Commencement 2018 | Goodbye, Graduates!

July 26, 2018

Compiled by Stephen Gamboa-Díaz

On Sunday, May 20, the ISM presented its newest graduates with their ISM certificates at a banquet at the New Haven Lawn Club. Some of our students and fellows accepted our invitation to reflect on their experience at the Institute, and their plans and hopes for the future. 



Elizabeth Bickley (M.A.R.) joined the ISM primarily to study “sacred place, public ritual, and sensory culture with Prof. Sally Promey. Each semester, Sally’s courses taught downtown in the art history building carried [me] into the heart of the city, a path that became fortuitous. [I] expected to be launched towards museum curation and [am] grateful for the influences—especially the walks downtown and hours writing papers on park benches —that shifted [my] attention towards the built environment and curating public spaces. Two years in the company of poets, architectural historians, musicians, ministers-to-be, and liturgically-minded people at the ISM has been invaluable.” Elizabeth is grateful for the ISM’s support, including conference travels and collaborative place-based projects. After graduation, she looks forward to serving on church building committees and working as a project manager of public space activation and design for downtown New Haven.

Ting Bok (M.A.R.) is grateful for the opportunity to learn from the dedicated ISM faculty (especially Peter Hawkins, Christian Wiman, and Teresa Berger), fellows, and her extremely talented peers. The process of coming up with a colloquium presentation topic, giving it flesh, and finally presenting she found both memorable and rewarding. After ISM, she will work as a simultaneous interpreter, take on a couple of book translation projects, and possibly adopt a cat.

Samuel Ernest (M.A.R.) is grateful to have been part of the ISM during his time at Yale and will look back with fondness to relationships he developed on the Spain trip. In the upcoming year, he will remain in the New Haven area to work as he applies to doctorate programs to continue studying theology, literature, and sexuality.

Zachary “Zak” Fletcher (M.Div.) “cannot imagine the last three years at Yale Divinity School without the ISM.” He will particularly miss singing in Schola, and was happy to hang on a little longer, remaining in Madrid with ISM support for the month of June for Spanish language study, and ministry at the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Cathedral under the watchful eye of Spencer Reece (M.Div. ‘11). In July, Zak started a yearlong hospital chaplaincy residency at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, with the intent of becoming a professional chaplain.

Joseph Kemper (M.M.) will continue his graduate studies at the University of to pursue a D.M.A. in choral conducting. During his first year at Michigan, he will be the conductor of the Residential College Singers and serve as assistant conductor of the Women’s Glee Club. He is appreciative of the incredible experiences provided by the ISM, and is especially grateful for his mentorship by Maggie Brooks, Jeff Douma, David Hill, and Masaaki Suzuki. Lastly, he is thankful for the lifelong friendships that have been formed during these two years.

Michael Kurth (M.Div.) writes: “My ISM experience has been life changing. I will take with me many moments of God-filled joy, from gazing at the ceiling of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg to infinite laughs and smiles at sherry hour. I am certain that the friendships I have formed here across academic and professional pursuits will last long beyond our final month together. Here’s to you, ISM!”

After two “amazing years” at the ISM and Yale, Simon Lee (M.M.) is returning to the north-east of England to resume his duties as a Lay Clerk at Durham Cathedral. He says he is “going to miss the people of New Haven hugely, especially the concert office staff, and [I] hope to be back to visit soon!”

Megan McDermott (M.Div.) will be a curate at an Episcopal church in New England. She is particularly grateful for the many (and vastly different) churches she visited on the 2016 ISM Study Tour to the Baltics, which helped her realize that “[the] ability to see beauty in a variety of different worship settings is a gift, rather than a burden.” She is also thankful for the encouragement provided by ISM requirements to continue pursuing her love of writing; she hopes always to be a poet as well as a priest.

David McNeil (ISM certificate ’18; D.M.A. ’21) will be taking a position on the faculty of Colorado Christian University in the fall, and he is “excited to see how working with the wonderful professors and colleagues at the ISM have prepared him to serve in that way.” David treasures his experiences singing in Schola, travelling with the ISM, and working with the broader community in chapel services. He is also grateful for the chance to work closely with the other students in the conducting program over the past two years.

Nicholas Quardokus (M.M.) is thankful for time spent at the ISM, with all the opportunities for student collaboration and camaraderie. He will especially treasure memories of working as an organist in Marquand Chapel, spending numerous hours with Michael Kurth refining their Colloquium project, and enjoying time with friends during the study trip to Spain. In the fall, Nick will begin work as organ scholar at St. Paul’s Parish, K Street, Washington D.C.

James Reese (M.M.) looks forward to continuing his work with his ensemble, Variant 6, in Philadelphia, as well as maintaining an active solo and ensemble career.

Jonathan Sanchez (M.Div.) is grateful for the opportunity to have formed friendships and work with colleagues from a variety of disciplines while at the ISM. Next year, Jonathan will pursue a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC. Afterwards, he plans to apply to doctoral programs in New Testament studies.

Xiao Situ (M.A.R.) writes: “The ISM is a very special place. As an inherently interdisciplinary person, I needed a place that could hold space for my thinking and creativity, and provide colleagues and resources to support it. I am deeply grateful to the ISM for being that special place.”

Sam Stella (S.T.M.) writes: “The ISM colloquium gets touted as the heart of the ISM’s intellectual community. Initially, I was skeptical of the required two-hour class I had to take in the middle of the week, to say nothing of the presentation I would be required to give. But I came to see exactly how and why faculty and administrators spoke of colloquium the way they do. It was invaluable to see and hear my peers become passionate about their projects. Nowhere is the ISM more ‘interdisciplinary’, and therefore true to its ideals, than in the colloquium. I will miss it.”

Abigail Storch (M.A.R.) is deeply grateful for the chance to spend the past two years exploring “word-craft, worship, and music-making, all in a community of dear friends.” She is especially thankful for the travel opportunities and Spanish language acquisition that the ISM has afforded her—memories and skills that she will treasure for life. A fierce advocate of the Oxford comma, Abbie will work as a research assistant to Sterling Professor Harold Bloom and as a freelance copy editor after graduation.

Janet Yieh (M.M.A) is extraordinarily grateful for her three years at the ISM, particularly the opportunities to serve as organist for Berkeley Divinity School and organ scholar at Christ Church and Trinity Church on the Green, and for the teaching and guidance of Professors Thomas Murray and Martin Jean! This August, Janet moves to New York City, to begin her appointment as full-time associate organist at Trinity Church, Wall Street.

Other ISM graduates: Gabriel Benton (M.M.), William Doreza (M.M.),  C. H. Victor Gan (M.A.R.), Dustin Gavin (M.A.R.), Amy Giuliano (M.A.R.), Josiah Hamill (M.M.), Sally Hansen (M.A.R.), Andrew Hendrixson (M.A.R.), Octavia McAloon (M.M.), Bradley Sharpe (M.M.), Addy Sterrett (M.M.), Matthew Sullivan (M.M.), and Sze-Long Wong (M.A.R.).


Barbara Haggh-Huglo (ISM Fellow) thought deeply this past year about medieval foundations of sacred music in Ghent and how their financing and multisensory realizations might serve as models in the modern Church, as she alternately immersed herself in the rich offerings of the ISM, Connecticut, and New York City, and withdrew to reflect and write in her office. After she samples and compares the aldermen’s registers of ten European cities to those of Ghent this summer, she plans to complement her forthcoming books with concerts combining early modern liturgical chant, polyphony, and organ music.

Other 2017–18 ISM Fellows: Charrise Barron, Anderson H. Blanton, Hyun Kyong Hannah Chang, Finnian M. M. Gerety, and Ramez Mikhail.


  • Elizabeth Bickley
    Elizabeth Bickley
  • Will Doreza, James Reese, Bradley Sharpe, Addy Sterrett
    Will Doreza, James Reese, Bradley Sharpe, Addy Sterrett
  • Kathleen Kilcup, Rodney Kilgore, Andrew Hendrixson
    Kathleen Kilcup, Rodney Kilgore, Andrew Hendrixson
  • David von Behren, Gabriel Benton, Nicholas Quardokus, Josiah Hamill
    David von Behren, Gabriel Benton, Nicholas Quardokus, Josiah Hamill
  • Michael Kurth, Zachary Flecther, Megan McDermott
    Michael Kurth, Zachary Flecther, Megan McDermott
  • Music graduates make their way to Sprague for commencement
    Music graduates make their way to Sprague for commencement
  • Matthew Sullivan, James Reese, Addy Sterrett, Bradley Sharpe
    Matthew Sullivan, James Reese, Addy Sterrett, Bradley Sharpe
  • Octavia McAloon, Margaret Burk, Joseph Kemper (4th from left), Hannah Goodwillie, Andrew Hon, David McNeil, Simon Lee
    Octavia McAloon, Margaret Burk, Joseph Kemper (4th from left), Hannah Goodwillie, Andrew Hon, David McNeil, Simon Lee
  • Samuel Ernest, Dustin Gavin
    Samuel Ernest, Dustin Gavin
  • Professor Vasileios Marinis
    Professor Vasileios Marinis
  • Laura Adam and Laurie Ongley enjoy the banquet slideshow
    Laura Adam and Laurie Ongley enjoy the banquet slideshow
  • Simon Lee, Joseph Kemper, and Octavia McAloon
    Choral conductors Simon Lee, Joseph Kemper, and Octavia McAloon
  • ISM prizewinners with director Martin Jean
    ISM prizewinners Abbie Storch, Kathleen Kilcup, Simon Lee, David McNeil, and Josiah Hamill, with director Martin Jean
  • Professors Thomas Murray and Martin Jean
    Professors Thomas Murray and Martin Jean
  • Divinity Commencement 2018
    Divinity Commencement 2018