2024 Graduation Ceremony

June 5, 2024



Finishing the requirements for graduation at North Bennet Street School takes hard work, commitment, and dedication at the best of times. Our 2024 graduating class demonstrated these qualities and more, staying the course through the one, two, or three years of their career training programs. We couldn’t be more proud of all that they have accomplished.

On Friday, May 31, our assembled faculty and staff—along with family, friends, and supporters—celebrated the joyous graduation of 93 students at the historic Old North Church. We were honored to have Boston thought leader Klare Shaw deliver an inspiring commencement address, and also share the news of our 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, Dan Faia CF ’94.

Watch the Full Ceremony

Hello and welcome. My name is Sarah Turner, and this is one of my favorite days of the year. Not only because we celebrate accomplishment and very hard work, but because we get to be together in the same place as a whole School—rare for a group that is intensely focused at your individual work benches, or in the field working on a building, or in a tuning room, learning the nuances of a particular instrument. For this morning, we’re collected up as a group, as North Bennet Street School and joined by an extended community—the people who helped make your success possible: family, friends, mentors, collaborators.   

Today, you’ll get to hear from a few people who help represent our extended community and the true grand collaboration it takes to do the work of a whole School. As so many of you have experienced while here, North Bennet extends to include educational partners, employers, businesses, museums, guilds and clients, and more. Truly a rich ecosystem of support and opportunity. 

And as you listen to remarks—to us celebrating you and your work—I invite you to take a moment, now, to be present, here, in Old North Church. NBSS has been holding graduations here for many, many years, a small but meaningful piece of the history and legacy in this incredible building and all it has seen and been for so many people.  

We are in a building, built in 1723, that has been a part of our country’s history. It is known, perhaps most famously, for its role in the American Revolution. But it has been a site of people’s lives and hopes and struggles and stories. This place literally holds history; and thanks to the people who work and lead here today, it is also making new histories and helping us to understand our past more honestly and thoughtfully. I encourage you to read about their work and take advantage of their programs, describing the people who sat in these pews many years before you. And Old North Church continues to create programs that bring histories forward to help us see and think about current concerns and opportunities; always with a sense of individualism and interdependence that makes for the progress and evolution of any community. 

After all, history and progress and the evolution of community is made by individuals, by people, often in collaboration, which I’d like to share a few thoughts on today. At North Bennet, we are so aware that our work, our training, happens in collaboration with others. I’ve mentioned the “school scale” of how this happens: the guilds, employers, clients, cultural centers that are a part of our fields and programs.  

These institutional partnerships are built on individual relationships: people working side by side on what they’re good at, what they have to contribute, together. You’ve done this every day in your shops and your programs—even when solo at your bench. You’ve been with people very different from you, and this is a hallmark of our school. We have people in the middle of their lives, with rich employment experience, now retraining. They share shop space with people for whom NBSS is the first time they’ve been in higher education. We have people who received their learning at home, from life, jobs and family and work; collaborating with people who have taken a range of paths, across a range of fields. Our current exhibition shows this—the many lives and learning that lead people to NBSS: young people, people with more years, people from Boston, people from across the country and abroad.  

And because we’re small, we can feel this range of lived experience every day. And it impacts us. And that’s important. Because it is rare to find a place with a common purpose that brings such a range of difference together. It speaks to the endurance of our fields that all kinds of people want to be furniture makers, and piano tuners, and carpenters, and book binders. It speaks to the breadth of our interests that people want to come to NBSS to grow and achieve and learn and challenge themselves. At any age, at any stage of their lives, and from any background.  

These are the people here, the people who you worked next to on the jobsite this spring. Or who was setting the stone into a ring next to you. Or unloading a wood-run with you.  

I don’t take this very special, very rare situation for granted. Because it is easy to find kindred spirits, people who think and live and approach life as we do. But it is much more rare to have true meaningful and lasting collaboration with people with different viewpoints than you, with different backgrounds or values. It is one of the things that I feel protective about at our School; making sure we protect a space where people can come together around a shared love of tools, care with materials, refinement of understanding, hard work and skill—and do this through instruments, buildings, books, history, and service. A place where we can hold space and respect different forms of knowledge, intelligence, ability, approach, and life-path.   

I feel very lucky to get to work in a place that values these differences and knows that our fields will be stronger—now and in the future—when more people are a part of them, through direct work and with support. I hope, as you leave NBSS and take your skills and unique life experience into community, into new collaborations, that you’ll help create ways for others to share in what you know, how you can help. NBSS leaves the North End and goes out to the world through you. Reflect that back to us as you go.

“I hope, as you leave NBSS and take your skills and unique life experience into community, into new collaborations, that you’ll help create ways for others to share in what you know, how you can help.”

On this theme of productive collaboration, let me thank some of the key collaborators here that make today’s graduation possible.

First to the family and friends joining us: thank you for being here today and tuning in from a distance to cheer on your loved ones. We know that within the success of our students are the families, partners, pets, and friends who helped make this day possible.

Perhaps closest to our students here, in the shop, in the field, at the bench are our faculty. Not only does their work represent the highest level of skill and expertise in our very specialized fields, but they orchestrate so much learning across both their program groups and each individual. Always adjusting and adapting to their students, the pace of learning and work, the projects at hand.  Teaching and leading is requires remarkable dynamism, every day different, every group unique, every project important. Thank you!  

They don’t do it alone. Thanks are also due to our Teaching Assistants, a new group of talent at NBSS. Our TA program helps give opportunity to recent graduates, develop a new and diverse pool of talent, and further support students. Thank you, TAs, for your work and the experience that you’ll take into your own careers.  

My appreciation also goes to our staff: every day this group makes the parts come together to strengthen our programs. Your work touches every aspect of the fullness of NBSS and you always have an eye for how things can be better, what opportunities exist, and how NBSS can truly function as a whole community.  

It is always fun to thank Tony Malionek, our organist today, high up in the balcony. Tony is a graduate of both our Basic and Advanced Piano Technology programs. Having Tony play—one of our own—is a special marker of NBSS tradition and celebration. Thank you, Tony. 

Every spring, when Tony plays for us and we mark the launch of new graduates becoming alumni, I am keenly aware of all the work, people, and partners it takes for us to get to this day. In addition to the groups I’ve mentioned, I want to also thank our Board of Directors and Advisors: an extended group of volunteers and advocates who make so much possible. They work closely with me and others, sharing their expertise and insight, and most of all, caring deeply about the work we do and the success of our students.  

So, with all those thanks to all those groups, I hope that you, our graduates, hear that as the fullness of the community that supports you and cheers for you as you go forward. Congratulations on your hard work, your tenacity, all the ways you’ve contributed to the evolution of this special School.  You’ve built to this moment and we are so proud to have you as our next group of alumni: becoming NBSS in practice, in service, in community. 

We’re so glad to have you becoming North Bennet in practice, in service, in community. Congratulations.

Remarks by Genie Thorndike CF ’16, Chair, Board of Directors

Each year the Distinguished Alumni Award is given to a graduate for professional accomplishments, contributions to industry, and work with schools and organizations which promote excellence in craft. I am delighted to announce this year’s 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award goes to Dan Faia CF ’94!

Dan is a master craftsman whose professional journey began when he graduated from the Cabinet & Furniture Making program in 1994. For the last 3 decades, he’s honed his skills as a woodcarver, furnituremaker, chairmaker, and educator. Dan currently operates a woodworking studio where he teaches small group workshops in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. When Dan isn’t teaching or working on period reproductions or custom commissions, he is usually busy in his shop pursuing his passion for traditional woodcarving. 

Dan’s work is displayed in both private and public collections. Last year, Dan was awarded the prestigious Cartouche Award by the Society of American Period Furniture Makers which honors “a craftsman that has demonstrated a lifetime excellence in period furniture making” and “inspired others.” Dan joined NBSS’s faculty in the Cabinet & Furniture Making Department in 2006 after first teaching workshops and helping to create the still popular Three-Month Furniture Making Intensive. He served as Department Head from 2010-2023 refining the curriculum and devoting his attention to individual student progress and success.

He has taught at various schools throughout New England, including the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts and the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. He frequently writes articles and produces videos for Fine Woodworking, is an active member of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters, the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers, and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers where he often presents and exhibits as well as at other organizations including Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Dan’s exceptional woodworking skills are matched by his teaching skills. The hundreds of fortunate students he has taught and mentored have gained not only knowledge but an inspiration for excellence and passion for craftsmanship. 

Please congratulate Dan Faia, our 2024 Distinguished Alumni.

Unfortunately Dan is unable to be here today, so he has written these remarks for me to read.

Remarks from Dana Faia CF ’94

Thank you to my fellow alumni for choosing me as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. It is an honor to be included with the talented people who previously received this recognition. I am very grateful for spending the last 30 years (and counting!) doing what I truly love. Woodworking is not just my career; it is an extension of who I am, and I am excited to keep moving forward and growing as a maker. 

Congratulations to all of today’s graduates. I’m sorry that I was unable to be here to celebrate this day with you. I’d like to share a few words of advice as you look forward to your next step.

This is only the tip of the iceberg! There are always more skills to learn and more ways to improve your craft. I can’t stress enough the value and importance of mentorship.

Look for every opportunity available to meet people in the field and soak up as much information and knowledge as you can.  Be humble, open-minded, and willing to work hard. There will be bumps in the road, but with honesty, integrity and dedication, you’ll persevere. 

Finally, if you find yourself on the wrong path, don’t be afraid to chart a new course. Have confidence in yourself, do what makes you happy, and you’ll end up right where you’re meant to be. I wish you well in your future endeavors!

Each winter, I start collecting names and ideas for who might be the right voice to connect with our graduates in May. I’ve tended away from people directly in our fields and instead, have looked for those who can help us see the places we’re connected to, where our work could go, and what is meaningful about what NBSS offers to broader efforts.  

I first met Klare Shaw first through her work at Liberty Mutual Foundation—serving as the National Director of Programs for their Corporate Giving—reaching to assist non-profits doing work in from Boston to Seattle and in between. But it was her work as the Board Chair of the Urban Farming Institute here in Mattapan, that captured my attention and made me more curious.

Here was a person managing a Foundation team that granted over $40M in contributions across the county, and yet still she was digging deep into her leadership to help a small historic farm in Boston establish itself as a site of learning, growing, producing food, and supporting neighbors. This was someone with national reach and influence, investing in local of-the-earth efforts. Naturally, I wanted to know more. And it was easy to find out: Klare’s name came up as I found the many intersecting efforts between community advocacy, philanthropy, social justice, education, historic preservation. It seemed that Klare’s work touched every circle.

Her experience has been built from leadership roles across public, private and corporate philanthropy; from early days at the State Arts Council, to becoming the Executive Director of the Bank of New England Foundation, and the Boston Globe Foundation. She developed a focus in the arts and in K-12 education; through her work at the Barr Foundation, and EdVestors, where she helped to advance arts learning for thousands of Boston Public School students. She has partnered with the City and with educational and nonprofit organizations across Boston, always finding ways to center and intersect youth, black-indigenous-communities-of-color, art, culture. And when I met her, farming as a form of social and community empowerment. 

It was exciting to me to get to learn more about Klare’s work and in it, see the powerful intersection of leadership, agency, advocacy, and heart— for Boston and for far beyond. From the neighborhood to the country, it reminded me of how many forms good meaningful work can take when you give it time, and talent and collaboration.

Please welcome, Klare Shaw. Thank you for all you do and for being with us today.

Thank you Sarah—your leadership here has continued to highlight North Bennet Street School’s recognition as one of Boston’s preeminent institutions. Thank you, Genie and other members of the NBSS Board, and any other school supporters present.

It is very moving to be surrounded by the 90 plus graduates from the nine career training programs, their spouses, partners, friends, and families. I know you will join me in thanking the faculty and staff of the school who will send you into the world armed with exceptional skills and enthusiasm. Finally, let’s express appreciation to the graduates. I am sure it has not always been an easy road; there may have been moments of doubt and even times when you wanted to stop your training—but still you persisted and here you are today. Congratulations all!
In many ways, I am an unusual speaker for your commencement—I am not a professor, a public intellectual, an artist, or a politician. But I am a second-generation Bostonian, (born in Roxbury) who through a lifelong career in philanthropy and a commitment to building community has left a fingerprint in many places throughout the city—even here.

On about ten occasions I have had the opportunity to be connected with this school, many times as your program officer who assessed NBSS for funding. Then several times as a community member who was a beneficiary of the skills from your Piano Technology programs. Once I was a consumer purchasing a ring at a benefit from one of your Jewelry Making & Repair students. I connected twice as a member of an educational working group that forged connections with the Boston Public Schools through Piano Technology and Locksmithing & Security. And occasionally I functioned as a sounding board when NBSS was working on its plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—trying to push forward to meet the changes needed for the social justice moment that America required. NBSS even connected with an urban agriculture organization I helped govern, the Urban Farming Institute of Boston.

We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected; where a faculty member from NBSS works on jewelry that appears at an exhibit you can visit at the Museum of Fine Arts, or a member of the Piano Technology program repairs an instrument in the 12th Baptist Church that my grandfather attended. That connection gives us an incredible opportunity for lasting impact, and the opportunity to be of service.
I have had an unusual spring. It was a spring when I attended a large number of graduations and funerals. My mother passed recently which has made me pensive. Being present at these events has made me reflect—considering what for many people are the bookends of life.

Commencements are the recognition of your formal skill-building, where graduates are viewed as having the training and the intellectual prowess to enter the world of work or advanced studies. It is your launching pad—whether it is a graduation from high school, college, medical school, or this fine place—it acknowledges the beginning of your professional career. At the other end of the path is your funeral, a time when people gather to assess your life, enumerate your contributions, and attest to your character.

What I would like to speak to you about is that space in between. That space is what you fill when you use your skills—your time, talent, and treasure to define yourself and craft your legacy. I would suggest that NBSS prepares you to develop your legacy by fostering three critical ingredients: creativity, inclusion, and service.
The first ingredient is creativity. Creativity is evident in the coursework and the skills imparted here. It is in the Preservation Carpentry program where you are adapting ancient techniques to solve modern problems. Creativity is shown in alluring work made in courses such as Cabinet & Furniture Making and Jewelry Making & Repair, but it also shows up in particularly elegant solutions devised in Bookbinding, Violin Making & Repair, or Carpentry.

Your education at NBSS allows you to use your passion and abilities to produce innovative solutions that beautify and uplift. I have learned of students using advanced technologies to mirror hand-hewn details. Imagine using your 21st century skills to reproduce the appearance of work from past eras? Fortunately, these innovative approaches multiply, and to quote Maya Angelou, “You cannot use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” How you utilize that creativity helps frame your legacy.

“Here, it is just assumed that one will be learning with someone who has a different perspective. It exposes you to new ways of being… How you embrace that inclusion widens your lens and helps add to your legacy.”

The second ingredient is inclusion, which NBSS projects by its very existence. Unlike some other schools, you have students here who are both traditional and non-traditional; with representation from a wide variety of ages, professions, life experiences and origins. I learned that one program has enrolled a retired surgeon, a recent high school graduate and a U.S. military veteran. This meshing is furthered by “PB &J Wednesdays” where students mingle over lunch with people they might never meet outside of these walls.

Here, it is just assumed that one will be learning with someone who has a different perspective. You may be creating besides someone who did not converse in English as their native language, or someone who is LGBTQ. Learning to form a community with such a diverse group of people is key for your future success. It exposes you to new ways of being—and prepares you to empathize and to engage with our increasingly varied world that is so influenced by culture, technology, and media. How you embrace that inclusion widens your lens and helps add to your legacy.

The final ingredient is service. The history of service runs deep in this institution. It is in the DNA. NBSS was founded in 1881, as a settlement house that was begun to help immigrants and those who lacked resources. The settlement house movement was very strong in Boston; welcoming and educating people and providing a path to self-sufficiency. This defines the school’s origins. Then the school became the dynamo it is now, a place offering nine career training programs, over 100 community education classes and partnerships, a store, exhibitions, public programming, and more.

Commencement speaker Klare Shaw

During its 143-year-old evolution as a professional crafts school the tradition of service has remained intact. Your 3,500 alumni living in every US State, and 23 countries, have preceded you in making strong community ties and using their artistry to improve society. You can carry forward that practice and use your skills in impactful ways, adding another ingredient to your legacy. How you serve others helps define your success and adds fulfillment and balance to your life.

I have already referenced the NBSS piano program where students tune and repair pianos for aspiring young musicians in the Boston Public Schools. But the school also has benevolent individuals, such as the recent graduate who I am told gained new training specifically to travel and provide security and safety to his community in another part of the country. Transplanting knowledge from Boston elsewhere.

I have to say that I am so humbled by the perspectives and talent evident in your student show. May you continue to use your skills for creativity, inclusion, and service and contribute solutions that will distinguish your legacy and benefit our world.

From longstanding remarks given by former NBSS Associate Director, Walter McDonald.

We may be almost finished here, but it’s far from over.

There’s a lot more to do. There will be mistakes from which you will learn. There will be customers you hope never to see again. New methods, equipment, and materials will change the way you work. You will get better and faster.

If you don’t get it right, you have a chance to do it better the next time.

There will be wonderful customers for whom you will do work over your entire career, and they will recommend you to their friends, and they will become your friends because of your work.

There will be a time when you finish a job, look at it and realize that a short time ago you could not have done it, and you would not have even known where to start. And you will realize how far you’ve come.

So in closing: May your tools stay sharp. May your work be scheduled a year in advance. May your customers always be satisfied, pay in a timely manner, and without argument.

You have skills and knowledge that few people share. You can use these skills to make life better for others. You can be justifiably proud of jobs well-done.

Now we’re finished here. It’s time for you to go out there and do great work.