‘Remain adaptable’

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Class of 2023. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HUN SCHOOL OF PRINCETON

The Hun School of Princeton celebrated the Class of 2023 June 9

The sun shone brightly for The Hun School of Princeton’s 109th Commencement Exercises on June 9 celebrating the Class of 2023’s accomplishments among family, friends, and faculty. Fifteen hundred people gathered on the lawn behind historic Russell Hall to celebrate graduates from all over the world.

Class of 2023 Speaker Hanan Hasan Alsaffar spoke about her experience of traveling 5,000 miles from her home in Bahrain to The Hun School and her fear of not being able to fit in. But she realized that “the more I took an active role in the community, the less homesick I was, and the more fun I had.”

It led to her realization that all of her classmates were “leaders who made a change at Hun and will make a difference wherever they go next.” But above all, she said that they “led Hun by being kind, welcoming, and accepting.”

The Class of 2023 is full of what Hanan called “unique stories” — 160, to be exact. While many of the graduates may have taken some of the same classes, each used their time at Hun to discover their own passions, including:

Nia Oparaji expanded on her classroom learning about civics during her Capstone Experience trip to Maine’s Acadia National Park. She interviewed members of the National Park Service and discovered how civics is important to our national parks.

Stylianos Damianakis has been completing independent research on human viruses.

Runner Eric Scully, who in addition to his own athletic success, learned about what it takes to organize and execute a 5K.

Baoyue “Coco” Zhang used her love of philosophy to explore museums and monuments from the Holocaust throughout Europe. She examined literary works on the concept of good and evil.

Musician Brendan Kelso is composing original songs, including Don’t Look Back, which he performed during the Commencement exercises.

“They bring to our community every possible point of view, the most diverse talents and virtues to be found on any campus, anywhere,” said Head of School Jon Brougham, presiding over his final Commencement before retirement. “But our graduates share much in common: Each is a living example of the values we hold dear.”

Brougham was surprised with an honorary Hun diploma from Ryan Hews, head of the Upper School, before the conferment of the graduates’ diplomas.

Attendees also enjoyed a musical performance by graduating senior Sasha Brielle Moïse, and heard from Susan Michel, rising chair of the Board of Trustees, who reminded graduates to “never stop learning,” even if it “requires stepping outside of our comfort zones.”

Valedictorian Suchisrit Gangopadhyay, who also received The John L. Kuschke Memorial Award at the ceremony, spoke passionately about artificial intelligence to those assembled, encouraging everyone to “remain adaptable,” and to use the skills learned at Hun, which “have prepared us well for the AI future.”

Gangopadhyay, who heads to Yale University in the fall, has been conducting independent research using AI to build a 3D image recognition library. Salutatorian Ryan Danger Donahue encouraged his fellow graduates to “learn from the mistakes we make” and not to “let fear of failure prevent us from pursuing opportunities that we may never be able to experience again.”