“Let us then offer our prayers to God for all his people, for this school, and for our new Head of School, Jeneen DiBenedetto Graham.”
With those words from The Right Reverend John Harvey Taylor, the attendees in Pasternack Field House stood on their feet in thunderous applause. The ovation lasted for more than five minutes—a prolonged outpouring of love and support for Dr. Graham, the fifth Head of School at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School who was officially installed during St. Margaret’s Day on Thursday.
The ceremony took place in Pasternack Field House and was led by Bishop Taylor, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and chairman of St. Margaret’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Graham was formally presented to Bishop Taylor by Board of Trustees President Dana Sullivan.
The ceremony was a joyful celebration of St. Margaret’s, Dr. Graham and the community. In addition to the students, parents and professional community, dozens of special guests in both the school community and the local San Juan Capistrano community were in attendance, including Trustees, former Trustees and Emeritus Trustees, professional community emeriti, former Head of School Marcus Hurlbut, community leaders including San Juan Capistrano mayor The Honorable Howard Hart, and friends and family of Dr. Graham, including her husband Andy and sons Robbie ’19 and Reid ’22, both Tartan alumni, and her parents Joanne and David DiBenedetto.
“To all of you, the community of Tartans who have cared for and loved my family for close to 20 years, thank you,” Dr. Graham told the attendees. “As I look out on all of you, I see current and former students, parents, grandparents, Trustees and professional community members—all part of a beautiful tapestry woven in friendship and strengthened by our shared values and eternal hope for a brighter tomorrow. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for each of you. I am deeply honored to be your new Head of School.”
The school community offered gifts for Dr. Graham as she embarks in her new role. The gifts were symbolic gestures from each area of the school community and included:
Early School: A mirror surrounded by tiles adorned with self portraits of Early School students.
Lower School: A Hawaiian lei, a custom-designed House League shirt with all four colors sewn together, and a red sweater.
Middle School: Artwork featuring linked rings with a message from each Middle School student.
Upper School: A charcuterie cutting board, made with wood from Dr. Graham’s home state of Massachusetts.
Alumni: Two scarves, one from alumni and one from the parents of alumni and legacy grandparents.
Professional Community: A gratitude journal and a handcrafted vase with notes of gratitude inside from professional community members.
Parents: A western hat representing the school’s San Juan Capistrano roots.
Board of Trustees: A framed copy of St. Margaret’s core values.
Church: A Bible, as a symbol of faith but also a reminder “that you are not in this alone.”
Community: A proclamation recognizing and honoring Dr. Graham from the City of San Juan Capistrano.
In addition, Tartan students offered their time and talents to make the ceremony special. Students presented readings, helped create and share the gifts to Dr. Graham, and sang favorite Chapel songs such as “Things I’m Thankful For” and “This Little Light of Mine.” In addition, the band, orchestra and Highlander Chorale students came together for a beautiful rendition of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and later closed the ceremony with the school’s alma mater.
After Bishop Taylor presented Dr. Graham to the community, she addressed the audience with a heartfelt message of gratitude, a nod to the past, and a look ahead to St. Margaret’s bright future.
“As I humbly follow in the footsteps of our founder, the Reverend Canon Ernest Sillers, the former Heads of School Mark Campaigne, Marc Hurlbut and Will Moseley, I promise to honor our traditions while moving the school forward in new and exciting ways, always guided by our mission, core values and Episcopal identity,” Dr. Graham said. “I can’t wait to see all that we will accomplish together.”
to view the program from the Head of School Installation.