Commencement is May 28; Student Speakers Announced

Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Clockwise from top left: Maddy Gillner, Linh Nguyen, Avo Reid, Carina Cole

Commencement exercises for the 134 members of Mercersburg Academy’s Class of 2022 will be held Saturday, May 28, at 10 a.m. ET on the traditional platform between Keil Hall and South Cottage on campus.
Parker Ward ’82, a Mercersburg alum and a former commercial airline pilot who became a paraplegic following a 2004 snowmobile accident, will share his incredible story of perseverance with the class in the Commencement address. Longtime faculty member Tom Thorne P ’06, ’07, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 29 years at Mercersburg, will be the featured speaker at Baccalaureate, which is set for Friday, May 27, at 6 p.m. in the Irvine Memorial Chapel.
Newly appointed Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25 will preside over the school’s Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises for the first time.

Student speakers at Commencement will include 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 Matthew Tavarez ’22 of Paterson, NJ, who will introduce Ward as the invited speaker. Harriet Brown ’22 of St. Francisville, LA, and Christian Jetter ’22 of Whitehall, PA, will serve as class marshals. 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 and U.S. Naval Academy.
Indoor seating for and a livestream of both Commencement and Baccalaureate will be available in the Burgin Center for the Arts’ Simon Theatre. Both ceremonies will also be streamed live online at (In the event of inclement weather, Commencement will be held in the Hale Field House.)
Ward grew up in Norwich, NY, and attended Mercersburg for three years. He was a member of the football, lacrosse, and wrestling teams, and served as secretary of his class and as a dorm proctor. Ward earned a bachelor’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and did postgraduate work at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He became a pilot, amassing more than 10,000 hours of flight time flying Boeing 737s and other aircraft for US Airways.

Commencement speaker Parker Ward ’82/Baccalaureate speaker Tom Thorne P ’06, ’07

In 2004, tragedy struck when Ward was involved in a snowmobile accident, leaving him a paraplegic from the chest down. Undeterred by this catastrophe, he persevered through determination and by always keeping a positive attitude. He then transitioned into teaching middle-school math and science and tutoring students. Ward currently works for his church as an office assistant, a position which he loves because he gets to talk to countless people and do technical work as well.

Ward and his wife, Kathy, have been married for 31 years. They have three daughters, three grandchildren, and live in Palm Bay, Florida. Ward’s nephew, Mark Herring ’09, is a fellow Mercersburg alum; Ward is also related to current ninth-grade student Eric Herring ’25.
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. He 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.

More information about Commencement Weekend events is available online at Questions about Commencement events can be directed to the Office of Student Life (717-328-6119 or

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