East Woods School Honors The Class of 2024

East Woods School Honors The Class of 2024
Laura Sacco

On June 13, East Woods School celebrated the graduation of the 13 members of the Class of 2024. Next year, the EWS Class of 2024 will attend Portledge School, Friends Academy, Walnut Hill School For The Arts, Emma Willard School, Chaminade High School, St. Anthony's High School, Northport High School, and Syosset High School, carrying with them the values and achievements they have cultivated at East Woods. 

Commencement began with the Class of 2024 procession up the center aisle as family members, alums, and friends looked on. Head of School Laura Kang warmly welcomed everyone and introduced The Very Reverend Gideon Pollach, St. John's Episcopal Church, who delivered the invocation prayer. Laura Kang then took a moment to recognize the faculty, acknowledging their milestones at East Woods and their valuable contributions to the community.

The graduates selected East Woods' Chef de Cuisine, Tim Chenkin, as their speaker. When the graduating Class asked Chef Tim to be their speaker, he was taken aback - rarely rendered speechless. It was a heartfelt honor for him, particularly since he had been cooking lunches for some of them for as long as five years. He reflected on the personal connections forged over those meals, with students greeting him daily with smiles, jokes, and queries about the day's menu. Teaching cooking classes at East Woods gave him some of his most cherished memories. Though the recipes may fade from their books, he assured them they still had his email. Witnessing their graduation stirred both happiness and sadness in Chef Tim; he celebrated their growth into remarkable individuals while lamenting the daily interactions he would miss. Sharing a life lesson inspired by Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder, he encouraged them to embrace life's uniqueness, comparing it to cooking, where personal flair reigns supreme. Chef Tim expressed genuine fondness for the students and hoped they would never forget to savor life's simple joys amidst its challenges.

Each year, two recipients of the James E. Gay Alumni Award are announced during the program's commencement. Christie Luce McNicol, '71, announced the winners for 2024: Augusta Reese Donohue '85 and H. Carter Hilliard '97. Augusta Reese Donohue, affectionately known as Gussy, is a dedicated member of the East Woods School Class of 1985, having been involved since a young age. She continued her education at The Madeira School in Virginia and Trinity College in Connecticut. Gussy, along with her husband Mark, is a proud parent to three children. Throughout her career, Gussy has held positions at notable organizations like USA Networks, Lifetime Television, and Pearl by Lela Rose. She is deeply committed to community service, focusing on conservation, horticulture, and environmental preservation. Currently, Gussy serves as President of the North Country Garden Club and is actively involved in initiatives promoting sustainability and environmental education in her community. Her impactful work resonates strongly today, making her deserving of the James E. Gay Alumni/ae Award from East Woods School. Carter Hilliard, a proud member of the East Woods School Class of 1997, began his lifelong journey with the school from Nursery through ninth grade. Starting at St. John's Pre-School, Carter formed lasting friendships with future classmates. At Salisbury School, he excelled in lacrosse, football, and ice hockey while also nurturing a deep love for the outdoors through activities like fly fishing and mountaineering. After earning an Economics degree from the University of Virginia and Washington College, Carter gained valuable real estate experience at C.B. Richard Ellis before founding HELM (Hilliard Estate and Land Management). Specializing in land management and environmental preservation, HELM reflects Carter's passion for nature and sustainable practices. Today, Carter resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife Laura and their two daughters, proudly continuing his legacy as a recipient of the James E. Gay Alumni Award from East Woods School.

The ceremony concluded with academic, creative, and effort awards, and Head of School Laura Kang read a personalized tribute to each graduate as they received their diploma. East Woods is proud of each of the thirteen members of the Class of 2024 and eagerly anticipates their future adventures and achievements in secondary school and beyond.