On June 1st, 2012, the 146th class of Noble and Greenough School (The Class of 2012) will graduate. I often wonder about that first graduation, in June of 1867. Was there a special ceremony for the seven graduating students, or did they simply get congratulations and a handshake from Mr. Noble? We know their names, but we do not know their faces. No pictures remain of those days.
Graduation has become an important celebration in the life of a Nobles student, a participatory event for students, teachers and families. Through the years, traditions have been made, some have been left behind with the changing times, other have been transformed, several continue.
“Hail to Nobles,” the song written by Francis Hatch (a graduate of the Volkmann Class of 1915**) was still played at last year’s graduation.
Up to 1990, the day was called Prize Day since prizes were awarded for academic and athletic achievements. In 1991, Mr. Baker, Head of School at the time, decided to redirect the attention from individual accomplishments to the collective purpose of the graduating class. Awards Night was created to honor individual achievements. Six major awards are still given out at the event that has been called “Graduation Day” since 1991.
The Award for Academic Excellence, given out at graduation, is named after Edward S. Gleason, the fourth Nobles Head of School. Mr. Gleason had a major impact on the way the ceremony looks now. In 1975, planning for the first Graduation with female students, Mr. and Mrs. Gleason came up with the idea of white dresses and a garland of flowers for the girls, so to complement the blue blazer with white pants worn by Nobles boys for years.
It was also Mr. Gleason’s idea to have the First Class choose a faculty member as the main speaker of the day. He believed that the words of a person who had known the graduating students for years would have far more of an impact than the words of a stranger.
Many graduates remember fondly the walk after the ceremony, shaking hands and exchanging embraces with the faculty lined up to congratulate the graduating class. The Faculty Receiving Line was another tradition established by Mr. Gleason.
** The Volkmann School was an independent school that merged with Noble and Greenough in 1917. The graduates from Volkmann School have been considered Nobles graduates since then. After the merger, most of Volkmann graduates participated actively in the life of Noble and Greenough School.