Buckley Celebrates 86th Commencement


Graduation Day turned out to be an event blessed by beautiful weather. It  provided relief from an otherwise rainy week and befitted the festive mood of the Buckley Country Day School graduates, their families and friends who had gathered to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2013.   

Reverend Joseph R. Gibino, pastor of Holy Trinity R.C. Church in Whitestone and friend of several of the graduates’ families, gave this year’s invocation and offered his blessings and prayers to the class of 2013. He was welcomed to Buckley’s commencement exercises by Ricky Rengifo ’13 who introduced Father Gibino as “a truly spiritual leader and a really great friend, not just to me but the whole world.”

Buckley President of the Board of Trustees Valerie DiFebo presented this year’s Trustee Bowl, the school’s most prized academic award, to the student who achieved the highest grade point average. The Trustee Bowl this year was presented to Lorenzo Manuali. The Scholarship Medal for the second highest academic average was awarded to Brooke Juhel, while Theodora Christopher earned Honorable Mention for the third highest average.

Four Buckley faculty awards were presented at graduation:

On behalf of his classmates, Daniel Shub, after thanking all Buckley teachers, presented the Teacher of the Year Award, selected by the members of the graduating class, to legendary P.E. teacher, soccer coach and woodshop instructor Mr. Roby Young, noting that “Mr. Young is very wise, has great patience for our mistakes, and has exceptional talent.  Not only was he a soccer star, but he is also a star at Buckley.”  Daniel cleverly concluded, “[He] is truly young at heart.”

The Thomas J. Reid Excellence in Teaching Award, selected by the headmaster and the assistant heads based upon recommendations from the faculty, is an award recognizing outstanding teaching, demonstrated by concern for each student, quality of instruction, and commitment to Buckley. This year’s Thomas J. Reid Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to toddler teacher Heidi Weintraub.

The G. Robert Gage Award for Excellence in Teaching is given annually to a faculty member in recognition of his/her excellence in teaching. This award is funded every year by the investment income earned on the endowment gift made by the Gage family. The 2013 recipient of the G. Robert Gage Award for Excellence in Teaching was nursery assistant teacher Geraldine O’Kane.

A generous endowment gift from Linda and John Powers has made possible the presentation of an additional faculty award at graduation.  The Powers Family Teacher Recognition Award is given annually to a faculty member in recognition of his/her embodiment of the School’s character and spirit, care and nurturing qualities, and excellence in teaching. This year’s recipient of the Powers Family Recognition Award was third grade teacher Angela Benevento.

All four teachers received well-deserved standing ovations from the audience

Megan Fong and Kraig Puccia, student council co-presidents, then presented the gift of the class of 2013 to Buckley Country Day School: a bench for Buckley’s new garden at the entrance of the school, as their “lasting mark on Buckley.” Megan and Kraig remarked, “We would like our bench to represent the concepts of friendships, acquaintances, and sudden meetings which are all important here at Buckley, and will stay with you forever.”

Barbara Thomas, Buckley’s 5th and 6th grade English teacher, affectionately known to hundreds of students as Mrs. T., was selected by the graduating class to be their faculty speaker. She was introduced by Kristen Richards as “jovial, happy to talk, and interested in the details of our lives.” Kristen added, “We have fun with her and she gives us cookies, but also knows when to correct us and reel us back into reality. Mrs. T. is a caring and thoughtful teacher who had prepared us well not just for seventh grade, but also for any challenges that may lie ahead of us one day.” After thanking them for the honor and privilege of being selected as their graduation speaker, Mrs. T. gave the graduates an on-going assignment with no due date and asked them to put it down in their mental planner. The assignment consisted of setting goals and aiming towards those goals, knowing that armed “with their Buckley Country Day School diplomas, they are ready to take their place with the best and the brightest.” Mrs. T. also asked them to keep their eyes on the prize, believe in themselves, and help others believe in themselves. Finally, she urged them to “take time to celebrate and smell the roses.”

Karra Puccia ’09, a graduate of Mary Lewis Academy, and Rani Bendary ‘09, a graduate of Friends Academy, were this year’s alumni speakers. They were proudly introduced by their younger brothers, Kraig and Nour. Karra and Rani reminded the graduates that Buckley is woven into their identity and will forever remain a part of them. “Everyone in the Buckley community cares about you and wants to see you succeed,” they said, “and as you go off into the world, we wish for you all to end up in schools with people as concerned, attentive, and kind as those that you have met here. Few places will provide environments as wholly and unconditionally welcoming as Buckley, so our greatest piece of advice is to never take the time you have spent at Buckley for granted.”

The two student speakers selected by their peers were Brooke Juhel and Nour Bendary who chose to speak together. After telling us about the dreams they and their classmates have had since they were children, using the metaphor of a puzzle, they concluded: “Each piece looks different when separated but when all the pieces come together, they make a beautiful picture.”

Diplomas were then awarded to the members of the graduating class. Upon hearing their names, the students handed their carved wooden plaques to the newly-elected student council co-presidents, Julie Kim and Jake Bolling, and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. Simultaneously, eighth grade advisors read excerpts from comments written by the students’ former teachers and selected by the headmaster.  

It is with pride, joy, and confidence that the entire community joined in cheering the class of 2013 and wishing them well.  

Erica D’Ancona introduced this year’s wholly appropriate musical offering: U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

The 2013 graduates have now become the newest members of Buckley’s Alumni Association, and we know that under the leadership of their class agent, Kraig Puccia, Buckley will soon have the pleasure of their visit.

The members of the Class of 2013 will be attending: Chaminade, Chapin, Choate, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Friends Academy, Jericho, The Knox School, Loyola, Mary Lewis Academy, Portledge, Regis, Spence, Trinity, Xavier.

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