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Through kindness and intellectual humility, Harpeth Hall’s 2024 graduates ready to leave their mark

Through kindness and intellectual humility, Harpeth Hall’s 2024 graduates ready to leave their mark
Through kindness and intellectual humility, Harpeth Hall’s 2024 graduates ready to leave their mark

Kindness has served as a touchstone for the Class of 2024. From opening convocation to the final bell, this year’s seniors experienced the power kindness holds in enriching interactions and strengthening community.

On Monday, as the girls sat on Souby Lawn one final time to celebrate commencement from their place beloved, the theme resonated once again. Head of School Jess Hill addressed the gathered audience, offering the graduates two timeless pieces of advice: approach the world with curiosity and intellectual humility — and prioritize kindness in all interactions.

“We talk a lot around here about confidence,” Ms. Hill said. “I stand by that, and I hope we have instilled confidence in all of you. But tonight, I want to lift up its sister — intellectual humility. The two are not mutually exclusive. I would argue that it takes great confidence and courage to keep an open mind. Some may think it shows a lack of moral conviction, but I believe it means you realize your knowledge and understanding are incomplete.”

Even Dr. Echerd doesn’t know everything, Ms. Hill joked. Although, she added, he probably comes close. “But here is the thing — he realizes, like all of your teachers, that what we know is only a fraction of what there is to know about this world. And sometimes we think we know things we don’t. We have to walk out of the rooms where everyone agrees with us and venture into territory where people disagree with us.”

Ms. Hill urged the graduates to approach the world with an open mind and a compassionate heart. She also encouraged them to take time to reflect on opportunities for growth.

From songs to T-shirts to TV series, the phrase “no regrets” often surfaces at significant milestones, a reminder to live life to the fullest. But, Ms. Hill said, “If we are ones to reflect at all on our actions and lives, I’m not sure it is possible not to have any regrets.” To live life without regrets doesn't mean you never make a mistake, Ms. Hill said, and it doesn't mean you never fail. “Mistakes are useful, and we shouldn’t regret all of our mistakes — we learn from them.”

There is one regret, however, that Ms. Hill believes is one to avoid — the regret of not being kind. Drawing from personal anecdotes and insights, Ms. Hill reflected on opportunities to talk to someone who looks like she needs a friend, sit by someone who is having a hard time, and listen and hold someone’s hand. To the Class of 2024 she said: “You have shown all of us with your actions and words how to be kind.”

The graduates have shown that and much more. From academic accolades to artistic endeavors to athletic triumphs, the Class of 2024 has left an indelible mark. Thirty-two graduates participated in Global Scholars, curious about the world. The seniors adeptly defended and prosecuted in mock courtrooms and filled the world with art, using a bold and colorful palate and performing beautifully on stage. The class also showed up as “fierce competitors” on the field— claiming a third-consecutive state title in lacrosse and earning state runner-up honors in soccer, cross-country, rowing, riflery, and track and field.

Next year, the 106 newest alumnae will pursue their ambitions at 58 colleges across the country, including flagship universities, private liberal arts colleges, military academies, HBCUs, and arts conservatory programs. But, Ms. Hill said, “You are much more than these numbers.”

The Class of 2024, she said, is sensitive and supportive, adventurous and high-spirited, and ready to take on the next challenge. “Approach the world with curiosity and intellectual humility,” Ms. Hill said, “and always step into kindness whenever possible. You will never regret it.”

With these guiding principles, senior Lauren Wynn delivered a reflection on the Class of 2024’s collective journey. Eight years ago, with a plaid skirt that hung below her knees and socks pulled up so high that they nearly met the skirt’s hem, Lauren walked into Harpeth Hall among the girls she would soon call classmates. She recounted with humor and nostalgia the series of "firsts" that marked her classmates’ transition from nervous 5th graders to confident leaders.

Expressing gratitude to those who supported her and her classmates throughout their time at Harpeth Hall, Lauren acknowledged the sacrifices made by parents, the dedication of teachers and staff, and the transformative influence of classmates. She reflected on the challenges posed by the global pandemic and how the Class of 2024 persevered, embracing new experiences and forming enduring bonds of friendship and sisterhood.

For all of her life, Lauren has lived by her family motto: “We are not porch people.” Her family embraces the spirit of adventure and eagerly anticipates the opportunities that lie ahead. She found the phrase fitting inspiration for the Class of 2024. The graduates carry with them the lessons learned at Harpeth Hall: to think critically, lead confidently, and live honorably. They learned the value of resilience, determination, and leadership from their teachers and each other, preparing them to take on the future with confidence and kindness.

“We,” Lauren said to her classmates, “certainly are not porch people.”

Congratulations to our students who received the top honors this year:

Sarah Hinds '24 receives the Katie Wray Valedictory ​​​​Award.

Katie Wray Valedictory Award: Sarah Hinds
As a student, Sarah Hinds leaves no stone unturned. She is meticulous in her daily preparation and asks great questions during class as she works to apply her new skills. Above all, her teachers underscore that they have been dazzled by her hard work. But, her talents do not end with her academic drive. Sarah is also an accomplished athlete, a strong leader on the honor council, in the I’m a Girl in Engineering club, in Best Buddies, and she is a deeply respected friend to many. 

2nd Honors: Madison Chung
Madison Chung has been called an intellectual giant by her teachers. In addition to applauding her for her clear cognitive gifts, they recognize her humility and that she is “always willing to uplift her classmates and hear their ideas, which she holds with care.” One teacher noted, “her thoughts are consistently insightful and offer a sophisticated analysis of the material. During discussions, her articulations wonderfully fuse her peers’ observations with her own, elevating the conversation.”

3rd Honors: Courtney Couden 
Courtney Couden is an academic powerhouse. Her teachers describe her as “steady, poised, conscientious, disciplined, level-headed, dependable, and meticulous.” With a strong affinity for the humanities, she is a gifted writer.  In addition to being an academic juggernaut, she happens to be a decorated swimmer who will be swimming at the collegiate level next year. One of her classmates wrote about her saying, “She values selflessness above all other things. She often acts out of pure kindness, without any other motive in mind.”