ANDOVER — It was a day of ‘firsts’ at the 235th commencement exercises at Phillips Academy yesterday.
John Palfrey, the new head of school, presided over his first “Order of Exercises at Exhibition” as it’s traditionally known.
Both girls and boys held roses and boys wore sky-blue arm bands, as a show of solidarity between the formerly all-girls Abbot School and the formerly all-boys Andover, separated by Route 28 on the hill overlooking downtown.
And it was the first day of sunny skies following a week of fickle weather.
“The sunshine on this day is for a reason,” Palfrey said in his remarks to the 323 graduates. “It’s because of the wonderful, brilliant class of 2013. You will always have a special place in my heart as the first graduating class in my time at the school.”
He praised the class as having the “right blend of respectful and rabble-rousing” and noted that the idea for boys to wear arm bands and carry roses was a last-minute change to the program. It was a change, he said, that was made with “honor and subtlety.”
He talked about another first at the school this year, the first-ever Spring Arts Festival.
“It was memorable because of the expressiveness and happiness of all those who participated, but also because it was something created from the imagination - brought about from nothing,” he said.
“You have talent galore,” he told the students, who cheered often, gave a standing ovation to the faculty, and showed their spirit during the traditional handing out of diplomas in a big circle on the lawn near Main Street.
After the last diploma made it around the gathering of newly minted graduates, the students rushed the middle, holding diplomas aloft and dancing together while parents, relatives and faculty trained cameras and smart phones on the spectacle.