Fishers Island School’s Class of 2017 Commencement

by Jane Ahrens

The Class of 2017 Commencement ceremony took place at Fishers Island School on June 23, 2017. The School gym was packed with family, friends, teachers, staff, students and community members.

Processional ~ Pomp and Circumstance played by the Fishers Island School Band, directed by Christopher Dollar

Flag Salute ~ Mitchell Kucsera and Thaddeus Allan, Class of 2017

Welcoming Address ~ Mitchell Kucsera and Thaddeus Allan, Class of 2017

Introduction of Commencement Speaker ~ Emma Cypherd and Molly Cypherd, Class of 2017

Mr. George Ireland is the president of Geological Resource Partners, LLC where he utilizes his skills and knowledge in the resource sector including geology, banking, and venture capital. Mr. Ireland has been a summer resident on Fishers Island for over 37 years where he has established deep island roots and created fond memories with his family. He is also a good friend to the FI School Class of 2017.

Mr. George Ireland’s Commencement Speech

Thank you, Principal Goodwin, members of the faculty and staff. And thank you, the graduates of the Class of 2017 from the Fishers Island School for giving us this occasion to celebrate your successes and future promise. Welcome to your families and guests today.

Ever since your representatives asked me to give this Graduation speech, I’ve been a little nervous. What does one say on these occasions? I confess I didn’t pay much attention when I graduated from high school and college. So I did what any self-respecting scientist or money manager or student would do when confronted with the overwhelming sense of your own inadequacy. As soon-to-be-graduates, you know the drill: research, collect data, analyze, hypothesize and then act on your conclusions.

So I started the process. Research on graduation speeches turned up two obvious approaches which will be familiar to you (well, if not to you, then to your teachers and parents).

The first: The August Speaker (meaning me) invokes an imminent global crisis and challenges the captive audience (meaning all of you) to fix it, after which everyone retires to the reception. The Puritans referred to this as a jeremiad and they often lasted several hours. Don’t worry, I have timed this speech at less than ten minutes. In addition to the snazzy title, this approach has the virtue of numerous variations as we have an endless series of crises from which to choose. From a societal to a personal level, they come in all forms and could be used at will.

The second approach: the relentlessly earnest “Be-All-That-You-Can-Be-And-Be-Happy” speech. Aside from being a commercial for joining the Army, you, the Captive Audience is challenged to overcome setbacks, accidents of fate, and conniving evildoers. You know the outcome; things are good, then they get bad, then they get better, then everything almost tanks and, finally, everyone lives happily ever after (think, for example, of James Bond, Alger Hiss and Curious George, the Monkey, not me). This approach has the virtue of offering the August Speaker an opportunity to deliver sage advice to the captive audience from either an Olympian perspective or a bully pulpit.

Frankly, neither of these approaches appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of things in the world that need fixing. I also think you are poised at the start of what will be a great adventure. As a side note, I am envious of that, even a tad sentimental, particularly when I think of the phrase “youth is wasted on the young”, But still, those emotions are not enough to want to overcome my fear of being ….generic.

So I want to turn to a third approach: the parable. One that I am sure you are all familiar with from your readings of Greek mythology or Shakespeare. Only, I want to pick a different text: how about the great American classic, Dr. Seuss’ rambunctious “The Cat in the Hat”. I trust all of you are familiar with the book? How about a show of hands? Very good!

You could sum up the tale as a simple story of two bored kids with an active imagination and a fear of Mom. However, you could argue that the enduring popularity of the Cat in the Hat results from each generation seeing in it a mirror of its own fears and aspirations. For example, the Fish’s obsessive mania for control could reflect a Cold War-era desire for nuclear security or a modern day Trumparian desire for a great big wall (“put me down”, said the Fish, “I do not wish to fall”). In contrast, the Cat is a time-immortal character who offers us a world without limits, without safety, and without reason (“I can hold up the cup, the milk, and the cake! I can hold up these books! And a fish on a rake”! and so forth. And, of course, Thing One and Thing Two are groupies or Kardashians before their time.

But let me offer another interpretation, one that focuses on “Sally and I”, the narrator and his sister and their odyssey from passive acceptance of a rainy day to active engagement with their surroundings, a journey from Innocence to Experience, if you will.

“Sally and I” are diligent, decent kids, we clearly get that depiction. But even the most sympathetic reader has to admit that these two are intellectually inert. So unimaginative or repressed, all that they can think to do on a rainy day is “sit, sit, sit” (with their backs to the reader, no less!) However, the narrator does confess “we did not like it, not one bit”. Suffice it to say, “Sally and I” did not have helicopter parents – the mother, obviously neglectful as we only ever see her shoes or the completely absent father. In summary, “Sally and I” are completely conventional: they are neat, orderly, respectful of authority, disciplined and well-versed in what Mother would or would not like.

But I fear for “Sally and I” and so should you. Why you ask? Where are their powers of invention, of creativity, of initiation? Why are they content to sit? Does this portend with how they may deal with problems in the future? The passive acceptance of their fate when viewed in the context of a world changing rapidly around them cannot be considered a positive.

So, enter the Cat. How best to describe this beast, unlike any other cat you have ever known? How about as:

A multidisciplinary thinker – the Cat sees connections between many disparate objects: “I can hold up the cup, and the milk and the cake. I can hold up these books! And a fish on a rake! I can hold the toy ship and the little toy man! And look, with my tail, I can hold up a red fan!’


Persistent – “I will not go away. I do not wish to go!”

Or, third:

A risk taker – “have no fear, said the Cat, I will not let you fall!” Of course, everything does fall but the Cat is undaunted.

So what is the Cat? A daredevil? A feline juvenile delinquent? A Troublemaker? We know he believes in discovery and experimentation. Cue up Thing One and Thing Two as he promises “Sally and I” that they will see something new. Mother’s new gown flies from a string at the end as a tail on a kite and you know the rest…mayhem, happy mayhem for everyone except perhaps the Fish.

But suddenly comes the warning cry: “Your mother is on her way home! Do you hear?” Sally and I are forced to spring into action: “I went after my net…, I bet; with my net, I can get those Things yet.” And so they do and Cat expresses some degree of smugness as he helps clean up: “Have no fear of this mess…” he says.

As the story ends, order is restored, “Sally and I” are back in their chairs and the house is immaculate. But there is a difference; “Sally and I” have gone through a profound moment of critical development. The kids turn and we can now see their eyes – alert, alive, quizzical and, of course, Cat-like.

As you know, a parable is intended to provide the listeners (again you, the Captive Audience) with an object lesson or moral that can then be applied in other contexts and situations.

In this case, I would argue, the Cat is the hero: an agent of redemption. He is (forgive me for a pun) a catalyst. He provides “Sally and I” with a complex, exhilarating, unstable, open-ended problem. Meanwhile, the Fish shrilly objects: “Tell that Cat in the Hat that you do NOT want to play!” He knows the Cat is trouble with a capital “T”. The Fish represents the status-quo and does not wish to change.

And herein lies the lesson. We sometimes need trouble; it gets us out of our complacency, it pulls us out of our seats, makes the world feel new, makes us feel alive, even if the concept of some Trouble is a little scary. As the Cat so rightly points out, “Sally and I” do want to play, they do want to have fun, and if they take on a little bit of Trouble, they can put their fears behind them and enjoy themselves.

I believe that the trouble the Cat brings in gets an unfair bad rap. We can be as nervous about the productive, energizing trouble as we can be about genuinely destructive troubles but it is critical to know, understand and appreciate the differences. You know of the latter: war, crime, poverty and more. The former, while often disruptive and unsettling, historically have been points of high creativity, bringing change and excitement to long-staid situations. And it is this trouble that awakens and excites Sally and I but causes the Fish to panic.

Which brings me back to today, if I can offer one piece of advice: never be afraid to cause a little Trouble (the good kind, of course). It makes you alert, alive, interested and engaged. Would you prefer to sit, sit, sit like “Sally and I”? Or would you prefer to be a modern day Cat? Think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk as the energy-filled Cats of today. Think of daVinci, Guttenburg and Mahat Ghandi as historical Cats. Where would the world be today if they didn’t take the opportunity to create some Trouble?

So I challenge you, the Class of 2017, go forward and do not be afraid to create a little Trouble, but also remember, even the Cat cleaned up his own mess in the end.

Thank you, again congratulations to the Class of 2017.

Presentation of Class Gift ~ Emma Cypherd and Molly Cypherd, Class of 2017
The vending machines on the Fishers Island ferries, used as fundraisers, are a gift to the rising senior class at School. All the money left in the Class of 2017 account went to the Vikings scoreboard fund.

Surprise Award ~ Presented by Caroline Toldo, Class of 2018
In gratitude for her years of service to Fishers Island School as Principal, and continuing as Superintendent, on behalf of the students, this plaque depicting Fishers Island with each student’s signature, is presented to Mrs. Karen Goodwin

Musical Selection by Emma Cypherd ’17, Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara


Fishers Island Community Scholarship Funds (administered by St. John’s Church, FINY) ~ Presented by Rev. Michael E. Spencer
Presented to each member of the Class of 2017; Thomas Evans ’16, Williams School; and Harrison Hall ’16, Williams School

Rev. Michael Spencer’s Scholarship Presentation remarks

In a commencement speech given many years ago at Kenyon College, the English professor David Foster Wallace began by telling the story of three fish; two young fish were swimming along one day and came upon an older and wiser fish. The wise fish said to them, well boys, how’s the water? The young fish looked confused and kept swimming. A few seconds later one young fish asked the other, “what the heck is water?” Foster Wallace went on to use that story to suggest that the most valuable part of a liberal arts education is the ability not to know all the answers, but to ask the questions that often go unasked. To question our surroundings, to become more aware of the obvious things that we often take for granted. Those little fish depended on the water for their very existence. The equivalent for us is the air we breathe. So today, on your graduation, I would simply ask you, how is the air?

And by asking you, how is the air, I am really not referring to the molecules that you are breathing in, but to the surroundings, the people, the parents, this place that nurtures and sustains you and has given you life for as long as you have been on this earth. This air that we all breathe – this Fishers Island air – is pretty special. It is an atmosphere of people and places joined together on a little island where we realize very quickly that the survival of one depends on the cooperation of all.

Like those little fish, we all depend on this air that we breathe even when we might not realize it.

I am here representing just one little part of this Fishers Island air – the community of St. John’s Episcopal Church – a church on this island that is only open in the summer, but as our mission statement says, is committed to hospitality and outreach throughout all the seasons. In fact, St. John’s is the single largest charitable organization on the island, managing multiple vehicles of outreach to support the community. These include the Sanger Fund, our support of visiting speakers and artists, the maintenance of the Island Cemeteries, partnership with Walsh Park to provide affordable housing, partnership with Union Chapel to support the Islanders for Islanders initiative, and most significantly, through this incredible scholarship program. Since 1983, we have contributed to and managed these Community Scholarships – they were a signature part of our Capital Campaign over 7 years ago. People from the church and the island community contributed generously. The result is a truly remarkable scholarship program providing assistance for up to six years of higher education – scholarships for every Fishers Island student graduating high school including scholarships for magnet students from off-island, and scholarships for Fisher Island residents attending high school on the mainland. A graduate who lives on the island receives $4,000 a year and a graduate who lives off the island receives $2,000 a year.

At a minimum, over 6 years, island resident graduates will receive 24,000 in scholarship aid and off island graduates will receive 12,000 in aid. There are few scholarships that will make that type of long term commitment to you. This is St. John’s most significant outreach and we stand behind it and each year, whether the draw from this fund covers the scholarship or not, the vestry of our Church steps forward to cover the difference so that we fulfill this promise and hope for your future. Through our outreach, St. John’s cares for the people who were here, who are here, and who will be here in the future. God’s time includes the past, the present, and the future, and our hope and our prayer is to honor and cherish and love the things that exist in God’s time the best we can. These scholarships are one way of doing that.

They represent the commitment of the entire island and go beyond St. John’s Church. The selection committee is made up of Polly Talbott who serves as chair, Alicia Cleary, Susie Brinkerhoff, Harry Parker, Jennifer Sanger, and Ollie Scholle. They review all the applications and status of students who this year, include 25 students who will receive over $66,000 to support their education.

You all will now be part of this group that is supported by the island through these scholarships. Tonight this school, the teachers that have challenged and supported you, St. John’s Church and the entire island, enthusiastically send you out to swim in the water and to breathe the air wherever life will take you.

So with best wishes for Godspeed, scholarships are awarded, in this first of potentially six years to: Island residents Thomas Evans and Harrison Hall and to Fishers Island School graduates: Thad Allen, Emma Cypherd, Molly Cypherd, Kyler Hanson, Mitchell Kucsera, and Charlie Snyder

FI Teachers’ Association Scholarships ~ Presented by Mr. Christopher Dollar
Presented to each member of the Class of 2017

Dr. William Gallaher Science Award (IHP) & Dr. Ralph K. Hoch Scholar Athlete Award (IHP) ~ Presented by Mrs. Susie Parsons
Both presented to Thaddeus Allan ’17

Mrs. Susie Parsons’s remarks for Gallaher Science Award & Hoch Scholar Athlete Award

Dr. William Gallaher Science Award Following the tragic death of our island doctor, Bill Gallaher, in 1973, a group of long time islanders gave a luncheon in his memory. The purpose was to raise funds to establish a school scholarship in his name. The proceeds were put into the Fishers Island Medical Fund, which a year later, became the Island Health Project.

This award is presented to the senior who has successfully completed four years in the area of secondary science. It is based upon the student’s academic achievement, enthusiasm and curiosity for the sciences. This year the Dr. William Gallaher Science award goes to Thad Allen. He is graduating with Advanced Designation with Honors and Mastery in both science and math, as well as a NY Seal of Biliteracy.

He has received 2nd honors at the CT state science fair for his research in mineral deposition and oyster growth using a Biorock. And he scored a perfect 800 on SAT 2 subject tests in biology.

In the fall Thad will attend Colorado College beginning with a Spanish/Science immersion experience. He will study the ecology of the Costa Rican rainforest and the coral reefs in Belize while living with host families and at field stations, under the guidance of Colorado College professors.

Dr. Ralph K. Hoch Scholar-Athlete Award Remember in the movie “The Field of Dreams” when the doctor in the story came to play baseball? When the doctor was young, he had to make up his mind whether to go into baseball or in medicine. He chose medicine.

Dr. Hoch played “Triple A” baseball and had to make the same decision. In May of 1928 he was asked to report to Rochester, NY to play for the Rochester Redwings. After that summer, he had to make the decision whether to go on in baseball or in medicine. He also chose medicine. He took the Pennsylvania State Boards, and also the Navy exam while the country was in the midst of the depression. He chose the Navy and served from 1930 until 1960. In December 1941, Dr. Hoch was serving aboard a supply ship that went back and forth from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. The ship just happened to be in San Francisco on December 7th. When they did get to Pearl Harbor, a medical corpsman gave him the medical bag from the USS Arizona. The corpsman had been using it to help the injured as well as he could after the Arizona doctor was killed.   The Hoch family still has this medical bag.

This scholar athlete award was established in 1997 to honor Dr. Hoch, a fine athlete and lover of sports as well as the dedicated physician who was an outstanding member of our island community from 1960 until his death in 1997.

This award goes to a graduating senior who has shown leadership, scholarship and performance on Fishers Island School teams. This year’s Dr. Ralph K. Hoch Scholar Athlete is Thad Allen.

Thad has demonstrated excellent performance in both academics and athletics. He has played basketball and ran for the cross-country team every year since he has been at Fishers and was named a team captain and team MVP of both teams this past year. Thad has also excelled in Judo and participated in fit club, golf, and many other activities. Thad will be graduating with a New York Regents Diploma with Academic Distinction with honors and mastery in math and science with a NY Seal in biliteracy.

The Edwin and Katherine Horning Award (Union Chapel)

~ Presented by Mr. Tim Patterson
Presented to Charlie Snyder’17

Mr. Tim Patterson’s Horning Award remarks

This year the recipient of the Edwin and Katherine Horning Award has attended the Fishers Island School since the 5th grade. He has excelled the Regents tests in New York State in biology, chemistry and physics.

He has earned 4 University of Connecticut undergraduate credits in Oceanography and will be attending Washington College in the fall and majoring in Science.

He has volunteered for over 425 hours of community service primarily at Mystic Seaport.

Principal Karen Goodwin and Science Teacher Carol Giles shared that the recipient worked hard at every job he tackled and came to the Island many Saturdays to work on projects here, bio reef building being one of those tasks.I was also told that the primary thought when choosing the recipient of this prize is that the person

I was also told that the primary thought when choosing the recipient of this prize is that the person be someone that the Hornings would have liked to have spent time with. The deacons of FI Union Chapel are pleased to give this award to Charlie Snyder.

Mary Ski Community Service Award (Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church)

~ Presented by Mrs. Gina Scumaci
Presented to Molly Cypherd ’17

Ms. Gina Scumaci’s Ski Award remarks

It is my great pleasure to announce the Mary Ski Community Service Award, on behalf of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.

Mary Ski is a long-time Fishers Island resident, a community volunteer, a churches volunteer and a school volunteer. Mary is also a very enthusiastic fund-raiser for the Island and all of its organizations.

Some years ago, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church chose to recognize Mary’s many contributions by establishing a Community Service Award in her name. The criteria for this Award are that you be a graduating resident Senior at the Fishers Island High School, and an active volunteer in the School and the Community.

This year, I’m happy to announce that the Award will go to—a lifetime Fishers Island resident, a lifetime Fishers Island School student and a lifetime community volunteer—Miss Molly Cypherd.

Certificate of Merit (2nd Assembly District)

~ Presented by Mr. Gilbert Amaral
Presented to each member of the Class of 2017

2017 Series Scholarship for Academic Excellence

~ Presented by Gilbert Amaral
Presented to Emma Cypherd ’17

New York State Senate Certificates of Achievement

~ Presented by Mr. Gilbert Amaral
Presented to each member of the Class of 2017

Fishers Island Lemonade Scholarship

~ Presented by Ms. Bronya Shillo, CEO Fishers Island Lemonade
Presented to Thaddeus Allan ’17

Ms. Bronya Shillo’s FI Lemonade Scholarship remarks

The Fishers Island Lemonade Entrepreneurship Scholarship was created to drive awareness and foster high school students in our community to pursue business as a career and spark an interest in entrepreneurialism. As an untapped category in the Fishers Island School scholarship awards, I felt this was an area that my business, Fishers Island Lemonade could support. During my time working at the School, I enjoyed mentoring all ages and being a part of a caring, supportive staff and community. The Fishers Island School has a lot to offer and is a special place for many. Through my business, I hope to continue to educate and support our local youth for years to come.

The Fishers Island Lemonade Entrepreneurship Scholarship is provided to a graduating High School Senior, currently enrolled in a college of business. The awarded scholarship is meant to assist a motivated, driven student, and future business leader.

$1,000.00 will be awarded (in two gifts of $500.00, first and second semester). The awarded student must provide a college transcript that shows the minimum GPA of 2.8 attained at the end of the first semester.

Valhalla Award

~ Presented by Mr. Gilbert Amaral
Presented to Thaddeus Allan ’17

2017 SCOPE Scholarship

~ Presented by Mrs. Karen Goodwin
Presented to Molly Cypherd ’17

Mrs. Goodwin’s SCOPE Scholarship Award remarks

SCOPE is a not-for-profit organization that supports Long Island Schools. Their mission is to help teachers inspire a love for learning. SCOPE sponsors a program that allows each Long Island Superintendent of Schools to award a scholarship to a senior who has demonstrated perseverance in learning and passionate leadership.  I am proud to announce that the winner of the 2017 SCOPE Scholarship is Molly Cypherd.

Class of 2017 Power Point Presentations

Conferring of Diplomas to the Class of 2017 Graduates
Mrs. Karen Goodwin, Superintendent/Principal
Mr. Gilbert Amaral, Director of Guidance
Mrs. Jamie Doucette, Board of Education President

Thaddeus Allen, Colorado College
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, with Honors, and Mastery in Math and Science, and the NY Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish/English

Emma Cypherd, Keene State College
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, with Honors

Molly Cypherd, Eastern Connecticut State University
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma

Kyler Hanson, Saint Michael’s College
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation

Mitchell Kucsera, Gap Year Experience
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation

Charles Snyder, Washington College
Graduating with a NY Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, with Honors, and Mastery in Math and Science, and the NY Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish/English

Presentation of the Class of 2017 ~ Karen Goodwin, Superintendent/Principal

Closing Address ~ Kyler Hanson and Charles Snyder, Class of 2017

Alma Mater

To see more photos of graduation and watch the video of the ceremony, please visit: 

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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