It was a beautiful evening at King’s Academy on the eve of Commencement, made all the more special by the congregation in Refectory Square of 167 soon-to-be graduates, their parents, faculty and juniors to celebrate the school’s 10th graduating class at the annual Senior Parents Iftar.
Head of School John Austin started the evening off with a warm welcome to the parents of the Class of 2019, before handing the floor over to Board of Trustees member Tarek Aggad, who is parent to graduate Thaer Aggad ’19.
After recognizing Austin and his wife Monica’s “indelible imprint and huge impact” on the school over the past nine years, Aggad announced the establishment of an endowment in Austin’s honor. Named the Austin Fund for Excellence in Teaching, the fund will support “those members of the King’s community whom [Austin is] most passionate about: our great teachers,” he explained. Proceeds of The Austin Endowment will support professional development for faculty and will fund an annual prize for teaching excellence, called the Austin Prize.
Aggad went on to share another special piece of news: the renaming of the Lecture Hall in Austin’s honor. “This integral hall, which has been the primary location for most meetings of the school and will be used by generations of students and faculty to come, will now be known as the Austin Lecture Hall,” said Aggad.
Following these announcements, student musicians* from the Class of 2019 provided guests with entertainment, performing a selection of English, Arabic and Korean classical and pop songs.
Next to take the stage were Hadeel Shawwa ’19, Jude Abu Karaki ’19, Hyi-min Kim ’19 and Sehun Yun ’19 to deliver a multilingual welcome in the four world languages taught at King’s, speaking in Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese respectively.
Continuing an annual Senior Parents Dinner tradition, Austin then took the opportunity to recognize long-serving faculty members who have reached important milestones. This year, Nadine Cunningham and Ghassan Gammoh ’10 — teachers of music and history respectively — were honored for concluding their fifth year of service at King’s. Meanwhile, French teacher Carine Zanchi, who is departing King’s this year, was honored for a decade of service and dedication to the school.
Austin also thanked two founding members of faculty, who are also departing King’s this year, for their 12 years of extraordinary service: Head of the Department of Mathematics and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dragana Babic Al-Mahasneh and Arabic teacher Majid Nasser Eddin, both of whom were presented with special plaques expressing the school’s gratitude.
After pausing to enjoy a delicious iftar served by around 90 student waiters from the junior class, Dario Pomar Azar ’19 took to the stage to introduce the night’s faculty speaker — English teacher Stephen Dalvet — who was selected by the senior class to deliver the valedictory address in another senior dinner tradition.
“He always has a conclusion he wants us to reach, and he has tirelessly paved the road — made of novels, poems and short stories — for us to reach this point,” said Pomar Azar. “[That point] is not an essay or a grade, but rather a profound understanding of the world of literature and, as a result, of the world itself.”
Bringing a tear to many a parent’s eye, Dalvet’s valedictory address — poignant at times, and amusing at others — touched on the challenges of saying goodbye, and offered the senior class sage advice as they prepare to embark on a new chapter in their lives.
“What should you take with you as you leave?” Dalvet asked the Class of 2019. “You should take your intelligence, your curiosity, your generosity, your ambition, your creativity, your sense of humor, your grace, and your joy, for all of which King’s has served as an incubator. Bring all that to the world, carve out a path, make your mark, make your beautiful presence known.”
“But there’s something else you should bring,” Dalvet continued. “Consider well this community. King’s brings together people from different languages, faith traditions, cultures, and continents, and somehow, we have managed to make it work. A quick glance at history or current events will tell you that such an environment is a rare thing, sadly, but take that piece of our experience here and impose it on your world. We need it desperately.”
Austin then took a moment to recognize Nadeem Al Billeh ’19, Hani Al Yacoub ’19 and Abdulrahman Al-Ali ’19 for their service and leadership in founding the Jordan Youth Leadership Program, an initiative aiming to empower young people to come together to alleviate the living conditions of the stateless and the disadvantaged throughout Jordan.
Next up was the presentation of the Commencement Awards**, an annual tradition recognizing excellence in learning and leadership among students of the graduating class.
“This kind of leadership is about going farther than you are required to do; it is about learning deeply and passionately, about extending oneself, challenging oneself, and in so doing, making others better,” said Austin, before going on to recognize the leadership of the school’s inaugural Student Leadership Council co-presidents Sama Zoubi ’19 and Walid Abu AlAfia ’19.
Four members of the King’s Academy Alumni Association (KAAA) Board of Directors Suhayb Al-Jawhari ‘11, Omaymah Al-Harahsheh ’14, Farah Kasih ’11 and Ghassan Ghammoh ’10 then took the podium to congratulate and extend their support to the most recent cohort of alumni.
To conclude the evening, the class agents for the Class of 2019 Marcus Liaw, Sayf Abdeen, Hala Momani, Sama Zoubi and Anas Badran unveiled the senior class gift and latest addition to the school’s Commencement Walk, a mosaic replica of the “The Ram”, a mosaic discovered in Madaba in 1934 that was originally constructed circa 600 CE.
“The original artist designed a mosaic consisting of a central medallion of garland enclosing a ram near a small tree. This image of thanks and sacrifice seemed appropriate to us as we prepare to graduate tomorrow,” said Momani.
Nabila Siregar ’19, Zaid Alamarat ’19, Ferdinand Alhourani ’19, Ameer AlDaoud ’19, Jiwoong Jeon ’19, Sehun Yun ’19, Seung Hyeon Oh ’19, Rawad Maiteh ’19 and Ms. Nadine Cunningham
The Arabic Award: Roa’a Kilani and Nidal Morrison
The Arabic as a Foreign Language Award: Sophia Vahanvaty
The Arabic Capstone Award: Natasha Bakri
The Capstone Award: Hala Momani and Ibrahim Muasher
The Chinese Award: Jamila Kurani
The Choral Award: Rawad Maaitah
The Computer Science Award: Farah Kashaman and Katada Siraj
The Creative Writing Award: Dalia Chahieh
The Dance Award: Mohammad AlQudah and Zhiwei (April) Lin
The Ethics, Philosophy and Religion Award: Roa’a Kilani
The French Award: Najeeb Fakhoury
The Historian Award: Selma Shaban
The Social Scientist Award: Minjeong Kim
The Instructional Music Award: Seung Hyeon Oh and Chao Shang
The Mathematics Award: Adnan Shabib
The Peter Greer English Award: Shamil Kassay
The Physical and Life Sciences Award: Roa’a Kilani and Katada Siraj
The Purchase Prize in the Fine Arts: Lea AlMasso
The Spanish Award: Marcus Liaw
The Theater Award: Jamila Kurani and Zayd Lahham
The Visual Arts Award: Jena Sharaf and Firyal Bawab
The Asad Al-Malek Award: Mohammad Mohammad and Minjeong Kim
The Middle School Leadership Award: Selina Masarweh and Najeeb Fakhoury
His Majesty King Constantine Award: Nadeem AlBilleh
The Perseverance Award: Kareem AbuAli
The Samar Khader Award: Seema Rabata
The Respect Award: Hazar Ghaith and Zaid Hasan
The Responsibility Award: Katada Siraj and Christine Nguyen
The Eric Widmer Award for an Integrated Life: Dario Pomar Azar and Roa’a Kilani
The Global Citizenship Award: Ashraf Saleem and Zhiwei (April) Lin
The Viswanathan Award for Love of Learning: Ahmed AlKhatib and Hana Hamdan
Headmaster’s Awards: Sama Zoubi, Walid Abu AlAfieh, Hala Momani, Marcus Liaw, Geena Baber, Mohammad Kenan Hamarsheh and Mustafa Hourani