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The 119th Commencement of The Ursuline School took place on May 20, 2016. Our 165 seniors excitedly gathered outside to process in to The Tully Family Gymnasium. Principal Carol Killebrew gave a warm welcome and introduced the trustees in attendance. After Msgnr Keane gave the invocation, the seniors who are members of our Honors Choir led the singing of The Star Spangled Banner. As the diplomas were handed out by President Davidson, each graduate descended the stairs and the daughters of alumnae were greeted by their mothers; there were 12 such special intergenerational pairs.

The Valedictory Address was delivered by Brigid Lahiff. She will be studying Classics at Oxford, England and she drew on that Classics knowledge: "There is a Latin phrase in the opening of Willa Cather's novel, My Ántonia: 'Optima dies...prima fugit."' Originally found in Vergil's Georgics, it means, "The best days are the first to flee," and it prepares the reader for the nostalgic tone of Cather's fictional memoir . . . There is a certain beauty to the image of days or memories flying away into the wind, behind the clouds - they are out of sight but never lost. In a similar way, we are leaving high school in the past and bringing with us to college memories, knowledge, and lifelong friends."

Brigid reminded her classmates that next "to the doors that lead to the library, there is an inscription dated from 1928. It reads, 'Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,' and comes from 1 Thessalonians in the New Testament. I believe this Bible verse holds special significance to our education at Ursuline and in college. It suggests that as we face new situations and academic challenges, both our faith in God and all the knowledge we have gained from an Ursuline education will lead us to success, and more importantly, to happiness. The verse also encourages us to be open to new experiences, even to those that test our beliefs- it is then that we may find strength in holding fast to our convictions or accepting new, more valuable truths . . . 'Optima dies...prima fugit'. The best days are the first to flee. Cherish this moment, Class of 2016, and look ahead to the future with hope and confidence."

This graduating class of 165 students earned more than $29.6 million in academic scholarship to college. In the Awards and Honors portion of the program, a number of individual recognitions were announced. The Salutatorian is Sheila Marie Dolan (pictured above, left, with the Valedictorian on her right). Nineteen students earned national academic honors this year:

National Merit Scholar – Julianna Sullivan

National Merit Finalists - Niamh Fitzpatrick, Grace Gallagher, Caroline LaGumina, Briana Ross

National Merit Commended Students - Julia Amato, Marissa Copeland, Sarah Cosmedy, Hannah Devaney, Monica Diaz, Sheila Dolan, Mariana Garza, Elizabeth Judge, Kimberly Laguatan, Brigid Lahiff, Jennifer MacGown , Allyson Mauch, Katherine Poletti, and Marie Pugliese.

Thirteen Serviam Awards were given for service to the school in the spirit of St. Angela - Sarah Cosmedy, Casey Friend, Grace Gallagher, Nia Harvey, Sandile Mhlaba, Jenna O'Malley, Jena Pelonkovic, Elizabeth Sullivan, Meredith Taylor, Audrey Thompsen, Sarah Treganowan, Amanda Vasilakis, Elizabeth Vuksanaj.

In the President's Address, Eileen Davidson shared that she drew inspiration from a TED Talk. "Ms.Reshma Saujani, lawyer and politician, founder of Girls Who Code, has a very interesting presentation on girls and why they don't pursue college majors in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and careers in the field of technology. She implores us to change the mindset surrounding how girls are raised. She cites that girls are socialized to play it safe and boys are habituated to take risks."

President Davidson, continued, "Even as grown women, we aspire to perfection and tend to be overly cautious in our words and actions to avoid falling short of this impossible ideal. Unlike men, for example, women feel they must be able to check off every qualification box before they apply for a job while men will take a chance even if they are only partially qualified. She beseeches us to change our thinking and begin to socialize girls to be brave, not perfect. We must instill in all children but, especially girls, a conviction that failing is part of growing and that risks bring their own reward."

President Davidson addressed the graduates directly: "Class of 2016 of The Ursuline School, you are indeed very fortunate. You have the basics that Ms. Saujani feels are essential for successful women. Not only do you have each other, a sisterhood of 165 in this amazing class of 2016 but, you now join the larger sisterhood of Ursuline alumnae some 8,000 strong. In the Ursuline tradition, you have been educated to take risks - to reach beyond your grasp; to stretch yourselves . . . May God bless you and may you always take courage resting in the knowledge that you are loved both here and at home."

We invite you to download the full President's Address here. You may also download the full Valedictory Address here.

We also share with you the video by here.

Sophomores and juniors in Dr. Shamey's Classical Mythology class took a trip to Sleepy Hollow. The main focus of the trip was to immerse the students in the incredibly rich local folklore of New York as a means of accessing and relating to Classical folklore and mythology. To this end, Dr. Shamey retained the services of a renowned local historian and folklorist and professional storyteller, Jonathan Kruk, who took them on a walking folklore tour of Sleepy Hollow and recounted many local tales which have close parallels in the Classical world.

On Tuesday evening, April 26, we inducted 28 students into The Ursuline School Chapter of the National Art Honor Society and celebrated the opening of the 2016 Ursuline Art Show. This year's Art Show featured the outstanding works of all art students, grades 6-12, from painting and drawing to mixed media, ceramics, photography and graphic design.

The Spring Concert on Wednesday, April 27, offered wonderful musical selections from A to Z, or from Adele to Zulu Folk Song. The sensational finale featured ballerina Jillian Marzziotti and soprano Elizabeth Vuksanaj performing while the Symphonic Orchestra played an aria from the opera Carmen, by Bizet.

Our dancers clearly enjoyed performing their original choreography in the Spring Dance Festival on Thursday, April 28. The theme was Broadway and Old Hollywood. The audience loved every one of the fabulous dance numbers – ballet and theater dance, hip hop, Indian dance, Spanish dance, Irish dance, and much more!

Congratulations to all the student artists and performers! Thank you to the faculty who guided these students throughout the year.

Our 3rd annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium on Global Climate Impact was inspiring and aligned with our mission to educate Ursuline students to be global citizens.

Hanah Zamor '17 reported on her summer visit to Ethiopia via Global Concerns Classroom and the effect of climate change on villagers she met. The morning keynote speaker, Amy Freeze, WABC-TVEyewitness News Meteorologist Saturday & Sunday Morning programs, shared her expertise on the basic principles of extreme weather patterns, the potential causes and how this relates to global climate change. The following day, during her live TV broadcast, Amy gave a big shout out to Ursuline. Watch it here.

We were treated to four fantastic breakout sessions. The 7/8 grade enjoyed Kenyan Storyteller, Alice Otieno-Pala who shared the effects of climate change on daily life in Africa. The 9/10 grade learned about Bangladesh and created a Bangladesh awareness campaign via posters or social media; this was facilitated by Margi Bhatt of Global Concerns Classroom. The 11/12 grade watched an excellent documentary called "Racing Extinction" about the loss of biodiversity. Students in the film class learned tips about broadcast journalism from Amy Freeze, in SCBS, our broadcast studio.

Our afternoon session featured keynote speaker Baba Brinkman and his "Rap Guide to Climate Chaos." Baba is an award-winning playwright who performed at the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Conference. His unique "lit-hop" presentation challenged us to be advocates for big change in the world.

Students had prepared for the symposium earlier in the week in several classes, by watching films such as NASA's Eyes on the Earth, calculating their carbon footprint online, reviewing the papal encyclical Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home) and discussing Pope Francis' message to care for the earth.

The girls also took part in a water carrying exercise - carrying large bottles of water several times around the field. This gave them some sense of how girls in other countries must carry water from wells a great distance each day.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Little Women from our amazing Drama Club. The girls interpreted Louisa May Alcott's masterpiece with sensitivity and grace. Marianna Ceccatti '17, Elizabeth Vuksanaj '16, Diana Moss'16, Sarah Cosmedy'16, and Sandile Mhlaba'16 vocally dazzled us in their leading roles. Emma Harvey '17 was a delightful narrator as the author. Particularly poignant was Betsy Vuksanaj's stunning death scene as Beth March. The ensemble delighted and the period costumes reminded us of a young America struggling during the Civil War.

The girls performed Thursday and Friday, after a rigorous day of academics and a Global Symposium. After a very late night on Thursday, all the girls were busy at a cantors rehearsal at 7:15 am Friday morning. They ended Saturday with a powerful finale. We congratulate our very own "Little Women" for their discipline and devotion to the Performing Arts. (Photo above taken by Chris Pope.)

On April 11, a capacity crowd gathered at Modern on the Rails in Mamaroneck for the 4th Annual Christine MacMenamin Memorial Scholarship Reception. It was wonderful to see alumnae, parents of current students and parents of alumnae, faculty, and friends join together to celebrate scholarship at Ursuline and celebrate Christine.

The program included remarks by President Eileen Davidson and a member of the alumnae event committee, as well as a few words from the first student recipient of the scholarship. Board Chair Ann Lefever read the Proclamation from the NY State Senate expressing appreciation to the Event Committee.

This year, the Event Committee of Class of '91 alums honored retired Ursuline history teachers John Malnati, Ken Northcutt and Dan O'Hare who were homeroom teachers for these alumnae in 1990. They are fondly remembered for the incredible support they provided to the class while students dealt with the loss of their friend Christine. They are recognized now for their support of this scholarship in her memory. Thank you to all who contributed to this very special and successful event which raised important funds for scholarship!

On April 4, we were delighted that Dr. Frances Bailie, chair of the Computer Science Department at Iona College and Ursuline alumna Class of 1961, shared her wisdom with students in Ursuline's Computer Science Honors classes. Dr. Bailie presented the stories of women who have used their expertise in technology to make a difference in the world. It was both informative and inspiring. Dr. Bailie's research on this topic has been published and is also available on her website Women in Computing, HERE.

On March 10, 2016 The Ursuline School was honored to unveil the newly acquired Fine Art by Patrick Collins. The art work was generously donated by Joseph and JoAnn Murphy.

As guests arrived for this opening night reception, they were greeted by melodies played on bagpipe by Patrick McCormick. The many attendees included Ursuline sisters, trustees, current families, faculty, alumnae, and friends of the Murphys.

Sr. Regina Kehoe, OSU, offered a blessing and President Eileen Davidson delivered formal remarks. Guests enjoyed viewing the paintings of the Stations of the Cross and learning about the painter, Patrick Collins, via the new augmented reality app, Aurasma. The evening included Ursuline student Julia Longo '18 playing the harp as guests mingled and spoke with the Murphys.

Patrick Collins (1911 – 1994) is one of Ireland's foremost painters of the 20th century. He was a native of Sligo, Ireland. He used color and a simplicity of figures to allow our imaginations to place us in the scene. In these Stations of the Cross, Patrick Collins has shown the passion of Christ in a swirl of blues and greys like Irish mist. Unlike some depictions of the last journey of Christ, in these we are drawn to the sun playing a role in setting the time of day and season and mood.

This art attempts to move us and enrich our faith. This art also educates us, particularly as enhanced with cutting-edge technology. At the reception, we demonstrated the new augmented reality app, Aurasma. We printed a photo of Patrick Collins and then overlaid the photo with video so that anyone who has the app can hear commentary about the paintings as they see them. Aurasma is a free mobile app for iPhone or android phone, or iPad. We invite you to view the video here.

The art work hangs in our Gabelli Library, which has always been a center of learning and inspiration, a learning environment far beyond what books alone can provide. This reimagined learning space is furnished with the latest technology and opportunities for digital learning. More information about the library may be found here.

We are grateful to Joseph and JoAnn Murphy for their exceptional generosity.

On March 10, 2016 a group of ten Ursuline sophomores and Social Studies teacher Ms. Lindsay Dugan attended the Human Rights Institute for Student Leaders at Manhattanville College. It was sponsored by the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center. At the workshop, the students had the privilege of listening to the keynote speaker, Ms. Judith Altmann, who was a Holocaust survivor. Her testimony was extremely powerful and emotional.

The students also worked in focus groups with other high school sophomores from around Westchester County, Putnam County, and lower Connecticut. The students debated human rights issues around the world, from human trafficking to the Flint water crisis.

The goal of the day was create a plan and begin to organize how they could bring awareness to the Ursuline community about a particular human rights issue.

On the last Saturday morning in February 2016, Principal Carol Killebrew hosted 35 Ursuline middle school students and their mothers at our inaugural Mother/Daughter Book Club. They discussed the incredible, true story "I Will Always Write Back - How One Letter Changed Two Lives."

This beautiful book shares the personal journey of Martin Ganda from Zimbabwe and Caitlin Alifirenka from Pennsylvania. Caitlin enjoyed a comfortable middle-class life; Martin's family lives in one of Zimbabwe's worst slums. Their pen-pal exchange as middle school students lead them to a lifelong friendship, forever transforming each of their lives for the better.

Students and their mothers were surprised when they arrived at school to see none other than co-author Martin Ganda standing in our Gabelli Library! He spoke with the delighted girls, and then joined in the book discussion. Principal Killebrew kicked off the conversation by asking how students would describe Mr. Ganda, after reading his story. A special highlight was when Mr. Ganda read an excerpt from the book to us.

Mr. Ganda said he was honored to be with our students and visit our beautiful school. He told the girls to be grateful for all of the opportunities they have in America, to continue to work hard in school, and to thank their parents for all they are able to do for them.

Mr. Ganda, himself, always worked hard at his studies. He came to the United States and earned two bachelor's degrees, in mathematics and in economics, from Villanova University in 2007. In 2014, he received his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business. Today, he is passionate about social and economic empowerment in Africa through social development and leveraging the power of finance. Mr. Ganda is the President and Co-Founder of Seeds of Africa Fund, a nonprofit organization that works for the improvement of access to education for children in Zimbabwe.

Click on to listen to an interview with Martin Ganda on Opportunity Lives.

Many students and parents warmly thanked Mr. Ganda for sharing his inspiring story and incredible life journey. We also thank him for generously taking photos with all the girls and signing their books. Catholic New York reported on this book club gathering, and we invite you to read the article Here.

The Ursuline School frequently hosts authors on campus to share about the writing process and inspire students.

On February 26, 2016 twenty Sophomores and Juniors represented The Ursuline School at the Youth Summit in NYC organized by Concern Worldwide's Global Concerns Classroom. The girls collaborated with over 100 students from the metro NY area to examine the global climate challenges faced by people living in the world's least developed countries.

The students formed mixed school teams and spent the day creating project proposals for short and long term solutions to climate change in eight countries.

Fortunately, these students had the chance to consult with Global Concern Classroom field experts responsible for funding, policy, and program implementation in the locations studied. Toward the end of the day, each team presented its ideas.

The students in our Global Concerns Classroom club have been preparing for this summit since September under the leadership of club moderators, Mrs. Spiridon and Mr. Brätt. This club is one way that we offer students the chance to be active global citizens.

The week of February 21 – 27 was National Engineering Week 2016 and we were proud to mark it by highlighting inventions that make the world a better place. Morning announcements and colorful posters urged students to consider math class without a graphing calculator, hot summers without air conditioning, or traveling long distances without benefit of the George Washington Bridge!

Seniors at Ursuline can take the Intro to Engineering class to learn the engineering process – how to gather data, graph and analyze the data, determine the best design configuration, and construct their models. Students learn to use saws, drills, CAD (computer aided design programs) and the 3D printer. Projects incorporate various elements of mechanical, civil and electrical engineering. More information on the course can be found HERE.

Our alumnae now work in all sorts of challenging and exciting jobs in the engineering field! Kara is an environmental engineer who has worked on EPA Superfund Sites as well as the storm water system for a new airport in Dubai. Laura earned a PhD and is a biomedical engineer focusing on imaging systems for cancer diagnosis. Nichole is a mechanical engineer who has traveled widely in her job designing solutions for nuclear plants and pharmaceutical labs.

In the spirit of National Engineering Week 2016, we are happy to share this fun video – produced by USC Viterbi, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Funny or Die - which asks "what if we covered engineers as celebrities?"

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THE URSULINE SCHOOL   |   1354 NORTH AVENUE   |   NEW ROCHELLE, NY 10804-2192 © 2013
A Catholic, college preparatory school for girls, grades 6 through 12
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