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Celebrating the Class of 2022

Tenacious. Curious. Hardworking. Innovative. Brave. Engaged. These are but a few of the words that can be used to describe Durham Academy’s Class of 2022 — a group of young adults who have faced countless challenges in the last couple of years, remained undaunted in discovering their passions, and are now well on their way to making their dreams a reality. 

This class is an interesting — and interested — collection of young people. There are numerous aspiring engineers. The founder of DA’s first-ever Cricket Club. An airplane pilot. An expert tennis ball juggler. A budding entomologist. A producer and composer of hip-hop music.

Seniors’ favorite classes range from Planetary Science and AP U.S. History to the Augustine Teaching Literacy Skills class and In The Pocket music ensemble. They have loved their time competing in speech and debate, learning Mandarin Chinese, staging professional-level theatre productions, raising thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and making history on the baseball diamond. They’ve leaned on one another in student affinity groups and held the hands of Special Olympics athletes.

Durham Academy’s 102 seniors are worth getting to know. Learn about each of them — their interests, reflections on their time at DA, and words of wisdom for younger students — at www.da.org/graduation.

Class of 2022 Senior Profiles

View Senior Profiles

For the Next Chapter …

Members of Durham Academy’s Class of 2022 are headed to 65 colleges and universities, some close to home, many across the country, and one on the other side of the globe. This class has been awarded an impressive number of scholarships, including UNC-Chapel Hill’s Morehead-Cain Scholarship, the Coca-Cola Scholarship, Georgia Tech’s Stamps President’s Scholarship, the University of Texas at Austin’s Forty Acres Scholarship, and National Merit Scholarships.

View the Full Class of 2022 College List

Words of Wisdom

Thomas Phu — Upper School history teacher, assistant varsity girls soccer coach, head JV boys soccer coach, and father to daughters Meghan ’23 and Julia ’20 — was chosen by the senior class to speak at Senior Dinner on Wednesday night. He delivered some humorous reflections and wise advice for the road ahead.

“Class of 2022, you and me, let’s just put it this way, it was not love at first sight. You were a really squirrelly, irreverent bunch, who didn’t really pick up after yourselves, especially after lunch,” Phu said as the audience laughed. “And to you, I was probably overbearing and uncompromising and probably unapproachable, but in the intervening years, you have really, really grown on me like kudzu. Or we have really, really grown on each other.

“We’ve had the best front-row seats watching you metamorphosize and blossom into the individuals that we see in front of us today,” he continued. “Individually and collectively, you have accomplished this amazing feat while dealing with and navigating through the most unconventional sort of circumstances for the past few years. What an inspiration you are.”

Thomas Phu


The theme of Phu’s speech was what he described as authentic pride — the kind that can make people more patient, more persistent in the face of challenges and resistant to temptations that might prove distracting to reaching for their goals. 

Phu, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was a child, shared a story about how he defied his father’s expectations of a pre-med path to pursue a career in teaching, which strained their relationship for years until his father visited St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Virginia, where he was then teaching. As Phu showed his father around, they ran into the head of school and upper school director, who sang the young teacher’s praises. That prompted a revelation: “I introduced my dad to them, and of course I had to translate what they said to him, it was all good stuff. And then my dad looked at them, and he turned to me and said something in very, very, very broken English with a bit of Cantonese thrown in, to the effect that he was glad to hear that they were happy with my work. He used a Cantonese phrase, 開心 [phonetically, hoi sam]. So, hoi sam in Cantonese means his heart is open and joyful.”

Phu paused here to collect himself as he recounted this story, recalling how stunned he was to hear those words of praise for the first time in his life, in recognition that he was successful in a career he loved. Phu shared that his father had passed away 14 months ago, and explained that that 20-second interaction when he was 26 years old, the pride it instilled, has propelled him to this day. And he shared the collective pride of teachers, coaches, mentors, colleagues and friends with the Class of 2022.

“We are proud of you because of what you’ve achieved in the classroom, on the athletic field, in visual and performing arts, debate, student government, the list goes on and on and on and on. And you have pushed that Sisyphean rock up the mountain every day. But in the end, when we really get down to the marrow, what I am most proud of, what we as faculty and administrators are most proud of, is that you are just good eggs. …” he explained. “There is kindness and empathy and truth and resilience and hope and courage and joy, and there’s a quiet confidence in this group. These attributes come up again and again in your interactions with one another, in your community engagement and in one-on-one exchanges with adults for the past four years, with me especially.

“You have grown so much from the pesky little ninth-graders that I remember, to the young adults ready to tackle the world in front of you,” he concluded. “So tonight, and on graduation day, be proud of who you are, sit a little more upright, sing your class song a little louder, and when your name is called … just sashay across that stage with a confident smile across your face.”

View Senior Dinner Photos