Toria Kauffman '22 and David Smythe '22 won the Bible Awards as valedictorians this school year. During Graduation on May 23, they gave their addresses to the family and friends at Wynne-Darden Stadium.
Toria Kauffman '22 will attend Harvard University. In addition to the Bible Award, she won the High Honors Award; Mary McCulloch Moore Mathematics Memorial Award; W. Peyton May Award; and David Ari Leavitt Award.
Here is Toria's speech:
“I'd like to thank the Board of Trustees, Mr. Manning, faculty, family, and friends who’ve supported my classmates and me throughout our first 18 or so years of existence. To my own mentors, from your willingness to laugh it off when you find me napping on the floor or furniture to your readiness to be there for me when I need to chat, be it about a new television obsession or something more serious, I know that I would never have been able to make it to this point without your help. No words can express the gratitude we owe to every teacher, parent, and family friend who has offered advice, an extension on an assignment, or simply a place to vent and cry to the class of 2022. As my classmates and I embark on our next journeys, we will always remember the greatest lesson we’ve learned from you: to always be supportive and kind.
Most of all, though, I want to thank the Class of 2022 for giving me a second family these past few years. I don’t think I can ever fully express my gratitude to you guys. I know that few people here have heard of Doctor Who beyond my rants about the show and even fewer have seen it, but in a 2017 Christmas special, the 12th doctor proclaimed, “Hate is always foolish, but love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.” Reflecting on my years here, I can’t think of a better saying to embody our class.
Our community's kindness was truly apparent during ninth grade Leadership Lab. I stayed in Sensei Naz and Coach Furr’s cabin, which was united through our siblings graduating from NA’s class of 2019 that year. Due to a lack of overlapping classes and interests, I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to get to know the majority of my cabin-mates. Over the course of our trip, as we laughed, hiked, and screamed at rats and giant spiders together, I came to realize that I couldn’t have asked for a better cabin-family.
It wasn't until the night that we broke our boards that I truly understood what it meant to embrace a community. As we celebrated together, cried together, and supported each other at some of our most vulnerable moments, our class showed the essence of what it means to be a bulldog. When we cheered loudly enough for each other to wake up the rest of the cabins, our cabin’s enthusiasm reflected the strength with which our class has cheered each other on at competitions, during college announcements, and in every other avenue of our academic careers. I am so grateful to Mr. McMahon and every other teacher and alum who helped organize that week, as well as our community that made the experience possible.
The kindness, support, and care of our class and our community as a whole shows itself every day—be it through listening to a classmate’s song on Spotify as we fill thousands of balloons to put in the office or through a sea of blue shirts, gathered together for a member of our family in need of support. Every little act, from grudgingly listening to yet another Rocky IV joke to spending hours working on a chapel just to make the audience laugh, can ripple into a great wave.
Class of ‘22, if you ever feel lost in the waters in the coming years, know that, through a simple nod hello or a short conversation waiting in line for yogurt, you have an incredible capacity to act as someone’s anchor and find your own buoying along the surface. You all served as mine so many times. Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116” reads that love “is the star to every wand'ring bark, / Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.” Every small act of compassion—be it one smile in the hallway, one wave goodbye across Johnson, or one good luck wish before a competition or test—can mean so much to someone in need of that kindness.
Poet and activist Dr. Maya Angelou said in an episode of Oprah’s Master Class, “Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud,” and I can’t express how much your small acts of kindness have helped me every rainy day. The compassion we’ve learned in every door held open, in every fundraiser, and in every victory or defeat forms the foundation of what it means to be a bulldog. As we graduate and move beyond this campus, if we continue to show the same passion in everything we do, from masterpieces like the Greek Mythology Olympiaganza and sporting events to debates about spandex and garages, I know that there’s nothing we won’t be able to do. I hope you all continue to touch people’s lives the way you touched mine. I hope you continue to encourage others to push themselves, be it to finish out a Duquette workout or to create an Instagram, continue to celebrate others’ successes with as much excitement as you celebrate your own, and continue to invite the shy, awkward girl to hang out in the lounge before she has a chance to hide away in some classroom and sprawl on the floor with her notebooks. Thank you so very much, teachers, family, and Class of 2022, for everything."
David Smythe '22, who will attend Princeton University, also won the John H. Ingram Award; John H. Kepchar Science Award; Jeffrey Ross Kesser Athletic Award; Robert F. Baldwin Citizenship Award; and S. Barron Segar Award.
Here is David's speech:
“Good morning. I want to first start off with some much needed Thank you’s. Thank you to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Manning, the Norfolk Academy faculty, and the family and friends of the Class of 2022. Thank you to all my teachers who have believed in me, my coaches who have pushed me to be my best, my advisor, Mrs. Gorsline, Mrs. Bailey in the training room, and everyone else who has made an impact on my life here at Norfolk Academy. I wish I had time to list everyone name by name but, unfortunately, if I tried that, we would probably be here all day. But, most of all Thank you to my parents who decided to send me to this amazing place 12 years ago, and my brother who has been my number one supporter for my entire life. Lastly, I need to give a quick shoutout to Nicholas Rose. He was one of my best friends who left Norfolk Academy after his sophomore year when he moved to New Hampshire. I have missed him a lot but he would definitely be standing where I am right now if he had stayed. So shout out Nicholas.
A couple weeks ago, for those who were not there, Ian Fitzgerald and I gave a chapel about Space and the Universe, and, ultimately, we talked about what had been our universe for the past 12 years, this school. And while writing that chapel we both admitted that it had still not sunk in that a more than a decade-long period in our lives was coming to a rapid close. At that time, I was still getting up every day at 6:45, hustling to secure a spot in the Senior lot, getting yelled at by Mr. Denson for being late to Government, and playing lacrosse with my best friends after classes were over. It was hard, even impossible, to remove myself from this routine and acknowledge the finish line right in front of me.
But now as I stand here with a sea of white tuxes and dresses behind me, an image I have seen hundreds of times in yearbooks and on websites, I can no longer disregard the finish line that we are crossing. Well, actually I think it really started to hit me the day we got our yearbooks. The next three bells after they were handed out, I spent in Massey and the senior lounge swapping and signing every book I could get my hands on. When I got home after practice I finally got the chance to look at what my friends had written. I spent the next few minutes laughing out loud into the pages smothered in multi-colored ink, So it was to my own surprise when I began to feel tears welling up in my eyes.
And though it is bitter-sweet for all of us to leave this place, I have been trying and will continue to try in this speech, to stick to the old adage about not crying because it's over, but rather, smiling because it happened. And for all of us in the Class of 2022, I think we have a lot to smile about. As a class we persevered through the most difficult times of the pandemic, we navigated the uncertainties of Covid and college admissions with the unwavering support of our wonderful college counseling staff, we led clubs through amazing events like the Shamrock Marathon or the Be Someone Concert, put on spectacular theater events like the Winter Musical and our Dance Concert, and we led our athletic teams to memorable seasons with some great victories and even a couple state championships. Yes, field hockey, no one has forgotten you won a state championship. Don’t worry.
But what I am most proud of, is how the Class of 2022 has become closer as a class. Beginning with the creation of the “Seniors 2022” GroupMe at the end of last year, this class has grown tighter than we have been in the past and I think many other classes have been before us. This online group feels, to me, like a microcosm of the Norfolk Academy community. Like the school itself, our group forum has brought us together; we had some very lively discussions, shared some funny senior assassin stories, exchanged a lot of memes - shoutout Kai and Gavin - and planned some fun events, culminating in a I’d say pretty successful senior prank - sorry again Mrs. Kemp. This year people that had hardly spoken to each other became friends, and friends became even closer friends. Also, everyone gained a friend when we added Sophie Ott as a last second addition to our Class of 2022 roster. I know that this is not an unusual thing to happen around senior year, but I am so grateful that it did. My experience here, after all, has not been shaped by wins or losses, A or B’s, but by everyone sitting here behind me.
In the 12 years that I have spent at Norfolk Academy, the most important, valuable, and rewarding piece of wisdom that I have learned and tried to implement is controlling how to perceive my surroundings.
There's a story I love that relates to this and I want to share it. Some of you may have heard this before. David Foster Wallace in his 2005 commencement speech to the graduates of Kenyon College shared the following story:
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the heck is water?”
Foster explains that this story represents the importance of awareness, being aware of your surroundings, but most importantly your own state of mind. Attending a school like this, I too often lost sight of my own “water.” I grew accustomed to the environment that had surrounded me, lifted me up, and given me a home for so long that I took it for granted. We too easily forget to be grateful for how wonderful, kind, and qualified our teachers are. The beauty of our campus and facilities become an expectation rather than a surprise. We forget how lucky we are to eat such delicious food every day in the refectory. This mental state Wallace refers to as the default setting. It is the state of mind most people automatically resort to: a state where you think only of yourself, grow unaware of your own reality and, more importantly, how you are perceiving it.
Breaking away from this default setting, controlling how I perceive my surroundings, has helped me to feel free. Free from self-pity and selfishness, free from the rat race of chasing grades and awards, and, lastly, free to appreciate. A time at Norfolk Academy that always enabled this freedom in me is the weekly Special Olympics practices. For eight years, I have attended these practices that occur on campus every Saturday. Surrounded by smiling athletes and enthusiastic volunteers, I am reminded of our beautiful “water” in its entirety. Academic or athletic pursuits or anxieties recede, and my attention focuses on an environment that consists of only smiling faces. Our student volunteers at Special O come to lift the athletes up, to cheer them on, and to make them laugh. Special O volunteers abandon self interest completely and everyone’s attention is placed on someone else. No where else is the beauty, the uplifting, nurturing nature of our “water” here at Norfolk Academy more apparent. By no means does that mean we are perfect, we can all do a better job of being kind - of saying hi to each other in the hallways and being there for one another. This is best accomplished by keeping ourselves away from this default setting. It is a challenging task that I have been trying to work on, and I will encourage you to do the same as you continue into college and beyond.
To close, I want to address the paradoxical feeling that I think we are all experiencing at this time. Like my classmates, I am ready to leave this place. After everything, there's no denying that our time has come to its fitting end. But, on the other hand, I am really sad. Excited, but sad and a little scared, admittedly, to leave Norfolk Academy. There is a knotted feeling in my stomach that occurs when you realize a significant chapter is closing. To my fellow graduates, don’t let this brief time to say farewell pass you by. Give the place and, more importantly, the people who have shaped you for the last years the goodbye it deserves. And, of course, don’t be a stranger.
Congratulations to the Class of 2022. I will forever be grateful for being a part of such an amazing group of people. Thank you and go Dogs."