Undoubtedly famous for the delicious monkey bread and multiple servings of bacon, the Senior Breakfast also marks an important milestone for the graduating class, as they make the transition from students to alumni.
On Thursday morning before graduation, Randolph's senior class, wearing their college T- shirts, gathered to share an early meal in the lobby of the Thurber Arts Center. They swapped stories, hugged for photographs, and listened intently as they heard remarks by Head of School Byron Hulsey and Sumeet Dang '10.
To celebrate their passage into the alumni community, the Randolph Alumni Association gives each student a copy of David Foster Wallace's This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, an essay that originated as a commencement address Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005. Each book is personally inscribed by a faculty member who has known the student at some point during their time at Randolph.
"This project is another great sign of the way we, the faculty and staff, know our students and demonstrate our affection for them," says Upper School Head Brent Bell.
It was a special and private moment for each of the students as they received their gift box and read the messages found on the inside cover. Some paused to reflect in silence, others giggled at the mention of inside jokes, and many smiled in appreciation for the kind words written just for them.
Dr. Hulsey introduced speaker Sumeet Dang, whose family, he observed, is practically "its own Randolph alumni community." Sumeet's siblings are Rajan ’07, Sabina ’12 and Nalin '20. While at Randolph, Sumeet was a leader in Science Olympiad, Mu Alpha Theta, and the National Honor Society. He served as a Randolph Ambassador and was a member of the Cum Laude Society. Just two weeks ago, Dr. Hulsey said, Sumeet graduated as a University Scholar at the University of Alabama. There he earned a B.A. in economics and international studies with a German language minor along with a master's degree in economics and public policy. "His record is astounding to me, but it’s his experiences that I think are most revealing: he studied abroad at the London School of Economics and the University of Mannheim in Germany. He’s thrived in mock trial competitions nationally and taken a leadership position in Alabama Action Abroad. He’s won special achievement awards in economics and the prestigious University of Alabama Distinguished Scholar Award this spring. Sumeet enjoyed great success here at Randolph, but it’s his appetite for learning whatever’s next that has served him best. Your graduation is an important mark on the road that makes up your journey, but it’s only a mark. Sumeet’s life embodies that truth, and we’re excited (though hardly surprised) that he has joined Harvard Law School to continue his path forward."
Inspired by one of his favorite quotes, Sumeet spoke about how "Randolph gives you roots & wings":
Sumeet's speech was as follows:
"I’m here to talk to you today about what I believe to be the two most important things that Randolph has given you in your time here. One is roots, and the other is wings. When I speak of roots, I’m not referring to the subterranean plant organs that you learned about in biology, rather, I’m talking about something much more important. I’m talking about the relationships that each and every one of you have developed here at Randolph.
"Four years ago I was sitting right where you are now. I was nervous, but excited. I was terrified, but absolutely thrilled to get out into the world. But the one thing that I knew above all was that I was not alone.
"Neither are you. Because it's not just you experiencing this moment, it's not just your family, it's not just your friends, it's Randolph. It's all of Randolph, past present and future, that’s an incredibly valuable thing.
"I want each of you to look around you. Look around at your peers; you’ll see your closest friends, your favorite teachers, but you’ll also see classmates who you didn’t quite have the opportunity to get to know in your time here, and that’s okay – because it’s nowhere close to over.
"These relationships, with your classmates, teachers, even Kindergarten buddies, won’t just drift away as you move on to the next stage of your life. These roots will be incredibly important, not only in your next four years of life, but also as we move on even further. You may have already thought of a million things that are going to change next year, but I guarantee you there are a billion things that you haven’t even considered. And I’m not going to lie to you, there are going to be times that are hard.
"There are going to be times where you are pushed and there are going to be times where you don’t know what to do. And that’s all okay, because you’re not alone. Because if you bring your roots with you wherever you go, you’ll always be able to rely on them when times are tough. That is, you’ll always be able to rely on your Randolph family when you need help. I don’t care how far away you are or how far along you are in life, the fact remains the same. We will always be here for you.
"The bonds that you have developed here will only be strengthened with time. You may not have been close to everyone in your class, but you’re still family. And that will remain the most important thing five years down the line when your car breaks down who-knows-where, because I’m sure your classmates would be glad to lend you a hand at 3 o’clock in the morning, regardless of how close you were in your time here.
"As cliché as it sounds, you all are more than just classmates. You’ve grown up together. To be able to know so many people so well for the majority of your life is not something to take lightly. For you lifers and fifers out there, you’ve known many of your best friends here for almost as long as you remember.
"Now, I will admit, it was easier for me than it will be for many of you. I went to Alabama with many of my closest friends from Randolph, who I even lived with for quite a bit while I was down there. And so, keeping my roots with me wherever I went came much more easily. But that doesn’t mean that it will be hard for you, because no matter where on this planet you end up, rest assured you will always be able to contact your Randolph family.
"When I studied in Germany for my junior year of college, I thought that I would be cut off from all life back home, but it turned out that even halfway across the world I could find my roots from back home. A German foreign exchange student who I had met at Randolph lived somewhat near where I was studying abroad, and I was actually able to turn to her for help whenever I needed it while living in Europe. Rest assured that wherever your travels may take you in the next four years and beyond, you will never be too far away from home. But Randolph didn’t only give you roots, it also gave you wings.
"You may have learned a lot in your time at Randolph, but I would say that the most important thing to take with you on your travels is not necessarily the different parts of the Krebs cycle you may have learned about in Biology, it’s really not the entangling alliances that led to World War I that you may have learned about in history, and its probably not the plot and literary significance of Dante’s Inferno that you may have read in English class. While they are important, and may have been all you worried about for periods of your high school career, their importance really pales in comparison to the ability to thrive in challenging situations. And, over your time here, Randolph has given you just that. Because you had it hard. The teachers here are tough, and Randolph has demanded excellence from you in these past years.
"Regardless of what information you’re taking with you as we go forward, you’re better people because of it. Because you know how to take a punch, you know how to deal with huge amounts of work, and you know how to overcome a challenge. Despite the fact that both you and I have no idea what the world will throw at us tomorrow, we’ll know how to deal with it and we’ll know how to strive in it.
"Randolph didn’t just give you these wings for you to set them in a corner and forget them, no, I ask you use them. I ask you not only to overcome challenge but to actively seek it. But why would you pursue such a demanding strategy? Why not just take the easy way out whenever possible? Because life doesn’t always give us an easy way out. Over the next four years you will face problems than cannot be avoided, struggles that you must face directly.
"If you always strive to be better than yourself, even when times are easy, you will always be prepared for what life may whimsically throw at you.
"When you finally arrive at college next year, take a hard class, push yourself out of your academic comfort zone, but most of all chase the challenges that Randolph has worked so hard to train you for.
"When you do find things to be difficult, or when things start piling up, remember you’ll always have your roots right behind you the whole way, to catch you when you fall and pick you right back up. To the Class of 2014, I say, Congratulations. I wish you all the best for your next four years, and remember, we will always be here for you."
Full of inspiration and ready to spread their wings, the class watched the first-ever video featuring alumni around the country welcoming them into the Alumni Association. All in all, it was a perfect morning to celebrate their new chapter as alumni of the Raider Nation.