The atmosphere was festive at King’s Academy on Sunday evening as proud parents, teachers, seniors and juniors gathered in the Refectory Square to celebrate and honor the school’s eighth graduating class at the annual senior dinner.
Headmaster John Austin started the evening off with a warm welcome to parents of the Class of 2017, many of whom travelled from around the world, and explained that the tradition of the senior dinner is to recognize the many accomplishments, both individually and collectively, of the graduating class, as well as to celebrate the strength and spirit of the King’s community.
Seniors Marah Ajeilat ’17, Mishaal Tamer ’17, Nihad Kalathingal ’17 and HyeRin Shin ’17 also delivered a multilingual welcome in the four world languages taught at King’s, speaking in French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese respectively.
Guests then enjoyed a delicious three-course meal served by 76 student waiters from the junior class, another senior dinner tradition. After dinner, entertainment was provided by an ensemble* of seniors and teachers who sang and played a medley of Arabic and English pop tunes to the enjoyment of those gathered.
Taking a moment to recognize members of the faculty who have served the school for five years – Ala Hamdan, Yusra Al Hilo and Gertrude Dudley – Austin thanked all faculty and staff at King’s for their hard work and care of students.
“Who we are as teachers – and as parents – is as important, more important even, than what we teach. The very best way for children to learn the things that matter most – curiosity, kindness, disciplined judgment, thoughtfulness – is by keeping company with teachers who model those virtues. This is always our ambition as a faculty: to offer every day, in every interaction with our students, our best selves,” he said.
Austin also recognized one of the school’s longest-serving faculty members, Lilli Audeh, who is leaving at the end of the year, before giving the floor to her as the evening’s valedictory speaker selected by the senior class.
“Lilli is a founding member of this faculty, and her energy, intelligence and judgment have helped shaped what the school is today,” said Austin. “She is a gifted teacher of English and literature, and a gifted teacher of teachers. As our associate dean of the faculty, Lilli has been a supportive colleague and mentor to so many members of the faculty, and she has helped lead our approach to faculty growth, deepening conversation across the school about what it means to be a great teacher in a school like King’s.”
In her address to the senior class, Audeh reflected on her 10 years at King’s and offered graduates some sage advice for the future: “Never before, in the history of the world, has there been more of a need to demystify the misconceptions about what it means to be Arab and/or Muslim. The need to spread awareness and challenge stereotypes becomes a responsibility, your responsibility.”
“Courses that have given you access to the culture, language and religion of this region have also given you the necessary tools and intellectual currency to debate and challenge ideas that you will be faced with in the world beyond King’s Academy. So I encourage you to boldly speak your minds as you “harkness” in the real world,” she continued.
In concluding her address, Audeh urged graduates not to forget their roots. “Always remember that King’s Academy is your school and no matter where you are from in the world the five guiding principles that we believe in at King’s do not belong to King’s, they are universal principles, and you will need to apply them wherever you go. Always remember to come back, and plant your seeds in the earth that has given you so much!”
Seniors Tarek Serhan ’17, Nasser Kanoo ’17 and Katerina Saleh ’17 unveiled the senior class gift and newest addition to the school’s Commencement Walk, a mosaic replica of the beautiful walking peacock mosaic discovered at Mt. Nebo, towards which the class contributed a total of 2,245 JD. With 83 percent class participation this year, the amount will serve as the first installment to the Class of 2017 Endowed Financial Aid Fund.
“The Class of 2017 would like to leave a token of our sincere gratitude as well as a pledge of our class’ future philanthropic commitment to the greater King’s Academy community in the form of our senior gift,” said Serhan.
Expressing his gratitude to parents of the Class of 2017, Austin noted that the diversity of the school is only made possible through the generosity and leadership of friends and parents.
“That we are able to enroll students from all backgrounds creates for all of our students a learning environment that is rich and dynamic; it offers students the opportunity to forge friendships across economic, religious, and geographical lines; and it creates classrooms where debate, discussion and the exchange of ideas and perspectives can flourish,” he said.
*Senior Dinner Band: Mishaal Tamer ’17, Maya Abdulqader ’17, Ruiqi Wen ’17, Sara Kabariti ’17, Sheila Baber ’17, Minjee Kim ’17, Marah Ajeilat ’17, Mr. Philip Carr-Harris, Mr. James Magagna, Ms. Nadine Cunningham
The Arabic Award: Amr Almghawish
The Arabic as a Second Language Award: Jack Blacklaw
The Arabic as a Foreign Language Award: Salvio Kalfani
The Capstone Award: Dina Kuttab
The Chinese Award: Minjee Kim
The Choral Award: Sheila Baber
The Computer Science Award: Ahmad Salim and Hyro Leal
The Dance Award: Katerina Saleh
The Ethics, Philosophy and Religion Award: Sheila Baber
The French Award: Boyi Yao
The Historian Award: Dina Kuttab
The Social Scientist Award: Ahmed Salem
The Instructional Music Award: Boyi Yao
The Mathematics Award: Sheila Baber
The Peter Greer English Award: Leen Ababneh and Sheila Baber
The Physical and Life Sciences Award: Ahmad Salem and Laith Al Kawalit
The Purchase Prize in the Fine Arts: Luay Alhasan
The Spanish Award: Hamza Al Daoud
The Theater Award: Abigail Smith
The Visual Arts Award: Laya Abduljawad, Lena Alkaisy and Nadeen Badran
The Asad Al-Malek Award: Jeeda Naber
His Majesty King Constantine Award: Amr Almghawish
The Perseverance Award: Sari Samakie
The Samar Khader Award: Maral Masarweh and Saba Qbeilat
The Respect Award: Abdullah bin Laden
The Responsibility Award: Hassan Al Khawaldeh and Moath Mahasneh
The Eric Widmer Award for an Integrated Life: Sandra Madanat
The Global Citizenship Award: Hyro Leal
The Viswanathan Award for Love of Learning: HyeRin Shin
Headmaster’s Awards: Dina Kuttab, Jack Blacklaw, Kathrine Jonsson, Amr Almghawish, Bushra Al Soub, Tala Abdelqader, Anwar Al Husban, Ruchi Wen