The Class of 2022 commencement speaker was none other than Phoenix Mellow '08.
Since her graduation from Friends, Phoenix has been…busy! She attended The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City for fashion design and The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising for fashion design and film and TV costume design in Los Angeles and has since dove head-first into the entertainment industry.
Her costume design and assistant design work have appeared in film, television, commercials, web-series, and music videos, including Sylvie’s Love, A.P. Bio, Detroiters, Black Panther, Mad Men, Mindhunter, The OA, and Katy Perry’s “Hey Hey Hey” and "Small Talk" music videos, among many others.
Phoenix has a passion for design detail, modern and historical fashion, and bringing characters to life through investigative research. She found her calling in the film industry, which amalgamated her interest in the history behind clothing and the psychological connections between people and garments.
"I am what you call a WFS "lifer,'" Phoenix said in her commencement speech, "Which means I attended WFS from preschool through senior year. So Friends is a part of me, in my foundational bones and core beliefs. I’ve carried around those core values…the “SPICES”...and I like to sprinkle them on everything…a little simplicity here…peace there, a pinch of integrity, stir up community and equality, and clean up with some stewardship. Graduates, I assure you, WFS gave you a fantastic set of spices that are going to continue to season your dish called life!
...Friends school teaches us to be open to life's challenges and to be adaptable. It was during this time that those tools were the most beneficial to me outside of a school setting. I used to believe that College was the only route to becoming successful. I thought the most important thing was getting into the best school, getting good grades, and being accepted by my peers. But what I’ve learned is your degree isn't the only thing that defines you, your character is. Hard work, perseverance, determination, and confidence hold just as much weight on your future as your education.
...Never underestimate the power of networking (especially face-to-face). Social capital is more important than we think. Many new jobs come from previous jobs or acquaintances—recommendations and who you know can give you a foot in the door. Tell people what your goals are, put yourself out there. You never know who you are talking to—it can put you in the position of being presented with amazing opportunities." Thank you, Phoenix, for sharing your insight and perspective with the Class of 2022!
Last April, two dozen students, staff, faculty, and WDEL gathered in the library for a glimpse into the future. Theo Nix, Jr. ‘72 presented on why the sky’s the limit in opportunities for FAA-certified drone pilots. The former corporate counsel for DuPont has founded a business to train pilots in five states including Delaware - and he wants to expand internationally, starting in Kenya.
“Make yourself known in everything that you do. It’s very easy to get ‘lost in the numbers’ at a large university, so it is important that your professors are able to put a face to the name and that you make an honest impression. These connections that you make with professors, advisors, and coaches can last a lifetime and can open up new opportunities that you never knew existed or help you achieve experiences that you have always dreamed of . . . I am able to do what I love in a way that I never thought was possible because of these professors, advisors and coaches.”
Susan Woolley Katz ‘88 was a Lifer at Friends, as were her sisters (Laura Kemper ’81, Lisa Anderson ’82) and parents (Cynthia Pyle Woolley ’56, Clark Hullihen Woolley ’57). Many other generations of her family also attended WFS.
Eric Kelley ’10 graduated from Williams College in 2015 with his degree in English. While at Williams, Kelley captained the Varsity Men’s Lacrosse team and served as a member of the Black Student Union.
“I believe that the concept of active listening and learning was cultivated at WFS, and this included being open to feedback. Being willing (and knowing it’s okay!) to change your mind, and constructively disagreeing helped prepare me for post HS life. On the topic of seeing something differently, it was here that I learned that it is perfectly fine to disagree with someone or not see eye to eye, but it’s imperative for everyone’s personal growth and development to do so in a kind, respectful, and gracious way. I think this is the most powerful lesson I took away from Friends and one that I see necessary to practice daily in our world, now more than ever.”
“One of the greatest lessons I took from Friends was how to think critically, which has served me well throughout my educational journey and into the professional world. It’s truly a skill that is valuable regardless of what you do in life."
“I greatly appreciate WFS for giving me the opportunity to become an independent learner and teaching me how to write. Without these skills, I would not have had nearly as much confidence to go into research as I do now.”
I attended Wilmington Friends School for 14 years, and by all accounts, I consider myself a “lifer.” WFS provided the bulk of my educational experience, which was the basis for my development as an artist and an activist. Throughout my attendance at Friends, certain core values such as integrity, community, equality, peace, stewardship, and simplicity were foundational.
Peter Henderer ’89 attended Friends for three years for Pre-1st through 2nd grades, and then returned for 10th through 12th grades. On campus, he played football and lacrosse, played in the Concert Band and Jazz Band, served on the Service Committee, and was Clerk of the Business Meeting. After graduation, Peter studied at Bowdoin College, majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies, and serving as Co-President of the Bowdoin Outing Club. After Bowdoin he studied law at The George Washington University Law School and went on to the private practice of law in Richmond, Virginia. Peter’s practice is in commercial real estate, with a particular focus on tax-credit financed multifamily housing. On the side, Peter has grown a portfolio of his own residential rental properties. Outside of work, Peter has served on numerous non-profit boards, and is currently Chair of the Board of Trustees at Richmond Montessori School, a Toddler through 8th grade school in Richmond. Peter is married to Armistead Edmunds Henderer and they have two teenage children.
Laura Robelen ’78 was a 13-year veteran of Friends, following in the footsteps of her mother, Lois Moodey ’53. At Friends, Laura enjoyed participating in chorus and especially the annual Spring musicals. She served as Secretary of her senior class. The friendships made at WFS have stood the test of time, thanks to social media, and she regularly gathers with classmates living in the Wilmington area. Laura graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a major in Communication and Theatre and a minor in Psychology. Since 1988, Laura has been a licensed Realtor and is also an Associate Broker. She teaches the Pre-Licensing Sales class for her brokerage Long & Foster. Laura has been a fundraising volunteer for Delaware Hospice for the last 25 years. She has served as chair of The Festival of Trees for most of those years and also serves on the Board of Trustees and as Co-Chair of the Development Committee.