Webb School of California Celebrates 2022 Commencement
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Blake Johnson told the Webb School of California’s Class of 2022 to work hard and persist during his keynote address at the school’s 100th Commencement Exercises.
About 450 family, friends, faculty and students joined the 45 graduates at the spirited commencement ceremony, which returned to its traditional location on the The Webb Schools’ Alamo lawn after a three-year, pandemic-driven hiatus.
The event was filled with cheers and laughter as the graduates celebrated the completion of a high school journey rocked by campus closure in March 2020 and online instruction for 2020-21 followed by a triumphant return to in-person classes and boarding in 2021-22.
Johnson, a 1995 graduate of Webb School of California, is a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur who has founded and sold several businesses valued at more than $1 billion, including Byte, a direct-to-consumer dental aligner company. Forbes lauded Byte as the fastest company ever to reach a billion in valuation not funded by venture capital or outside investors.
Johnson is also active in multiple philanthropic endeavors. He created the Blake Johnson Alliance to inject innovative approaches into community support. While running Byte during the pandemic, he converted his 3D printers to make masks, face shields and ventilator parts for frontline healthcare providers.
Johnson talked of the lessons he learned from tending cattle in El Centro, California during his Webb school summers and at his first job in the financial world — the importance of hard work, innovation and persistence.
He said the Class of 2022 graduates have already learned some of these lessons, especially given their need to contend with the challenges of the pandemic.
In future years, the graduates should continue to associate with people who also exemplify the values of Webb.
“The people you surround yourself with will have a much bigger impact on you than you can ever imagine. Be very thoughtful about who you bring into your inner circles,” he said. “Use all the tools and the knowledge you’ve gained here and make us proud.”
The graduates also heard from Head of Schools Taylor B. Stockdale, Associate Head of Schools Dr. Theresa Smith, Class of 2022 President Jayden Akpengbe and Valedictorian Arshia Sazi.
Sazi urged his classmates to live lives of meaning, and not pursue the easy path.
“Live life in the present,” he said. “Disregard the worry of the past and how it coalesces into the future.”
He said his fellow graduates should give their talents to making a real difference in the many challenges the world currently faces.
During the ceremony, Stockdale also honored Col. John Rogers ’59 as an honorary trustee in recognition of his years of service to the school, and bid farewell to Alf Museum Executive Director Emeritus Dr. Don Lofgren, who retires this month. Lofgren is credited with turning the small museum into a world-class institution over his 30-plus years of service.
In addition, the school honored two teachers with faculty awards for their dedication to their craft and students. Dr. Mark Lauer, a humanities teacher, received the Laurence McMillin Excellence in Teaching Award and science teacher Nika Haleftiras received the Thompson and Vivian Webb Award.