The Gunston School Celebrates 108th Commencement

This past weekend Gunston’s campus was filled with family, friends, and faculty as they joined the Class of 2019 in celebrating their achievements and marking the end of their journey at Gunston.

On Friday, June 7, the Green & White Awards Ceremony was held in the Field House. Headmaster John Lewis offered a brief remark about each of the 47 seniors. Lewis ended his address to the Class of 2019 stating “It has been a privilege to work with you, and you have conducted yourselves with class, camaraderie, and grace during your time here. On behalf of everyone in this room, we wish you the best!”

Valedictorian Davy Song addressed his classmates “1368 days ago, we, the Class of 2019, embarked on a flotilla of boats bound for Gunston. Aboard, as we gazed into the blues of the Corsica River, Gunston meant nothing but seven white letters on a background of dark green in the distance. When we alighted from the boats and stepped onto the dock, we were oblivious to what lied ahead of us, and we could never imagine that we were to spend the next four years of our youth in a magical place, a place where we would forge deep friendships with classmates and teachers, where we would explore our raison d’êtres, and where we would transform from the innocent freshmen into the confident young adults that we are today. Four years ago, no one fell into the Corsica River during embarkation. Four years later, we are still, fortunately, intact and whole. Yet, one thing has changed: a collective experience has brought us closer together, and stronger together…We remember because of the blood, sweat, and tears that we shed shaped who we are today. Just look at how much we’ve achieved throughout our high school careers. Class of 2019—today is the day to proclaim proudly—We did it!”

Photo: From left to right, front row, Kejing Chen, Cameryn Kelly, Cora Duncan, Michell Pagan, Megan Prochaska, Claire Johnson, Elyssa Merton, Katie Schiwy, Anna Wolf, Paige Murphy, Fuji Yang; second row: Si-tong Zhou, Rebecca Defino, Anneliese Clair, Shiloh Clark, Marisa Pisapia, Caroline Roser, Elena Sherman, Morgan Smith, Leah Hellwege, Brynne Kneeland; third row, President of St. John’s College Peter Kanelos, Headmaster John Lewis, Catherine Easter, Yanni Harris, Luke Stehle, William Urquhart, Phineas Howell, Andrew Seaman, Grafton Howard, Nick Basham, Katie Staley, Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Wright, Assistant Headmaster Christie Grabis; fourth row, Menel Harris, Haorui Song, Dolan Carella, Philip Ashley, Griffin Hecht, Zachary Goss, David Armstrong; back row: Yong Yan, Zhenghao Ren, Nicholas Lee, Samuel Umidi, Ryan Evans, William Gibson, James Pratt, Juan Cordero. 

The awards ceremony was followed by the Brick Laying Ceremony and Senior Disembarkation. Four years ago the Class of 2019 arrived on campus by boat, where they were greeted by outstretched hands and smiling faces of the upperclassmen and faculty. On Friday, the 47 members of the class of 2019 once again walked through the receiving line, but this time they said farewell to their friends, family, and faculty as they disembarked from Gunston to start their next journey.

On the morning of June 8th, The Gunston School held its 108th Commencement, graduating the largest class in history—47 members. The longtime tradition of an outdoor ceremony along the banks of the Corsica River was greeted with sunny skies and warm smiles. Bagpiper Robert Wallace led the procession, as the girls in white formal dresses carrying flower bouquets and boys in blue blazers and khakis processed.  Class President Claire Johnson delivered the opening greeting, followed by each senior presenting a favorite quote.

This year’s commencement speaker was Peter Kanelos, President of St. John’s College in Annapolis.  Kanelos composed his remarks around the key concepts of Confucius’ moral philosophy: the pursuit of dao (truth), the ethical system of jen (love and benevolence), The moral ideal of chun-tze (the man of high moral achievement who constantly tries to improve and cultivate himself to achieve various stages of perfection),  and the wu-lun (five basic human relationships). Kanelos bestowed these parting words to the seniors “It is often the ambition of young people to make a difference to build a better world. This is admirable but you must begin from the inside out. The world is composed of individuals each with boundless capacity. How you cultivate your freedom will determine whether you are self-seeking or selfless. The latter path is the path to nobility. To be noble is to light the world with your love. And if enough souls shine forth in this way the world will not only be better but brighter. You are both the spark and the flame. Shine forth and shine on.”

Gunston Senior Cole Evans Wins Boys’ ESIAC Player of Year

Athletic Director Jon Mellinger and ESIAC Player of the Year Cole Evans ’19.

Gunston senior Cole Evans was selected by the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference as the 2019 Boys’ Lacrosse Player of the Year. The senior midfielder scored twelve goals and six assists in four conference games this year and led the Herons to finish as the ESIAC Championship runner-up.

“On the lacrosse field, the better the opponent, the better he plays,” Head Lacrosse Coach Chris Dollar said. “Cole separates himself from other players with his desire to improve his game, plays all facets equally hard, and never quits. In my four decades as a coach and player, I can say unequivocally, and without hesitation that Cole Evans is among the best.”

Evans will finish his Herons lacrosse career with more than 200 points. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Gunston’s honor roll, and serves as the senior class Vice-President. He will be attending Christopher Newport University to pursue an environmental science and business degree and play lacrosse.

Gunston Team Excels at National Academic Quiz Championships

L-R: Andrew Amygdalos, Henry Shifrin, Sam Umidi, Annie Bamford, Headmaster John Lewis, Phin Howell, Zack Anderson, and Aeropl Bai.

For the third straight year, Gunston’s Academic Quiz Bowl Team qualified for the NAQT National Academic Team Championships in Chicago, Illinois. Competing against the top 72 teams in the country, Gunston finished 39th, missing the playoff round by a single game. The team participated in 10 competitive rounds, answering questions from all areas of knowledge, including history, literature, science, fine arts, current events, popular culture, sports, and more. Many former NAQT competitors become Jeopardy! champions, and before the tournament began, the Gunston team had the chance to scrimmage against former Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions competitor Ben Ingram.

Gunston was led by junior Andrew Amygdalos (Dover), who was the 29th overall scorer (top 8%) out of nearly 350 competitors. Also competing were Annie Bamford (Chestertown), Phineas Howell (Chestertown), Henry Shifrin (Chestertown), Aeropl Bai (Easton), Zack Anderson (Easton), and Samuel Umidi (Annapolis). “The competition at this tournament was incredibly tough,” shared Gunston Headmaster and coach, John Lewis. “The team excelled this year, and I expect we’ll be back once again next year.”

Megan (Moore) Dunne ’04 to be Inducted into Gunston’s Hall of Fame

Megan Dunne

On Tuesday, May 14, The Gunston School will host its annual Spring Sports Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. At this year’s event Megan (Moore) Dunne ’04 will be inducted into Gunston’s Hall of Fame for her remarkable achievements in lacrosse, field hockey, and basketball. “Megan was a true triple threat and the definition of scholar-athlete,” said former athletic director and field hockey coach Anita Gruss. “There is no one more deserving of this award.”

“Gunston has always been a special place for me, and it’s truly an honor to be joining the Athletic Hall of Fame. I’m grateful for all of the support and encouragement I had from so many wonderful coaches and teammates while there. For a small school, our teams had a lot of success, and I attribute that to all of the people who have made Gunston what it is and who I was lucky enough to be surrounded by,” said Dunne.

During her high school career, Dunne was a four-time 1st Team ESIAC All-Conference Lacrosse Player, Team Captain, and MVP; 1st Team ESIAC All-Conference in Field Hockey; and in Basketball secured 1st Team ESIAC All-Conference two times, 2nd Team ESIAC All-Conference one time, Team Captain, and Team MVP. She was a recipient of the Gunston School Athletics Award and awarded the 12-Star Award, which was earned by participating in all 12 athletics seasons of her high school career.

“Megan’s excellence as an athlete was evident in every lacrosse game she played at Gunston,” said former coach Robert Fredland. “She was a scoring leader in each of her four seasons and recognized as the best by her peers and her opponents—selected as Most Valuable Player by her teammates and ESIAC Player of the year by conference coaches. And, although statistics and accolades are often used to measure success, Megan’s true greatness was revealed in her leadership both on and off the field. She proved, time and again, in every aspect of her life here at Gunston that she was truly an exceptional individual.”

Megan was equally outstanding in basketball. In her senior year, Megan scored over 200 points, grabbed over 200 rebounds, made over 50 blocks and 50 steals. “It was one of the best seasons in Gunston Girls Basketball history,” said her coach Mike Clemens. “Megan was instrumental in our team ending up with a winning record, where we beat Salisbury Christian, Salisbury School and Saints Peter and Paul.”

After graduation, Megan attended Gettysburg College, where she continued her legacy as a standout lacrosse player. She was an integral part of a Gettysburg Bullets squad that won two Centennial Conference Championships, made two NCAA Final Four appearances and four tournament appearances. In 2006, she helped lead the Bullets to a 21-1 record, falling only to The College of New Jersey in the National Title game. Megan was a three-time All-Centennial Conference mid-fielder, earning IWLCA All-American honors in her senior season. She was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team for her performances in the Final Four in 2006 and 2007 and served as a senior captain in 2008.

Dunne continued to pursue her love of lacrosse in coaching positions at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and lastly as Emerson College’s Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach in Boston. While at W & L, Dunne helped lead the Generals to a No. 11 national ranking and the NCAA Regional Semi-Finals in 2011. She oversaw an offense that posted 15.35 goals per game in 2011 and 13.32 in 2010, bolstering the Generals to winning back to back Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championships and making two NCAA appearances.

Megan left coaching in 2014 to pursue other career outlets and her love of writing. Dunne made her way into marketing and advertising, starting as a copywriter at Manhattan ad agency Vayner Media. Today, she is the Creative Director for Beacon Digital, a marketing agency that helps brands reach audiences across all channels, including websites, print, social media, and emerging tech platforms. Dunne now resides in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with her husband, B.J., the Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Gettysburg College, where she enjoys supporting the Bullets and helping grow the game of lacrosse in the Gettysburg area.

Gunston Rowers Medal at MD/DE State Championships

On Saturday, April 27, Gunston rowers competed in the Maryland and Delaware State Championship Regatta at St. Andrew’s School. Heavy winds provided challenging conditions but the Herons excelled: the Boys’ Varsity 4+ crew of Caroline Roser ’19, Owen White ’20, Drew Seaman ’19, James Fordi ’21, and Jack Pigman ’21 finished 3rd, earning bronze medals. The Girls’ Varsity 4+ crew of Isabella Santoboni ’20, Elena Sherman ’19, Katie Easter ’19, Lydia Periconi ’21, and Megan Prochaska ’19 earned 1st place in their heat, then finished 4th overall in finals in a field of very competitive crews.

L-R: Bronze medalists Boys’ Varsity 4+ crew Drew Seaman ’19, Owen White ’20, Caroline Roser ’19, James Fordi ’21, and Jack Pigman ’21

“This was a great day of racing for us as we prepare for the latter portion of the season,” Coach Ferguson said. “Our boys’ and girls’ crews continue to impress during practices and I was pleased they were able to get results in a competitive field with challenging conditions.”

The last regatta of the season is the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia on May 17 and 18. Stotesbury Cup is a national regatta, and one the largest high school rowing competitions in the country. This race will provide great experience and competition for our top varsity boats.

Gunston School Triathlon Team Dominates Podium in Hagerstown

On Saturday, April 20th, Gunston School’s inaugural triathlon season began with their first competition at the Hagerstown Duathlon. The Heron triathletes competed against 117 athletes across all age groups. Gunston earned top-three finishes in the boys’ 16 under and boys’ 17-19 divisions. Additionally, Gunston’s Katie Staley won the girls’ 17-19 division.

Gunston’s top two athletes, junior Max Scott and freshman Thomas Umidi, challenged the field to earn top-25 finishes with Scott’s second run-split being a top-10 time amongst all competitors.

In November, Gunston announced the expansion of its athletic offerings to include golf, cross country and triathlon. These programs were carefully considered by the athletics and admissions offices to support the strengths and areas of growth within its athletic program, particularly triathlon. Proximity to the waterfront and wide-open farm roads led to the creation of this program.

“This was a dream realized,” Director of Athletics and triathlon coach Jon Mellinger said. “Having our triathletes put on their race kits and tow the line in the green and white for the very first time, at their first ever multisport race, is the product of our athletes’ dedication, hard work, and insurmountable community support.”

Gunston Head Elected Board President of Regional Independent School Association

Headmaster John Lewis

At the annual meeting of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS), the membership elected Gunston’s Head of School John Lewis to serve as the association’s board president beginning August 1, 2019. Founded in 1967, AIMS is the primary accreditation, advocacy, and professional development organization for 122 private independent schools in both Maryland and Washington, DC. It serves schools representing approximately 50,000 students and 12,000 employees.

Peter Baily, Executive Director of AIMS, commented that John Lewis continues a tradition of excellence in AIMS Board leadership. “He has distinguished himself by his wisdom, strategic thinking, and attention to the advancement of our member schools. John did a stellar job as the leader of our AIMS Commission on Accreditation, and I know he will do the same as he assumes Board leadership this summer.”

Lewis, who has served as The Gunston School’s Headmaster since 2010, recently completed a two-year term as the AIMS board vice president and is the former Chair of the AIMS Commission for Accreditation. Lewis shared, “AIMS is one of the most innovative and rigorous regional associations in the country and I’m grateful to play a role in supporting it. Within any society, a diversity of high-quality educational options is essential to a strong educational infrastructure—AIMS supports schools with a range of missions and student populations. On the Mid-Shore, there are five AIMS-accredited independent schools: The Gunston School, Wye River Upper School, Radcliffe Creek School, Kent School, and Country School.”

Assistant Head of Gunston, Christie Grabis who also serves on the AIMS Commission for Accreditation commented, “In addition to his commitment to the Gunston School, its students and families, John always considers the institution as a whole and our responsibility to the health and growth of education, and to independent education in particular. In the role of President, John’s leadership and vision will guide AIMS continued advancement and development as a leading independent education association.”

Gunston Hosted 6th Annual Crew Invitational

Saturday, April 6, was a beautiful morning on the Corsica River—a perfect day for The Gunston School to host seven visiting rowing programs for its 6th Annual Gunston Invitational. Nearly 500 spectators came to watch Gunston and fifty-five competing boats race in fourteen different categories. Gunston was able to showcase its extensive waterfront refurbishments, as well as its new athletic center, Heron House.

Both boys’ and girls’ crew each earned second-place finishes in two events and third-place finishes in two events.

“The Gunston Invitational is a great community-wide event,” said Athletic Director Jon Mellinger. “There were some great races with plenty of competitive finishes. Our crews were extremely disciplined throughout the day and were great hosts. This would not have been possible without our coaching staff, parent volunteers, and student-athletes.”

Head Coach Erin Ferguson added, “Coach Gross, Coach Boone, and I are proud of how well our boats raced. We had little time training on the water this spring due to weather conditions, however, rowers and coxswains conditioned hard throughout the winter and it paid off this past weekend. We’re looking forward to the Maryland State Championships and the Stotesbury Cup.”

Gunston’s Model UN Team Competes in NYC

Gunston’s Model United Nations Club attended the National High School Model United Nations Conference in New York City in the beginning of March. Gunston students Nick Lee, Sam Umidi, Drew Seaman, Nick Kellogg, Areopl Bai, Andrew Amygdalos, Henry Shifrin, Peter Sharpless, Lydia Davis, and Colin Lang were led by faculty advisors Michael McFarland and Kellee Webb.

Over 1,300 high school students from across the country and around the world attended this four day exercise in diplomacy and international affairs.  The final meeting took place at the United Nations building in the General Assembly Hall which has seen many historical moments over the past seventy years.

At Model UN conferences, students participate in simulations of United Nations sessions, debating, negotiating, caucusing, drafting, and voting on resolutions that address world problems. Gunston students represented Denmark in debates on major issues facing the world today, including international cybersecurity, terrorism, child soldiers, and the status of indigenous communities. In their committees, students worked to pass resolutions to address these issues in the same way the United Nations does today.

Gunston’s Robotics Team Competes in FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier

The Gunston School Robotics Team competed in the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) qualifier at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) STEM Action Center in Columbia, Maryland on Sunday, February 3. The team finished the first phase of the competition with a record of 4 wins and 1 loss ranking 4th out of 23 teams, the best performance to date for a Gunston robotics team. This is the fifth year that Gunston has participated in the FTC program.

The team of seventeen students, mentored by Dr. Ken Wilson and led by FTC veterans Brynne Kneeland and Drew Seaman, designed, built, and programmed a robot to meet the challenges posed by this year’s game. They created an engineering notebook that described their strategy, proposed designs, and described problems that the team overcame along the way. At the competition, the students had to describe and defend their design in front of a panel of engineers. Real world engineering challenges like FTC teach students to follow the engineering processes that they will use in their future careers.

Front row L-R: Drew Seaman, Brynne Kneeland, Cedar Foster, Henry Shifrin, Will Newberg; back row L-R: Sebastian Borland, Josh Sanford, Daniel Ye, Robert Crow, Jimmy Zhao and Allen Wang.

The competition is divided into two parts: autonomous (the robot is controlled by a program) and driver controlled. This year the competition had a “Mars rover” theme. The robotic rovers start out hanging on to the side of a lander module. The rover must descend from the rover, sample minerals, drop a team marker into a depot, and park in a crater.

Gunston’s strong, consistent performance during the first phase allowed Kneeland, the team captain, to invite two other teams to form an alliance for the semi-final elimination rounds in the afternoon. She chose teams from Quince Orchard High School (Montgomery County Public Schools) and the Pasadena, Maryland Robotics organization. Although the alliance was eliminated during the semifinals, the team returned to Gunston proud of their effort and committed to improving their robot before the next tournament.

Gunston will compete again at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland on February 17.

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