Commencement Celebrates Mercersburg’s Class of 2022

Friday, May 27, 2022
Valedictorian Maddy Gillner ’22

The 134 members of Mercersburg’s Class of 2022 were saluted at the school’s 129th Commencement exercises May 28 on the platform between Keil Hall and South Cottage on campus. The school’s traditional Baccalaureate service was held May 27 in the Irvine Memorial Chapel.

Longtime faculty member Tom Thorne P ’06, ’07, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 29 years at Mercersburg, gave the Commencement address. Thorne was initially slated to give the Baccalaureate address, but instead spoke at Commencement since originally selected Commencement speaker Parker Ward ’82 was unable to attend. Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25 stepped in to deliver the Baccalaureate address.

Watch a replay of Commencement
Watch a replay of Baccalaureate

“After all you have been through, it could be easy for you to overlook this moment, and focus instead on all the future has in store for you —but what a mistake that would be,” McDowell said to the graduating class at Baccalaureate. “Not only are there no ordinary moments, but this moment is entirely yours. See it, hold it, and cherish it.”

Student speakers at Commencement included valedictorian Maddy Gillner ’22 of Rector, PA; salutatorian Linh Nguyen ’22 of Hanoi, Vietnam; and Schaff Orators Carina Cole ’22 of Boiling Springs, PA, and Avo Reid ’22 of McLean, VA, as well as Senior Class President Monique Garcia ’22 of Passaic, NJ, and Cate Vickery ’22 of Alexandria, VA, who introduced Thorne as the Commencement speaker. Harriet Brown ’22 of St. Francisville, LA, and Christian Jetter ’22 of Whitehall, PA, served as class marshals.

Read Tom Thorne’s Commencement address
Read Maddy Gillner’s valedictory address
View a list of prizes awarded at Commencement

Members of the graduating class will matriculate at 93 different colleges and universities, including Cornell University, Duke University, the University of Michigan, New York University, Northwestern University, the University of Southern California, Swarthmore College, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Virginia, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Commencement speaker Tom Thorne P ’06, ’07

Thorne is head of Mercersburg’s classical and modern languages department, and first arrived at the school in 1993 to teach Latin. He has held the David F. Chapman Chair since 2001, and serves as an adviser to the school’s Karux yearbook. Thorne is a graduate of Dickinson College and the University of Florida; he spoke at Mercersburg’s Commencement exercises in 2008 and the Academy’s Baccalaureate ceremony in 2013.

Thorne and his wife, Barb (the school store supervisor and an assistant swimming coach), have served as dormitory deans in Culbertson House on campus. They are the parents of two Mercersburg graduates, Elissa Thorne Shashai ’06 and Julia Thorne ’07.


Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25
“Parents, whether your child has been with us for one year or for four, you have made an incredible sacrifice to give this gift to your children. I also believe that they have used this time here to become remarkable versions of themselves.”

Senior Class President Monique Garcia ’22
“It is an undeniable truth that our time here has shaped us in a number of ways. We've gained lifelong friendships, countless memories and we've fostered so many relationships that wouldn't have been possible without our time here.”

Schaff Orator Avo Reid ’22
“I firmly believe that these students on this stage became a capital-C class in the moments in between, the moments which no simple narrative can encapsulate. In those moments, we each shared our stories, all complex and varying wildly from one another. The confluence of these made us laugh, made us cry, saved our lives, made our lives. Each person sitting on this stage today has a piece of that story, each equally valuable and vibrantly essential. All we have to do is tell it.”

Schaff Orator Carina Cole ’22
Every single person sitting on this stage is an indispensable member of a one-of-a-kind group. You have all made an impact on my life, and on the school, which will be remembered for years to come. We found our ability to adapt to unusual situations, to make the most of what we are thrown into and always see the silver lining in what may seem to be hopeless situations. Looking back, I know our class will be recognized for its unusual ability to look past initial boundaries to come together as one. I am confident we will continue to make the world a better place.

Salutatorian Linh Nguyen ’22
“American poet and great philosopher Snoop Dogg once said, ‘There will be ups and downs, smiles and frowns.’ Things might not always go our way, but we must persist through the tough times, turbulent changes, and transitions in order to succeed. We must take the most out of what we have and embrace the journey to learn and grow. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. And at the end of the day, don’t forget to live, laugh, and love.”

Valedictorian Maddy Gillner ’22
“The most famous quote in Hamlet, besides the ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy, is likely, ‘to thine own self be true,’ which is derived from Delphic maxim ‘know thyself.’ The self will always change, but to look back and know who you were, how you’ve grown, is essential to knowing yourself. I know that I’m friendlier now, that I value community far more. And most importantly, I’m more grateful. I’m grateful for Rick ’70 and Julie Witmer for setting up the Witmer Family Endowment, which allowed me to attend Mercersburg. I’m grateful for my adviser, Ms. [Rachel] Mallory. I’m grateful for my teachers and mentors, my family and my lifelong friends. And I am so incredibly honored to have been a part of this community.”

Commencement speaker Tom Thorne P ’06, ’07
“Mercersburg is a place that makes an exceptionally big deal about connecting you to each other and to adults—people who can befriend, support, and mentor you, so that you can return the favor. It’s a deceptively simple but powerful idea. The people around you—every one of them—have something to teach, if you’re wise enough to ask and observe.”

“This is a place that emphasizes connectedness—where you can have an argument with your Chinese roommate and Nigerian neighbor about whose turn it is to pay for dinner at the Mexican place downtown. And 10 years later, you’ll be in each other’s weddings.” 

“I realize that the fate of every speech is to be forgotten immediately afterwards, and I certainly have no clear recollection of what I said 40 years ago at my own commencement ceremony. But I haven’t forgotten the people who were there with me, and we won’t forget you.”


For more information on this story, please contact Lee Owen ( in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications.