Founders Day 2022

On a sunny day with a “Carolina-blue” sky — as Head of School Henry Smyth described it — 120 young men took an important step toward their futures on Saturday, June 4 in the stands of Sotir Stadium.

The Traveling Men performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by an invocation led by Director of Community, Inclusion, and Equity Johnnie Foreman — the last time he would do so at Gilman before his retirement at the end of June.

“Class of 2022, welcome to your Founders Day,” Smyth said in his opening remarks. He referenced an insight from soon-to-be-graduate Jack Goldman’s senior speech about how we are the average of the five people with whom we surround ourselves. Smyth wanted to alter the theory just a bit; he thinks it could be more than five people. “Your social circles are going to continue to expand and change, and the accumulation of the relationships in your lives will help define you,” he said. “How you interact with the people, places, and events in your lives … will also help to determine the type of world we all live in.”

He recounted reading “Secret Wisdom of the Earth” by Christopher Scotton, and he shared a wise lesson from the book about labeling versus understanding. “Labeling provides an easy way out by allowing us to fit things neatly into categories that work within our boundaries.” He went on to say that “seeking to understand … challenges us to push our own boundaries and expands our knowledge of the people, places, and things around us.”

Smyth continued to offer nuggets of wisdom to the group: Express curiosity and not judgment. Live with both confidence and humility. Lean on your strengths and lean on each other. Be first-class citizens. Practice the Gilman Five. Stop and say hey. Come back often to Gilman to visit.

Valedictorian Poe Doub ’22 began with a quote from an unassuming children’s book character: “How lucky am I to have something so special that makes saying goodbye so hard?” Winnie the Pooh’s sage advice felt fitting as Doub explained what made Gilman so special to him. He acknowledged several teachers like Middle School science teacher Coach Wally and Upper School classics teacher Toby Broadus. “Teachers like these made students so excited to come to class. With so many teachers like this at Gilman, it makes it so hard to say goodbye.”

Doub fondly remembered moments during his senior year spent supporting his classmates. “One of the clearest reasons that this goodbye is so hard to say is because of these guys behind me.” He continued on to say that while the big things — major academic milestones, athletic achievements, and artistic accomplishments — are worthwhile, it is the smaller experiences, like sharing time with friends or teachers during an off period, that make a place like Gilman so special.

Doub emphasized the power of positivity and the ability all people have in their own lives to focus on the blank road in front of them where they get to write their own stories and effect positive change to make contributions in the world.

Smyth presented a number of faculty and student awards, followed by additional remarks by outgoing Board President Mark R. Fetting ’72 and two moving pieces sung by the Traveling Men. After the celebratory awarding of diplomas, Foreman spoke about the years he spent at Gilman since 1984. “The young men I had the opportunity to coach and teach, they made me feel at home,” he said. “I love every part of this community. It’s been a blessing.”

“Let’s hear it for Coach!” someone shouted from the audience. Foreman concluded, “Life is best when you build bridges between people.”

Diplomas in hand, members of the Class of 2022 walked between the sections of chairs filled with their proud families, two by two. As they processed off the stage, they engaged in intricate handshakes, hugs, dances, faux golf swings, and even a brief piggyback ride. Congratulations to the Class of 2022!