While senior year brings a lot of exciting experiences and privileges, it also includes a big senior thesis project. Each senior chooses a topic, a faculty mentor, writes a paper and gives an oral presentation on their chosen subject. This year, senior Anna Clair Byrd gave a unique and thoughtful presentation on what CCES and being a Cavalier has meant to her during her time at the school, culminating in the presentation of a hand-crafted stained glass Cavalier logo which she gifted to the school in honor of Dr. Leonard Kupersmith.
Anna Clair’s idea to create a stained glass piece for her project goes all the way back to her childhood. She explains: “when I was younger, my mother and her Bible study created stained glass windows for people in our community.” Anna Clair “saw the impact that they made and begged and pleaded to participate.” She wasn’t able to when she was that young and as time passed, her involvement with athletics grew and she slowly lost touch with her desire to create a piece.
When it came time to pick a topic for her senior thesis, Anna Clair was mulling over a few different topics, but ultimately wanted it to be “something that has impacted her life more than anything” and find a way to honor that. It was at that time that she thought of the school and “the community, the love, the support and the relationships” she has experienced here. She made the decision to combine her love and appreciation for the school with her previous interest in stained glass. She states: “Growing up, I would have been the last kid you would have found near the arts and crafts station. I steered clear of it and focused on the field. However, when I was exposed to stained glass, I experienced a fascination in the arts unlike ever before.” Anna Clair chose to create a stained glass logo with the Cavalier face and the “C” behind it. Her reasoning was that this symbol represents CCES, “a special place that prioritizes community and family.” For her, the logo represents that “no matter the adversity faced, the Christ Church community stands behind you” in support.
Her faculty mentor, Jeanne Kotrady, spoke of Anna Clair with the utmost respect and admiration. Kotrady says that Byrd was “very determined and self-motivated” and did “most of her work over the summer.” She also states that Anna Clair really “took on the project, learning how to make stained glass” and putting a lot of thought into choosing the Cavalier face as the focus. Kotrady has been at Christ Church for 17 years and said that this was “one of the most original senior thesis projects” during her time.
While her project was already beyond thoughtful, no one was quite prepared for what Anna Clair had planned next. During her oral presentation, during which Dr. Kupersmith was present, Anna Clair unveiled the stained glass logo and gifted it to the school in honor of him. This idea was with her from the beginning, as she “felt that this piece would mean so much more to her and the school if she gifted it in Dr. Kupersmith’s honor.” She believes Dr. Kupersmith is “exactly what it means to embody the Cavalier spirit” and wanted to honor him as they both wrap up their last year at CCES. She wanted to use this gift to “show that his hard work and dedication, not only to the school as a whole, but for each and every student, does not go unnoticed.” Jeanne Kotrady said Anna Clair kept the gift a secret and didn’t tell her until only a few weeks before her presentation. Kotrady was “thrilled and thought it was a beautiful idea” and said “most people had tears in their eyes” during the unveiling.
Dr. Kupersmith says that as Anna Clair unveiled her art work as a tribute to him, he was “incredibly touched and honored.” He notes how the stained glass Cavalier “merges school pride with artistic talent” and with it housed in the Lower School, it will serve as a reminder to young students “to honor the Cavalier ethic,” where we are “to strive to personal excellence in all that we do.”
It is fitting that a student who chose the Cavalier as her topic is considered by many to also be an embodiment of that spirit. Anna Clair is a member of the Girls’ Soccer team and can often be found cheering on other athletic teams. James Greco was her coach for the past three years and he states: “Anna Clair is a terrifically competitive athlete. I have seen AC battle through injuries and team challenges to lead the program well over the past three years. She has a terrific sense of humor, knack for shepherding the younger players, and puts her best effort out on the field for every game. She may be small in stature, but she’s larger-than-life in terms of her character and love of CCES.”
Although Anna Clair’s time at CCES is coming to an end, her gift will serve as a reminder of what she values most about this school and what a unique opportunity it is to be a Cavalier. This school is one of special community, relationships and support. If you are interested in being a part of the CCES community, visit www.cces.org. Click here for information about admissions, click here for more information about athletics and as always, GO CAVS!