Columbus Academy's class of 2020 to have traditional ceremony
Changing the world for the better will be a theme at Columbus Academy's commencement.
The ceremony to honor the 98-member class of 2020 will be held outdoors beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 25, in the main stadium at the school, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road.
Speakers will be Dr. David Hamlar Jr., a 1973 alumnus who has been a teaching physician at the University of Minnesota for the past 25 years, and Jay Gokhale of New Albany, who will deliver the valedictory address.
Gokhale said his class has persevered despite adverse events.
"We've dealt with things previous generations never had to contemplate -- school-shooter protocols, cyber bullying and now this (COVID-19) pandemic," he said. "However, rather than fear what life has thrown at us, our class tackles the obstacles head-on and grows stronger."
Gokhale said he thinks his classmates were devastated when they initially were told traditional events such as the senior trip and prom were canceled.
"These were things we looked forward to since the beginning of high school," he said. "But rather than reflect on what could have been, our class has decided to move forward and do everything in our power to combat this pandemic."
New Albany resident Charlie Sabgir will give the class president's welcome. He said he and his classmates were forced to trade in milestone events for screen time and Zoom classes.
"However, the school administration and faculty went to every length to make this as positively memorable of a finish as possible, whether it be putting together a car parade or giving students a say in graduation," Sabgir said. "For that, I and my classmates are extremely grateful."
He said he couldn't be more proud of everything his class has accomplished during its time together.
"Over the 14 years that I've gotten to know my classmates, I've only grown fonder of the unique mosaic that is our grade," Sabgir said. "That is, a mosaic filled with kind-hearted and empathetic individuals that genuinely care about one another."
Despite vast diversity with regard to interests and personalities, Gokhale said, his class shares the same core values of resilience, compassion and determination.
"Those values are what the world needs right now, and I can't wait to see how my class will change this world for the better," he said.
Hamlar said he would share his life's experiences and present challenges for the graduates.
"Being an African American physician in this tumultuous time of COVID-19 and civil unrest surrounding George Floyd's murder, I can give historical and current perspective to today's medical and social needs for change," he said.
"Accepting the reality for what we face, being flexible and adopting collaborative innovative ideas is the way toward a new normal."
Hamlar said his task extends beyond clinical medicine to teach young men and women in medical school.
"Through various organizations I mentor our elementary, high school and undergraduate students in life and career choices," he said. "My specific interest is promoting careers in STEM fields.
"Naturally my interest extends to those under-represented in society. The necessity of investing and including all people in our educational opportunities, job opportunities, with the ultimate ability to achieve their goals and have successful lives is paramount."
Hamlar, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, said he was taught the importance of service.
"Mine was military, but what it allowed me to see was that living a life of service, no matter the domain, is as rewarding a career as any," he said. "And if starting out in the world, they can have that experience, they will find purpose to their lives well beyond monetary income, and achieved titles."
Hamlar said he would challenge the graduates of 2020 to work hard, think critically and make the world a better place for everyone.
Melissa Soderberg, Columbus Academy's head of school, also will speak during the ceremony.
"While they faced difficult circumstances last spring, our class of 2020 members will be remembered for leading academically, athletically and artistically," Soderberg said.
"In addition to contributing to one of the best fall athletic seasons in recent history, they have been exceptionally talented musically and in community outreach.
"We are proud this class will be attending a multitude of colleges and universities that represent their broad talents."
Academy's graduates will attend 63 different colleges and universities in 27 states and three other countries this fall.
Only immediate family members are invited to the commencement, with face masks and social distancing expected of all attendees.
The ceremony will be broadcast on Instagram for live viewing. A DVD will be provided to all families, the school's website stated.