2016 Commencement Recap


The faculty led students to the commencement ceremony. (Photo: Mr. Michael Aldridge)

Commencement weekend began, as is tradition, with the Senior Dinner on the night of Friday May 13th.  This is a highlight activity of the weekend as families and friends are able to gather under the tent, spending some quality time together, sharing a meal and celebrating their special graduate.  Graduates often invite their friends and favorite faculty/coaches to join them at their table.  A few awards are distributed and the Cum Laude Society is recognized.  The main attraction, however, is always the Senior Video.  This year, senior Bruce Song took on much of the production of the video.  He spent time with each senior compiling a montage of slow motion serene, stoic faces morphing to an elated smile.  It was unlike any video in recent history taking an artistic approach that capitalized on its audience’s already heightened feelings of nostalgia.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.


All photos: Mr. Michael Aldridge.

The Northwood School Class of 2016 commencement ceremony took place on May 14th, 2016. This was the one hundred-ninth commencement ceremony in Northwood School history. Commencement speaker, Shawn P. George ‘73, stressed the importance of privacy in today’s world of oversharing, as well as, through the use of a series of adages, there is always something to learn the key is sometimes we have to listen, not speak.

Following the ceremony, the graduates proceed to ring and walk under the Victory Bell in order to receive their Northwood Alumni pin.  This is another one of Northwood’s beautiful traditions.  It signifies the transition from high school to the greater world and entry into the great family of Northwood Alumni.

Class of 2016 Student Honor Speakers


Bridgit Sullivan

Bridgit Ruth Sullivan
Attended Northwood School for three years


Jimmy Green

James Francis Green
Vail, Colorado
Attended Northwood School for four years.
Faculty Prizes


Mrs. Jill Walker


Mr. Tom Fleming

The James Herd Fullerton Faculty Prize
James Herd Fullerton graduated from Norwich University in 1930 and joined the faculty at Northwood School in 1932.  During his Northwood career, Jim would serve as a math and science teacher, hockey, baseball and football coach, crew coach and Director of Athletics.

Throughout his more than thirty years at Northwood (1932-1955), Jim Fullerton established a reputation as a caring, compassionate teacher and an innovative, thoughtful coach.  But it was through sheer force of his character that Jim Fullerton had the greatest influence on a generation of Northwood graduates.  There are countless stories of Jim coming to the aid of a student or player in need of some sage advice, a pat on the back or some firm direction.  Mr. Fullerton passed away in 1991.

The Fullerton Prize is awarded annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated the most significant professional growth and/or had the deepest impact upon the overall character development in the student body during the academic year.  The winner must embody the qualities of honesty, integrity, compassion and love of students so valued by Coach Fullerton.  The prize is intended to enhance the professional and personal growth of the faculty recipient.

I am pleased to award this year’s Fullerton Prize to JILL WALKER who embodies the qualities that still live through the legend and legacy of Jim Fullerton.  Jill, please come forward to receive this award.

Dr. Vanderlyn R. Pine Award for Excellence in Teaching
Dr. Vanderlyn R. Pine is a native of New Paltz, New York and graduated from Northwood School in 1955.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1967 and his Master’s Degree in 1969 from Dartmouth College.  Dr. Pine earned his Ph.D. from New York University in 1971.

While at Northwood, Van Pine excelled in athletics as a member of the ice hockey, football and track teams.  In addition, he was the first Editor-in-Chief of the Mirror, the school’s newspaper, and was involved in the total life of the school as he served on a wide variety of committees.

Two of Dr. Pine’s children, Brian, Class of 1981 and Daniel, Class of 1982, graduated from Northwood.  Dr. Pine was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1986.  In the fall of 1997, he was elected Chair of the Board and assumed his current position of Emeritus Chair in 2014.

The Pine Award, an engraved Boston Rocker chair, is given to the faculty member who: “Demonstrates dedication to his or her students; exudes energy and enthusiasm for learning; fosters respect for scholarship and provides a consistency of preparation and classroom delivery which stimulates students to want to learn.”  The members of the Northwood student body select the faculty winner through nomination and vote.

Comments made by students who nominated this year’s recipient include:

“Always has a smile on his face, always positive, always willing to help.”

“He is awesome.  He is great at teaching.  He makes class interesting.”

“He’s the best.”

“Makes class fun and Math easy to understand.  Always there for a laugh and help if you need it.”

He and his wife devote their lives to the kids of this school.”

Would this year’s winner please come to the stage: TOM FLEMING

Student Prizes



This plaque is awarded to the senior who has shown through influence, character, and service to be the outstanding citizen of the school community, embodying our highest ideals and offering a consistent willingness to work for the betterment of his/her classmates and school.  This is Northwood’s highest award.

President Dwight Eisenhower once stated “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”  This year’s winner exhibits this supreme quality every day – no matter if it is in class, on the ski hill, as a student leader or as a friend.

Mr. Steve Reed commented that this student “brings to all his classes a serious curiosity and determination to stay engaged in every activity.  His extraordinary intelligence never gets in the way of looking for new perspectives or information.  His approach makes the teacher’s job easy and keeps his classmates on their toes.”

Tom Broderick noted:  “He is often praised for his intellect, but it is his character that will be the springboard of his career and life.  His integrity has the gravitational pull of a black hole, and people are drawn to him because they cannot escape the fact that they feel better for having spent time with him.”

I am pleased to present this year’s Northwood Award to DILLON SMITH



The School Seal is the visual representation of what we are and what we stand for.  The annual prize is awarded to the senior who best lives up to the high ideals of our Core Values: Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Integrity, and Respect

Just as the School Seal represents our school, so does the work and influence of this year’s winner embody all that we aspire to be.  This year’s recipient is: JIMMY GREEN



In his thirty-year service as teacher, coach, and dorm parent, Phil Clough defined all that is special about Northwood School.  From leading trail hikes to announcing hockey games to opening his kitchen for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Phil Clough left his mark on generations of Northwood students.  The prize awarded in his name goes to the students who understand and keep alive the special essence of Northwood School.  This year’s winners are: MARIS VAN SLYKE and BEN MACFARLANE



Ira Flinner served Northwood School as its headmaster from 1926 to 1951.  During his long and legendary service, he fostered excellence in academics and character.  His influence is with us today, and it lives on through the achievement of this year’s recipient of the Ira A. Flinner Award: BRUCE SONG



Harry MacDonald served behind the scenes at Northwood School for thirty years.  The award in his name honors a student for whom giving is more important than receiving and who puts the greater good in front of his or her own interests.  For all he has done for the greater Northwood School community, we extend our gratitude to: BRENDAN MURPHY

This prize is awarded to the student or students in the graduating class who, in the opinion of the headmaster, advised by the faculty, is an individual who has, through his/her character and enthusiasm, contributed in a positive way to enhance the culture of Northwood School.


A calming presence, and wonderful role model for young girls, this recipient pours herself into her job as an RA, and she deeply cares about the wellbeing of others. As an athlete, she works hard and is relentlessly supportive of her teammates, and she always puts the interest of the team above her own.  She is according to Mr. Mellor, “One of the most essentially good people we have ever known.  While this recipient may cry at any moment, she is the first one to step in when someone else is struggling.”

One tenth grade girl who arrived in the fall for her first year said, “During my first few weeks at Northwood when I was trying to find my way, she was always there to talk to me, to make sure that I wasn’t alone in my sadness from being away from home for the first time.”  It’s my privilege to recognize BROOKE BOYER, whose magic comes from simply being herself.


The next recipient excelled in a school that was not naturally designed for him.  Over his four years at Northwood, he got very little recognition.  School was always hard.  His friends were always on teams that he didn’t qualify for.  He ran for student leadership positions and fell just short.  Instead of shutting down or dropping out, he kept trying to find his place by simply offering to help, by simply being a good citizen, by treating all members of the community with respect.  As a result of his innate goodness and kindness, this young man has friendships that cross into every segment of the school community, and he has earned deep respect from all members of the faculty.  It is my privilege to recognize TRAVIS GUSIKOFF with the second headmaster’s prize.

During the application process to Northwood, this recipient wrote the following to his parents:

Dear Mom and Dad:

I have attached some pros and cons of boarding school to aid you in your decision.  There are not many cons except the cost and homesickness, which I believe I can handle as you will probably come up to Lake Placid every once in awhile to check in on me.

I think that Northwood is the perfect place for me because it is a short drive away, there are small classes, and there are two of my favorite non-academic activities-skiing and band.  And there are amazing academics.  I want to go not to just a good college but a great one, and I think that Northwood will point me in the right direction.


Well as certain as this boy seemed about his decision to attend Northwood, he was hardly firm on his feet when he arrived at Northwood.  Soon after entering Northwood, this wobbly ninth grader told one of the faculty that he’d never be taken seriously enough to make a leadership role at the school.  Fast forward four years and this young man has touched every corner of the community and almost every student through his leadership on the Student Council and as a member of the Headmaster’s Council, where his strong sense of principle and insightful perspectives on issues often carried the day.  Described by the faculty as “the embodiment of maturation,” this next recipient has perhaps grown more than any other member of the class.  I am honored to present the Headmaster’s Prize to BRENDAN BETTE.



A $4,000 Scholarship, $1000 per year for four years, is awarded to the top student in both scholastics and snow sports attending a four-year college next year.  The winner is: DILLON SMITH



The Student Council Award is given in honor of Mrs. Judith Good, who has served the community as a mediator and conflict resolution specialist for more than twenty years.  Just as Mrs. Good worked quietly behind the scenes to make lives better, so do many students make our school community better, just by being who they are.  For your kindness, your honesty, and your positive influence, the Student Council thanks you  to LUKAS HILDING



This plaque is awarded annually to a member of the Senior Class who, over their last three years at Northwood, has shown the greatest improvement in scholarship.  The award is given in memory of Mr. Roland Urfirer of Lake Placid, who served on the school’s Board of Trustees from 1973 to 2014.  The winner is: RYAN LI



The Senior Scholastic Awards, honoring the two graduating seniors who have achieved the highest academic averages over the past year.

The highest ranking scholar – DILLON SMITH

The second highest ranking scholar – YINGTAO LIU



Before passing out diplomas, I’d like to say a few words about the individual and collective accomplishments of the class of 2016.  When I think about all that you have achieved, it is difficult not to feel proud.

I think of Nikita Tafazoli who is heading to McGill next year.  She resurrected The Mirror, Northwood’s student-run newspaper, which disappeared several years ago due to lack of interest.  While the paper is most impressive, it is Nikita’s personal transformation, exemplified by her proven ability to build and lead a team that got things done, which stands out.

I think of Harvard-bound Dillon Smith, whose article in The Mirror on the Northwood School’s expanding programs and the acquisition of two Lake Placid properties went viral on social media and became the most-read article in the 90-year history of our school paper.

Who can forget Rachel Hollander’s independent study project in which she created a plan for a sustainable outdoor learning space for an underutilized spot on the edge of the Northwood campus.  The project will culminate with her certification in sustainable building design.  We wish her luck at Smith College next year.

In another independent study, Maris Van Slyke launched an oral history project where she interviewed Northwood School alumni and others with ties to the school.  These oral histories help link current and future students to the school’s rich history and also provide ways to reconnect alumni to their alma mater.

I think of exceptional artists such as Rose Li and Diane Yu – off to Rhode Island School of Design and North Country boy, Hayden Hart, whose abilities on the ice were matched by his extraordinary talents in the ceramics studio.

And I think of Yuqi Huai’s (University of California – Irvine) beautiful piano playing in the living room and at school meeting, which has served as the soundtrack of the class of 2016’s experience at Northwood.


  • Thanks to Joey, Gabin, Henry, Alec, JT, Jimmy, Lukas, Hayden, Hugo, Eric, Brendan, and Anton, the Junior Hockey Team soared to a 45-5 record — the best in the school’s history.
  • Bridgit, Brooke, and Natalie led the girl’s top team to a successful season by creating an empowering and inclusive atmosphere and establishing the highest standards of hard work and dedication.
  • The Ski team had success top to bottom, 9th graders to seniors and PGs, and yet few will forget Maris’ string of personal bests, Harrison’s FIS slalom win in Maine, or Ethan’s many exceptional performances during his career at Northwood.
  • More seniors took Advanced Placement courses this year than ever before, illustrating the class’s commitment to academic excellence.
  • The all-senior Headmaster’s Council provided outstanding leadership and counsel, created the school’s Honor Code and designed a new concept for student leadership.


Patrick Harrington


Nikita Tafazoli


Maris Van Slyke


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