood: The Faculty Growth Achievement Award for the graduate who has shown the greatest improvement in general record during their junior and senior years at Brewster.

Zoe Tamborello: The Jill Carlson Memorial Award for the female graduate who exhibits outstanding athletic abilities, determination, drive, and dedication, and displays an inquiring curiosity to learn about and experience life. 

Elisha-Grace King: The Mabel Cate Tarr Award for the graduate whose record is one of outstanding contribution to scholarship and citizenship.

Hannah Yang: The David Sirchis School Service Award for the student who, in terms of spirit, dedication, and contributions of service, has done the most for the Brewster community. 

Emma Tutaj and Archer McClain: The two Arthur J. Mason Foundation Awards for graduates displaying good sportsmanship on the playing fields, in the halls, in the classrooms, and among students, faculty, and others.

Patrick Green: The Burtis F. Vaughan Award for the graduate who has most successfully combined scholastic and athletic excellence with the personal qualities of sympathy, sincerity, appreciation, and awareness in all his or her associations. 

Sylvie Skibicki and Petch Ounjaroen: The Faculty Service Awards for the students who provides the strongest example and makes the greatest commitment to community service, who considers such service not as a responsibility or an obligation but rather as something that comes from a driving inner motivation to be of value to others. 

Lam Kellye Nguyen: The Arthur M. Hurlin Award for the graduate who has done the most for the welfare, good name, and progress of Brewster. 

Assistant Dean of Students Rob O'Blenis (left) and Meghan Shippos '23


Acknowledging that Commencement falls on Memorial Day Weekend, when the nation honors and remembers those military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice, Kerin paused the ceremony to ask any active duty or retired military members in the audience to stand and be recognized with applause. “Military service is a unique and special pursuit of purpose, one that is grounded in the protection of others,” she said, “and I am grateful for those who seek that path. At this time I’d like to invite Rob O'Blenis, Assistant Dean of Students, to recognize a Brewster graduate who will be following that path next year.”

“Mr. O” then spoke about Meghan Shippos, who will attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York—one of the five U.S. military academies. “The Merchant Marine Academy’s mission is to educate and graduate leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces,” he said, noting that Shippos is one of approximately 260 appointees selected to attend the Academy from around the nation and the world, out of about 1,800 applicants.

Shippos will complete an intensive four-year regimental and academic curriculum, which includes three trimesters at sea on U.S. Flag Merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships, as well as an internship, all leading to a Bachelor of Science Degree, a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer’s License as either a Deck Officer or Engineering Officer, and an Ensign’s commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “This remarkable achievement reflects great credit on Meghan, and demonstrates that she is already living up to the Academy’s motto ‘Acta non Verba,’ which means ‘Deeds, not Words’,” O’Blenis said. “I take great pleasure, on behalf of Vice Admiral Jack Buono, the Academy's Superintendent, to recognize the appointment of Meghan Shippos to the United States Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2027.”

Vice Chair of Brewster’s Board of Trustees Art Coviello introduces Laurel J. Richie


Kerin invited the Vice Chair of Brewster’s Board of Trustees, Art Coviello, to the podium to introduce the day’s keynote speaker, Laurel J. Richie. Coviello has known Richie, who is an award-winning brand and marketing executive, for almost a decade, and said, “I can say with confidence that we are all in for a treat today.” He then described Richie’s 30 years of professional experience, during which she has influenced the very core identity of some of the world’s most recognizable brands. “American Express, Pepperidge Farms, Huggies, Ponds and Maidenform all took leaps forward with the transforming guidance of this marketing mastermind,” he said. “Seat Geek, Synchrony Financial, Hasbro, Bright Horizons, and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame have all benefited from her wise board leadership. Her mark is almost everywhere.” 

In 2011, after helping lead successes for the Girls Scouts of America, Richie became the first person of color to lead a major U.S. professional sports league, taking the role of President of the WNBA, initiating an era that saw unprecedented increases in coverage and profitability for the teams and athletes. “Under her direction, the WNBA also became the first national professional sports league to celebrate PRIDE on a league-wide basis, an effort that included players, teams, sponsors, and broadcasters. This was absolutely trailblazing in 2014, and has since become adopted by all leagues,” Coviello shared. A Dartmouth graduate and the first person of color in Dartmouth’s 250+ year history to lead that board as Chair in 2016, Richie was described by Coviello as “a remarkable force of nature, who is still somehow one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and engaging people you will ever meet.” 

Keynote Speaker Laurel J. Richie

Thanking her friend, Richie stepped to the podium and greeted the Class of 2023, admitting that in less than 24 hours she was “already falling in love” with Brewster’s campus, the majesty of the Belknap Mountains, and the serenity of Lake Winnipesaukee. “Such inspiration for learning, self-reflection, and self-discovery,” she said. “And the intimacy of this small, close knit, diverse community—the warm laughter I see exchanged between students—how fortunate you are to attend a school where it is possible to really get to know each other, where it is critical to depend on each other, and where there are no barriers between the campus and the surrounding community.  What a wonderful environment for curricular and co-curricular activities, and—equally important—for learning to be a good citizen and a kind neighbor.”
Richie then described her affinity for Brewster’s mission statement (preparing diverse thinkers for lives of purpose) and reminded the graduates how prepared they are for their next chapter. She noted that they’ve gleaned wisdom and knowledge from formal studies and informal experiences, demonstrated resilience from attending school in the midst of a pandemic, and built an adventuresome spirit from navigating the cycle of the seasons in rural New Hampshire. “Ever-changing, refusing to simply be a backdrop, nature has been a classroom and a teacher: challenging you to persevere through the long, cold, dark days of winter, only to be delighted at every turn when the first signs of spring emerge,” she said as many heads nodded in agreement.

Richie then praised the gathering of students for their incredible volunteer service in the Wolfeboro community, helping them learn the importance of civic engagement and how contributing to something bigger than yourself feeds your soul. “And most of all, I trust that each and every one of you has built deep and meaningful relationships—with teachers, administrators and classmates,” she said. “Nurture these relationships, and they will provide support, wise counsel, honest feedback, and immeasurable joy throughout the rest of your life, just as they have done for generations of Brewster alumni.”

Students and families in the audience were rapt with attention as Richie described her upbringing and how it affected her desire to lead as an adult. “I graduated from high school 46 years ago. If, on that day, you had told me that I would one day lead the longest running women’s professional sports league in the country, I would have said ‘Ya, right,’ and bet what little money I had that against such a remote possibility,” she said, adding that her modest aspirations at that time were to study French and perhaps lead something in the future. The only thing close to a “purpose” was a sense of responsibility that she wanted to continue the legacy her parents had established as trailblazers. “They were married and started their family years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” she shared. “Their life purpose came into clear view a year earlier, when they attended the March on Washington and heard Dr. Martin Luther King deliver the now iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” Inspired by Dr. King’s vision for America, Richie’s parents decided to single-handedly integrate the neighborhood she would grow up in. When they were barred from buying land because they were Black, white friends purchased the land and sold it to her parents at cost. “For the first five years in the new district, we were the only Black family in our school,” Richie recalls. Knowing that bold choices and strong values were part of her DNA, Richie set off to college at Dartmouth, where she never did take a French class, but became immersed in the theater. This penchant for creative work led to her first job at an advertising agency, working with other creatives, solving interesting business problems, traveling the world, and leading global teams. 

She formed a firmer purpose in the coming years, focusing her time and energy on creating opportunities for women, young girls and people of color to thrive by mentoring junior employees; participating in task forces focused on increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; and trying to lead by example. Richie then shared the darkest moment of her career—when as a newly promoted vice president of a “high profile, highly profitable, award-winning business,” she was devastated and embarrassed to learn that her entire team had asked to be moved to another part of the agency. They didn’t feel they could learn or grow with Richie as their leader. Richie described crying herself to sleep but finding strength to move past her hurt and anger to accept she must change to be the leader she aspired to be. 
“I pulled the team together and asked them to give it to me straight—the good, the bad and the ugly. At the end of the two-hour meeting, I thanked them for the feedback and asked them to give me a second chance,” she said. She then set about transforming her leadership philosophy from “command-and-control-leading-from-the-front, to doing everything in my power to creating an environment where people can do their best work.”
Six months later, she had turned the dire situation around, and—at one point getting choked up at the memory of this transformative experience in her life—emphasized to the Brewster graduates that the grace and patience of those colleagues allowed her the time and space to do better and to be better. Something they may find they, too, need to step back and do as they move along their own paths of purpose. 
The experience also helped Richie zero in on her passion for creating opportunities for girls, women, and people of color. “This empowered me to take a leap of faith,” she said, leaving the safety and security of a 25-year career in advertising to join the Girl Scouts of America and, three years later, to take the helm of the Women’s National Basketball League. Even though, she admitted, she had never attended a WNBA game or played the game of basketball! 

“But the missions of these two organizations allowed me to lean into my life’s purpose: Raising girls of courage, confidence, and character at the Girls Scouts, and Showing the world what is possible, what women can be as athletes and what athletes can be as citizens at the WNBA,” she said, adding that finding one’s purpose is hard work. It is a marathon, not a sprint, she cautioned, often formed, and informed, by one’s struggles just as much as one’s successes.
Richie closed by following the tradition of commencement speakers offering a piece of advice. “This advice comes from one of my favorite professors at Dartmouth who is a member of the Houma Tribe of Louisiana,” she shared. “It is the concept of ‘ever becoming’.”

Ever becoming acknowledges the fact that we are constantly growing and morphing into our best selves, and offers a constructive way to process the inevitable challenges and setbacks, she explained: “And ever becoming inspires us to embrace the possibility inherent in dawning of every new day.”

“Brewster Class of 2023: You are prepared. You are ready. And the world is ready…for you to discover your passions and to transform your passions into a life of meaning, purpose, and impact,” she ended with force. “So go out there and make your mark…in any and every way you see fit. There is so much good yet to be done, and my generation is counting on your generation!”

In closing, Richie acknowledged that she now felt as if she were an honorary member of the Class of 2023, a note that was interrupted with spontaneous applause from the students. She then continued saying she looked forward to the role reversal some time in the future when she’d be invited to participate in Reunion activities, and would get to  hear the wisdom and the stories that these graduates will have to share the “ups and downs of journeys you’ve taken in pursuit of your purpose.”


This year, two representatives from the Office of Educational Affairs of the Royal Thai Embassy traveled to Wolfeboro to celebrate the Royal Thai Scholars. Korn Thepnorarat, Guidance Officer, returned to campus and was joined by Pajita Diskul Na Ayudhya, a Minister in the Office of Educational Affairs of the Royal Thai Embassy. After the Thai graduates’ names were read and their degrees conferred, another tradition of Brewster’s Commencements began: The person students honored with the yearbook’s dedication took the stage to read the remaining graduates’ names. This year, that person is Waterfront Coordinator and coach Kyle Williams. And so it began, each row of graduates striding to the stage, grinning as they waited for their name to be called, and finally taking the stage for the moment they had worked so hard for. 

With a final congratulations from their Head of School, and a nod from their Class Marshals to move their tassels, the Class of 2023 tossed their mortarboards to the sky with a cacophony of whoops and cheers that may have been heard across Wolfeboro Bay! 




Following the Benediction from Rev. Muise, the graduates recessed, followed by a melee of hugs, flowers, and smiles with their families before a buffet lunch. With another Commencement in the books, the team of staff and faculty who made the day possible (especially Registrar Margaret Enos, Special Events and Programs Planner Caitlin Ward, and the Facilities and Dining teams) took an easy breath—and began preparations for the following weekend’s big Alumni Reunion! 

Watch the recording of Commencement 2023 here. See the full photo album on our Flickr page here.