WEST HARTFORD — As a methodical, to-do list maker, Kingswood Oxford’s keynote speaker and physics teacher Kathleen DiSanto ’03 compiled her five-step plan for her adult life upon graduating from high school only to find an accuracy rate of 38 percent. Although she happily married her “super cute” high school sweetheart in step number two, her other plans were overturned as she sought to find fulfillment in her career and in her life. DiSanto gave the 83 seniors permission to navigate the messiness of growing up and to reconsider their options in terms of what makes them happy during her address at the school’s 107th Commencement on Friday, May 24. Matt Safalow ’19 introduced DiSanto.
“You find happiness by aligning with your core values and being true to who you are in each moment,” she said. Her words resonated with the students and attendees alike with many adults in the crowd nodding in agreement with Disanto’s message. As a college student at Washington University in St. Louis, DiSanto was on course to be pre-med major (step 1) but then later enrolled in the engineering program because pre-med didn’t “feel right.”
After receiving her master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Harvard University, Disanto held increasingly senior positions as a structural analyst in defense systems and commercial aircraft but found little satisfaction. Fortunately for KO students, teaching filled DiSanto’s void. “Teaching is my happy. The whiteboard is my happy. Watching you grow and learn makes me happy... Align your choices and good things will happen. Check in with yourself.” She reminded the graduates to be kind to themselves and to others and to take some detours from their carefully wrought plans. “I can’t wait to see how you’ll turn your life upside down.”
This was Head of School Tom Dillow’s first time presiding over the commencement exercises at the school. He echoed DiSanto’s comments by quoting from the Talking Head’s existential song “Once In Lifetime,” in which an adult reflects upon his auto-pilot life governed by societal expectations “with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a large automobile.” Dillow charged the students to find more meaning in their lives. “Remember that real happiness comes from healthy relationships, meaningful work, and in service to others. As you find your way in this world, do not lose sight of how you get there. Slow Down. Breathe, and make sure that your endeavors are grounded in things you genuinely care about,” Dillow said.
Of the graduating class, 45 students graduated with honors. Benjamin Small of West Hartford received the Dux Prize for the senior with the highest grade point average. A total of 11 student-athletes will play at the collegiate level. Nine members of the Class of 2019 had parents, grandparents or relatives who also graduated from KO.
History teacher Rob Kyff acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the school’s coeducation and quoted the two visionary educators Ruth Guernsey and George Nicholson of Oxford School and Kingswood School, respectively. Kyff hoped that the graduates’ Kingswood Oxford education would lead each to the high places inspired by Guernsey and that they would cherish the many treasures of life that Nicholson so loved, Walt Whitman’s “beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books.”
Visit www.kingswoodoxford.org for more information.