McCallie is an All-Boys Private Boarding School and Day School, a Christian-based College Prep School. 
McCallie seeks out and accepts boys from all ethnic, racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds and places a high value on a diverse student body.

McCallie celebrates newest alumni at 2021 Commencement

  • Academics
  • Upper School
Head of School Lee Burns addresses the audience


The 116th graduating class of McCallie received diplomas during a ceremony Sunday, May 16 held in Spears Stadium on the school’s campus. The outdoor location was used so graduates and spectators did not have to wear face masks.

The 156 graduates will now disperse to 86 different colleges and universities in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Head of School Lee Burns ’97, Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Ruffin ’80, and Class Valedictorian Daniel Jeong, addressed the graduates. Mr. Burns called on the graduates to lead their communities and nation to a new era of unity marked by truthfulness and gracefulness.

“McCallie School, and especially your teachers and counselors, has impressed upon you the importance of truth. Truth both with a capital T and a lower case t,” Mr. Burns said. “We need truth-focused, truth-speaking leaders who will restore trust throughout all parts of our society. Honor the truth, men. 

“But truth isn’t enough. We need grace, too, and that has also been impressed upon you by your teachers during your time at McCallie.

“Learn to listen empathetically to the stories of others, knowing we all have our points of pain, our wounds and even scars, as well as our hopes and dreams. Listen with the intent to learn, with the desire to love. Speak with civility, even as you may disagree. We can love one another even as we have differences of opinion and belief. See our common humanity. See past the differences, the faults, of others to see their needs. Be gracious and generous, remembering God’s grace to us. A grace-filled life, a generous life, is a good life, a God-glorifying and a God-enjoying life.”

Mr. Ruffin ’80, told the graduates, “you have worked hard and achieved much in the last four years to get to this moment. “You will continue to set goals and work hard to reach them your whole life. In fact that is what life is, a journey. And it is a great journey.”

Mr. Ruffin shared with the students quotes from Robert Hasting’s The Station (the full text of The Station can be found here).  “In The Station, Mr. Hastings reminds that on our journey through life, reaching the final station isn’t the important thing . . . The true joy we find in life comes from the journey. So don’t let your quest for achievement along the way ever keep you from enjoying the ride. It is the most basic opportunities we always have available to us that make the journey result in a successful trip – a happy life.”

Mr. Jeong, a day student from Lookout Mountain, used the passage from Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” to reflect how members of the Class of ’21 have lifted each other during some challenging times. “Our iron is important. Many people spend years looking for it. Some search for a lifetime, constantly seeking the right community. They look for a place that has people like those at McCallie. The Ridge has been a place where we can laugh, cry, and grow. It is a home away from home, a second family. We’ve lived in a safe haven of sorts, a place where we can take risks and fail without suffering detrimental consequences. And what’s best is that if we fall short, there’s always someone who’s happy to pick up the pieces, whether it’s a teacher, coach, or friend.”

He continued, “The McCallie brotherhood that we’ve come to love won’t be in our daily lives anymore, but we’ll always carry a piece of it with us, the long blue line connecting us wherever we may be. . . We’re leaving our iron behind, but having endured hardships and forged inseverable bonds, we’ve experienced the value of finding a community that not only welcomes and accepts us but also challenges and pushes us. We know what good iron looks like, so let’s approach the next chapter of our lives with the attitude of seeking new, fruitful friendships and relationships.”
Salutatorian Caleb Olumofi from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was recognized, as well as the recipient of the Grayson Memorial Medal, Alex Williams of Ooltewah, and Faculty Scholars, Sammy Barr, Connor Bronze, Turner Davidson, Bill Gu, Jack Harris, Jiayi Li, Pax Poggi, Michael Sizemore, and Alex Williams.

More photos from this special weekend for the Class of 2021 are posted on our online photo galleries here and here, and a recording of the commencement live stream can be found here.


Graduates sitting on the field
  • commencement