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A Toast to the Graduate Institute

August 3, 2018 | By Kimberly Uslin

GI Reception 2018
Graduate Damon Hatheway (AGI18) embraces Graduate Institute administrator Marcella Benil.

Today, August 3, marks the graduation of students from both the Annapolis and Santa Fe Graduate Institutes (GI). As is St. John’s tradition, each graduating class was honored with a commencement reception earlier in the week — July 31 in Santa Fe and August 1 in Annapolis.

In Annapolis, the evening began with a reception commingling GI students past, present, and future. The ten graduates were presented with gifts commemorating their achievements and were officially welcomed into the Alumni Association by Sabina Sulat (A87).

Then came the evening’s highlight: the toasts. Per St. John’s GI tradition, the commencement reception is a time for the graduates to toast the tutors, the tutors to toast the graduates, and the graduates to toast each other. As always, there was plenty of celebrating, camaraderie, and kind words.

Both Damon Hatheway and Sean Foley represented the graduating class, toasting their tutors at their “most tutorly.”

Foley spoke of the GI program as “one long beautiful fugue,” adding that he “hadn’t thought it possible for such wise and sensitive people to remain un-jaded.”

Hatheway’s interpretation was similarly musical, referencing the “song and dance performed in class, guided by the musical ear of the tutors” (and, too, their “courageous feats of athleticism on the bocce field”).

The graduates were addressed by tutor Matthew Caswell, who prefaced his toast with the sentiment that “tutors are not known for their public speaking,” only to contradict himself.

“A masterpiece, as you all probably know, is a work that qualifies the maker as a craftsperson,” he said. “In the tutor’s art, the product is not an artifact. Questioning is an endless string of beginnings.”

“You students will shortly be named Masters,” he added. “Your masterpiece is nothing less than the books you’ve read and the conversations you’ve had. This masterpiece of yours is finite, but unlike an artifact, it lives.”

The floor was then opened for student toasts, which gave the graduates an opportunity to thank their fellow GIs for everything from “allowing others to interrupt you again and again and again” to helping identify the diagonal in the Meno.

Before closing the program with the traditional toast to the Republics (of the United States, Letters, Plato, and St. John’s College), Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Emily Langston raised her glass to all of the students for their unfailing support of each other throughout the GI: “This isn’t a program you can go through alone.”

As the graduates made their way to the post-reception party, Hatheway’s words from earlier in the evening—quoting Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind—seemed truer than ever.

“There’s something better than Socrates—having Plato’s books and friends to discuss them with.”

Both Santa Fe and Annapolis GI students will participate in commencement ceremonies on August 3.