Henry Harms Graduates From Oakwood School

Nelsonville student plans to study economics and engineering

Henry Harms of Nelsonville graduated from the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie on June 7. Harms had been at Oakwood Friends since eighth grade and is among a graduating class of 26.

Henry Harms (Photo by Michael Gallo Farrell, courtesy of Oakwood Friends School)

Henry Harms (Photo by Michael Gallo Farrell, courtesy of Oakwood Friends School)

At Oakwood, Harms was active in school musicals, urged to do so by Vince Vincent, chair of the arts department there. He performed in The Light in the Piazza and, in his senior year, the lead role of the Emcee in Cabaret.

“Vince was key,” said Harms. “He pressed me and then he taught me how to sing.”

A self-described “numbers person,” Harms will be attending Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, participating in a “3-2” program, in which he will study economics there for three years. Assuming requisite progress, he will then study mechanical engineering at Columbia University in Manhattan for two years. In the end he will have two undergraduate degrees, one from each institution.

Commencement at Oakwood Friends, a school based on Quaker principles, is different than at most area schools. The night before, there is a senior class dinner with faculty, friends and family. After the dinner, all go to a candlelit meeting for worship where some participants, after silent contemplation, are moved to speak extemporaneously.

All students, not just the seniors, attend graduation the next morning. It is held outdoors under a sprawling copper beech tree on the grounds of the school. The graduates sit in front of the tree facing the audience. Speeches by those other than graduates are limited, saving time for one of the more unusual aspects of an Oakwood Friends School commencement: Each graduate speaks for up to three minutes in an often-emotional reflection on her or his years there.

Oakwood Friends School was founded in 1796 and is an independent, coeducational, college preparatory day and boarding school guided by Quaker values, serving grades 6-12.

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