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St. Paul’s School commencement a farewell to graduates, outgoing Rector Hirschfeld

  • St. Paul’s School graduating students file out of the chapel during the 2018 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • St. Paul’s School graduating students file out of the chapel during the 2018 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • St. Paul’s School graduating students listen during the 2018 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Retiring St. Paul's School rector Michael Hirschfeld speaks during the 2018 commencement ceremony on June 3, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Retiring St. Paul’s School rector Michael Hirschfeld speaks during the 2018 commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • St. Paul’s School student council president Daniel Oliver Reuben speaks during the 2018 commencement ceremony. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

As the departing rector of St. Paul’s School looked over the 2018 graduating form and gave his final graduation speech for the prep school, Michael Hirschfeld gave students advice he knows all too well: The real world doesn’t wait outside of school; it’s all around them.

“ ‘School life is life,’ ” he said, recalling the words of Samuel Drury, the school’s fourth rector. “Whatever bubble may once have existed between the school and the real world has burst.”

“You are reminded of this often – too often, in my view,” Hirschfeld continued.

But, Hirschfeld, who is stepping down in June, said he’s confident the students are equipped to handle the real world. After all, they’d already confronted conversations about race, sexual assault and harassment, and renewable energy during their time at the school – and would leave the school better for it, he said.

“You have learned that the strength of any community requires a bit of faith, trust, mutual respect and love to maintain,” he said. “I believe all of you are prepared to share this learning with the world.”

That theme of leaving the school better than it was echoes Hirschfeld’s retirement announcement, which came about two weeks before Sunday’s graduation ceremony. Hirschfeld was supposed to retire next year, but he said he would step down this June citing family reasons and an “unusually painful time” for the school and its community. The school is facing a series of lawsuits accusing top school officials of failing to protect students from sexual abuse.

“Eight years ago, when I entered the search process to become the school’s thirteenth rector, I did so out of my heartfelt belief that I could help move the school forward by building on the best elements of its history while pushing it to look beyond itself for ideas and practices that would best serve our students,” Hirschfeld’s retirement announcement reads. “I am also extremely proud of our students and their commitment to being co-builders of a healthier and stronger school culture.”

Student body president Daniel Oliver Reuben indicated that students had accomplished that by following the words of the school’s prayer, which charges students to be kind by being “unselfish in friendship,” “thoughtful of those less happy than ourselves,” and to be “eager to bear the burdens of others.”

They’d done so, Reuben said, by prioritizing their friendships, despite the challenges of school.

“No one’s a stranger here,” he said. “I have full confidence that we will never forget to be kind and to live honorably.”

Students will have plenty of opportunities to do so; students will be going to 73 different colleges and universities around the world, Hirschfeld said.

But though graduates left the ceremony to start the next chapter of their lives, for the rest of the student body, Monday will be business as usual, Hirschfeld said.

“Chapel is at 9,” he said. “Followed by ... several days of examinations.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)