Commencement Week 2023
Senior School Commencement exercises
Shady Side Academy celebrated the 110 members of the Class of 2023 at Commencement Exercises on Friday, June 2, 2023 at Michael J. Farrell Stadium. The ceremony began at 9 a.m. with the Class of 2023 processing into the stadium as a bagpiper played a selection of traditional Scottish marches. The Chamber Choir sang You Are The New Day, and Rev. Thomas E. Johnson Jr. '73 gave the invocation. Academy President Bart Griffith '93 welcomed families to the celebration, and Alumni Council President Jim Ambrose '05 welcomed the Class of 2023 to the ranks of Shady Side alumni. Senior Smrithi Shyam presented the class gift, a swinging bench to be placed outside the Glimcher Tech & Design Hub. Seniors Joseph Bellinotti and Elizabeth Kamin delivered the senior speeches, and John Taylor '64, the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University, delivered the commencement address (see videos below). The Jazz Combo performed Learn to Fly, and then Griffith, Senior School Head Trixie Sabundayo, Board of Trustees Chair Rob Mullin '93 and Dean of Studies Claire Logsdon presented diplomas to the graduates. The ceremony closed with the singing of the alma mater and the benediction by Johnson, before graduates and guests enjoyed a reception at the stadium entrance plaza. Congratulations to the Class of 2023 and their families!
Harvard Club Prize (English)
Irvine Prize (English)
Bill Avner Creative Writing Prizes
English Department Achievement Award
Nicholas Brastins Barnes Memorial World Language Prize
George Byron Waldrop Latin Prize
Josiah L. Goldsmith Prize (French)
Peacock Chinese Award
Peter John Gray Language Prize
Joseph P. Pavlovich Mathematics Achievement Prize
Ted Leaman Prize in Mathematics
Leaman & Botti Math/Science Improvement Prize
David R. Weill III Science Award
Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award
Merle M. Alexander Science Prize
Miller Award (Science)
George Baton Scheetz History Prize
Robert D. Abercrombie Prize in American History
Sauers Prize in History
M.A. Cancelliere Economics Prize
Visual Arts Instructors' Award
Thornton Oakley Memorial Award (Art)
William C. Nealon Award (Art)
National School Orchestra Award
National School Choral Award
John Philip Sousa Band Award
Louis Armstrong Jazz Award
Bruce Hill Jr. Memorial Prize
Gargoyle Club Award
Gargoyle Society Award
Special Gargoyle Award
Roy Arthur Hunt Sr. Computer Science Prize
Twelve Season Varsity Letter Award (Athletics)
Dartmouth Award (Athletics)
All-Round Cup (Athletics)
Charlene G. Blair Service Learning Prize
McCollum Jones Boarder Prizes
Maila Davis (Morewood House)
Yuntong Pan (Croft House)
Service Academy Appointment
Aidan Adams (West Point)
Raphael M. Sotak Honors
FORM VI: Carson Curley, Ayli Davidson, Andrew Krakora, Emily Gutstein, Maria Schwendeman
FORM V: Philip Babuscio, Ella Isasky, Veronica Koval, Sophia Jho, Yungtong Pan, Noah Levitt
FORM IV: Annabel O'Brien, Rocco Bristow, Tommy Kann, Kelita Nolan, Jordan Roupe, Sarah Voigt
FORM III: Mark Bence, Nora Bryan, Sissi Zhu, Samraj Delfyett, Evan Fularz
Stephen Michael Shenkan Memorial Award
Centennial Class Award
Walter Martin Lester Memorial Award
Joseph Bole Hare Steffey Memorial Award
Edward Ernest Ebbert Memorial Award
Lowell Innes Prize
Todd Drelles Memorial Prize
Middle School Closing Exercises
The 71 members of the Middle School's Form II class were officially promoted to the Senior School on Monday, June 5, 2023, at Middle School Closing Exercises. The graduation ceremony was held in the Richard E. Rauh Theater of the Hillman Center for Performing Arts on the Senior School campus. The graduates processed into the theater as the Concert Band played Pomp and Circumstance, then the The Star Spangled Banner. President Bart Griffith '93 welcomed students and families, and Head of Middle School Amy Nixon presented several student awards, as well as the Kenneth M. Raymond Vasko Memorial Award to faculty member Mary Guering. The Eighth Grade Chorus performed Night Changes, Ahmed Elsayed gave the Form II student speech, and Nixon gave her remarks to the graduates. Griffith then presented a Posner Award for Meritorious Faculty Performance to faculty member John Curry. An instrumental performance of Ashokan Farewell, arranged by students Kristen Appleman and Alex Chen, was played in memory of their late classmate, Justin Sharek '27. Senior School Head Trixie Sabundayo welcomed graduates to the Senior School, and then Assistant Head of School Brian Johnston and Nixon presented their certificates. The ceremony closed with the singing of the alma mater and the Concert Band performing La Bamba, followed by a reception on the Mary Hillman Jennings Plaza.
Congratulations to the Class of 2027 and their families!
Betty C. Labun Citizenship Award (Grade 6)
Audrey Ashworth Sixth Grade Improvement Award
Elizabeth A. Teslovich
Sixth Grade Academic Book Award
Blanche C. Wick Mathematics Award (Grade 6)
Erwin W. Cole Award (Form I)
Colette A. Griffith
Form I Improvement Award
David McNaugher Marsh Memorial (Form I)
E. Bruce Hill Award
Kristen R. Appleman
David A. Mancosh Award
Justin H. Jho
Betsy H. Watkins Form II Improvement Award
Sydney G. Capel
Form II Art Award Artist
Hollie R. Husband
Form II Computer Literacy Award
Alexander B. Chen
Willard E. Mead English Award
Özge A. Uzman
Socratic Seminar Award
John E. Brunins
Form II Latin Award
John E. Brunins
Form II Latin Improvement Award
Evan K. Chen
Form II Mathematics Achievement Award
Algebra I – Anna Grace H. Shultz
Geometry – Justin H. Jho
Charles P. Shriver Mathematics Award
Form II Music Awards
Chorus – Noah Thompson-Jones and Helena L. Khalil
String Ensemble – Kristen R. Appleman and Alexander B. Chen
Band – Claudia M. Iannetti
Jazz Band – John E. Brunins
Form II Physics 1 Science Award
Anju Hanna Singhi
Form II Social Studies "Outstanding Historian" Award
Paolo E. Scolieri
Form II Spanish Award
Eva R. Friedlander
Form II Spanish Improvement Award
Ahmed S. Elsayed
Form II Chinese Award
Form II Chinese Improvement Award
Robert B. Stiffler Athletic Award
Girls – Charlotte T. Barker
Boys – David L. Dillon
Form II Fall Drama Awards
Actress – Zoe N. Freyberg
Actor – Jackson Bitsoff
Form II Winter Musical Awards
Actress – Ava G. Jochims
Actor – Noah Thompson-Jones
Dramatics Club Achievement Award
Eva R. Friedlander
Junior School Closing Exercises
The 49 members of the Junior School's fifth grade class were officially promoted to the Middle School at the Closing Exercises ceremony on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. The graduation ceremony was held at The Frick Pittsburgh for fifth graders and their families. The fifth graders processed onto the Great Lawn as the faculty Brass Quartet performed Pomp and Circumstance. President Bart Griffith '93 welcomed the graduates and their families to the ceremony. The Fifth Grade Band performed Apollo Fanfare, and a fifth grade slideshow was shown. Head of Lower Schools Dr. Jennifer Asmonga introduced Junior School lifer Sophia Stafford ’23, who gave the graduation address. Fifth graders each presented their memoirs, then the Fifth Grade Chorus performed I Am Becoming. Assistant Heads of School Melanie Smith and Dan Stern, along with Asmonga and Griffith, presented the graduates with their certificates, and Head of Middle School Amy Nixon welcomed the Class of 2030 to the Middle School. The ceremony closed with the singing of the alma mater and the Brass Quartet playing Rondeau for the recessional, then graduates and their families enjoyed a reception on the terrace.
Congratulations to the Class of 2030 and their families!
COUNTRY DAY School Closing Exercises
The 18 members of Country Day School's fifth grade class were officially promoted to the Middle School at the Closing Exercises ceremony on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, on the school lawn. The graduation ceremony began with a musical prelude and processional in honor of late headmaster Richard Whiteman, a welcome by President Bart Griffith and the singing of America the Beautiful. Each fifth grader gave a three-word memoir, followed by the singing of the alma mater. Head of Lower Schools Dr. Jennifer Asmonga introduced Country Day School lifer Alex Kronman '23, who gave the graduation address. Fifth graders recited a poem they wrote, A, B, C, Farewell, then sangThe Garden Song before Griffith, Asmonga, Assistant Head of School Katie Nestor and fifth grade teacher Kelley Gregg presented graduates with their certificates. Head of Middle School Amy Nixon welcomed the Class of 2030 to the Middle School. The ceremony closed with the singing of Saying Goodbye and Wonderful Friends, letters from the fifth grade class and the recessional and reception.
Congratulations to the Class of 2030 and their families!
Faculty & Staff Awards and Honors
A number of awards are presented annually during Closing Days to recognize excellence, dedication and service by SSA faculty and staff.
The Posner Award for Meritorious Faculty Performance
Established in 2004 by the late Henry Posner Jr. ’37, his wife, Helen, and their four sons, Henry III '73, Paul '77 and Robert '78, the Posner Award for Meritorious Faculty Performance recognizes faculty at Shady Side Academy who, through their special ‘gift of teaching’ and mentoring, have affected, in a highly special way, the learning, development and lives of one or more individual students. Each year this award, presuming as it does a high quality of teaching in all Shady Side faculty, recognizes and honors two teachers of transcendent influence, whose impact on a particular student or group of students has been uniquely beneficial and enduring. Over the past 15 years, Shady Side has extended this honor to 36 different faculty members.
John Curry, Middle School Mathematics Teacher
John Curry has taught mathematics at the Middle School since 1980. He also served in several administrative roles at the Middle School from 1991-2019, including dean of students, director of studies and assistant head of school, before returning to the classroom full-time in 2019. He is often described as being "kind, responsible, honest, respectful and always going above and beyond" for his students.
One former student and now parent said, "The lessons I learned in the classroom from Mr. Curry in self-discipline and personal responsibility set a foundation for the rest of my life, but his kindness and humanity outside of the classroom have had an equally profound impact. During Bring a Parent to School Day, Mr. Curry told me that it was a great honor for him when former students of his entrust their children to be taught by him. I would reverse that comment: it has been a great honor for me that my son has had the opportunity to expand his horizons and build his self-confidence under Mr. Curry's tutelage."
From always greeting students with an enthusiastic "Hello!" to referring to figures in textbooks as "cartoon goobers," Mr. Curry has left a lasting imprint on the students who have passed through the Middle School.
Jennifer Riscili, Junior School Third Grade Teacher
Jennifer Riscili has served on the Junior School faculty since 2003 in multiple roles – library assistant, first grade assistant, kindergarten teacher, second grade teacher and currently, third grade teacher. She also coaches the Junior School cross country team and has been a faculty representative for the Blue & Gold Fund for many years.
Riscili ensures her students understand the importance of "mistakes are proof that you're trying" which is a quote she often shares with her class. One student said, "If we forget to do our homework, Miss Riscili always gives us another day and helps us remember next time. When any of us are having a hard time mastering our math facts, she always comes and helps us. She is silly and fun and has made my last two years at Shady Side Academy amazing!"
A parent wrote, "She inspires, motivates and makes learning fun. More importantly, Jennifer's deep educational background allows her to spot and correct early learning problems. With her help and guidance, we devised a plan which successfully addressed the issue. My husband and I have come to rely on her as an advisor and a role model for our children."
Riscili also has coordinated many service efforts over the years, including the second grade food drive, third grade pajama drive for foster children, the Junior School holiday giving tree. As Dr. Jennifer Asmonga, head of lower schools, said, "Miss Riscili is a teacher who educates with her whole heart."
Michael J. Farrell Chair for Support of Faculty Compensation and Professional Growth
This endowed chair funds several annual awards for outstanding faculty. This year’s Exceptional Interactions With Students Award went to Junior School Kindergarten Teacher Marilyn Martens. Going Above and Beyond Awards went to Senior School Science Teacher Natalie Bobek, Middle School Health and P.E. Teacher Betsy Gorse and Junior School Learning Specialist Micaela Tucker. Innovative Educator Awards went to Senior School Computer Science and Mathematics Teacher Corinne Cornibe and Country Day School Visual Arts Teacher Colleen Mientkiewicz.
Class of ’61 Faculty Award for Excellence
This award, established in 2011 in honor of the Class of 1961’s 50th reunion, recognizes an exemplary and dedicated Senior School teacher in his or her first or second year who shows the promise of an extended career and has made significant contributions to students and colleagues. This year's winner was Senior School Mathematics Teacher Hannah Boyer.
Ruth and F. Walter Jones Service Prize
This prize is awarded to a member of the SSA community who, by willing and selfless service, has contributed to the quality of the Academy and enriched it by example. This year's winner was Associate Director of Enrollment Meredith Colicchie.
President’s Award for Distinguished Staff Service
This is awarded to an individual who has exemplified the heights of excellence on a day-to-day basis through their actions, job performance, work ethic and positive relationships with colleagues. This year’s winner was Bus Driver Terry Colvin.
Kenneth M. Raymond Vasko Memorial Award
This is awarded to faculty member from the Middle School who has made significant contributions to the students and school throughout the year. This year's winner was Librarian Mary Guering.
Retiring Faculty & Staff
Seven faculty and staff members retired in 2023 after a combined 212 years of service to the Academy:
Cari C. Batchelar
Visual Arts Teacher and Chair of Arts Department, Senior School, 1988-2023 (35 years)
Terry L. Colvin
Bus Driver, Senior School, 2005-2023 (18 years)
John R. Curry
Mathematics Teacher, Middle School, 1980-2023 (43 years)
Custodian, Senior School, 1997-2023 (26 years)
Margaret C. Heintzleman
Science Teacher, Country Day School, 1996-2023 (27 years)
Band Teacher, Senior School, 1982-2023 (41 years)
Amy B. Nixon
Head of School, Middle School, 2001-2023 (22 years)