How to Gift your Graduate this Year An Interview with Dorian Hennessy, Class of 2020

How to Gift your Graduate this Year: An Interview with Dorian Hennessy, Class of 2020

I have been thinking a lot about my stepson, Dorian, who is graduating from high school this year. We were planning on going to Scotland for the ceremony next weekend and celebrating, but that is no longer the case. Although a few schools have organized voluntary and socially-distanced graduations, Dorian’s was cancelled, and the virtual graduation plans have not yet been finalized. His graduation gift was to go traveling with some friends that, unfortunately, has been cancelled as well. All of these changes are understandably disappointing, so it was important for to me to talk to Dorian to hear how he was feeling about it all

"His maturity and positive outlook given the circumstances are an inspiration to me and made me even prouder to be a part of his family! Read his thoughtful responses below!"

 All of this has also made me think differently about the ways in which we can make our graduates feel special this year from a gifting standpoint. 

When I graduated college, my gift was a summer backpacking trip through Europe with friends. We planned and coordinated every aspect of the trip ourselves: the various trains from country to country, the youth hostels where we would sleep, and the friends we would meet up with along the way. It was one of the most memorable and exciting trips of my life! I didn’t know that at the time though. So, in retrospect, I don’t know if I would have cancelled it or postponed it, if the situation was the same as it is today. I asked Dorian this very question and he chose to cancel his trip in exchange for something he can enjoy in the here and now. It was a difficult choice though!

In thinking about ‘here and now’ graduation gifts that seem special and memorable during this time, my absolute favorite idea is to pass something meaningful down within your own family. Dorian, for example,  is hoping for a watch that was passed down from his grandfather to his father. One day, he even hopes he can pass it down to his own son.  This sentiment is truly heart-warming and quite literally, priceless. If you go down the shopping route, however, it’s still an occasion for a gift that is meant to be kept or shared, and always remembered. 

Quite often, even a new watch makes a meaningful gift and can carry a lot of significance. It can say to your graduate, “Celebrate this time of your life,” or “May this time be remembered,” or “It’s time to get a job!” (Ha!) I personally love men’s vintage watches, like this La Californienne re-worked vintage Cartier Tank, classic and chic, yet modern at the same time.

For those of you with college graduates who are over 21, a virtual “Introduction to Wine” class is a fun idea and, perhaps, something your graduate might actually want to do with you (“perhaps” is the key word here!). Gift Me Chic has partnered with David Sawyer, a sommelier, to create this exclusive educational experience. In addition to the class, a pair of simple yet elegant wine glasses will make your graduate feel like they’ve taken another step into adulthood, especially when they pour a glass of wine for a friend and can speak about it intelligently.

I also love the idea of giving store bought objects more meaning by adding a personal touch. If I use Dorian as an example, he collects wallets and has been for years. If I bought a wallet for Dorian to add to his collection, I would put a $100 bill inside, along with a note that says something like, “Use this $100 to celebrate when you get your first  job!” I’ve always been a big fan of Italian fashion brand Bottega Veneta for their timeless accessories. I love this wallet because it’s genderless and small enough for a pants pocket or evening bag.

A friend recently told me about The Bunkie. It’s the perfect gift if you have a graduate that is not quite ready to leave the house, or if you’re not quite ready for them to leave the house. The Bunkie is a very small, yet modern glass walled cabin that can be constructed, with assistance, in three to five days. It is fully insulated and, if you chose, can be manufactured with a queen size wall bed, foldable table and chairs, ethanol burning fireplace, and compost toilet. It’s the perfect gift for staying close yet having them maintain their independence at the same time. 

These are just a few ideas, both from Gift Me Chic and elsewhere, to help inspire some thoughts as to what your graduate might appreciate as a meaningful and memorable gift. Understanding their frame of mind, like I did with Dorian, is a great place to start.. No matter what you offer them, when it’s done considerately and lovingly, the memory of what you did to make it special during these unprecedented circumstances is what will make the most lasting impression of all.

Happy graduation Dorian, and to all other 2020 graduates!  


An Interview with Dorian Hennessy, Class of 2020

1. It is a mementos moment in life when you graduate high school and prepare for college. How does it feel to be graduating remotely and not getting your diploma in person?

Yes, it is a mementos moment in all students lives. After 13 years of studying, to be able to reach this point is very exciting. However, it is quite sad not to be able to be in school with all of your friends, receive the diploma, go to prom, and celebrate afterwards. Graduating remotely is not how I imagined ending my high school experience, but my hope is that it is only a temporary solution. Perhaps there is the chance to all meet this summer and graduate in person, but we will see. 

2. Have you done anything to celebrate graduation with your friends remotely? If so, what did this look like?

My friends and I haven't done anything remotely, so I cannot not tell you what that looks like. Our goal, however, is to rent a house together in the near future (hopefully this summer!) and have a proper celebration. 

3. What are the school and your teachers doing to mark the occasion?

At this very moment we are not sure. My younger sister’s school, for example, is letting students come back to receive their diplomas, on a voluntary basis. My school is hoping to do something similar in June or July. 

4. How would YOU like to celebrate, knowing you are still in isolation?

If, by that time, we still can’t make it back to receive our diplomas and our family is still separated between countries, I would like to celebrate by having a family zoom and dinner  together. If the isolation is over, I would like to go to a restaurant and celebrate with my whole family.  

5. Graduations typically call for a special and/or memorable gift from your family. I know your gift was to go backpacking through Europe with your friends this summer. Is that something you’d prefer to cancel and, instead, get a gift you can enjoy now?

This is a very interesting question. I was meant to go travelling with some friends, but from the looks of everything this will not be possible. So, based on the circumstances, I think it is best to cancel it and receive a gift that I can enjoy now in a different way.

6. What kind of gift would be the most meaningful?

A family heirloom like my Grandfather's watch, for example, would mean the world to me to receive as a gift. It feels special to have something that has been passed down within my family, and my hope would be to one day pass it on to my son for the same occasion. 

7. As a young person who is living through this virus but has his whole future ahead of him, does this situation make you see things differently and, if so, how?

"I have no choice but to recognize that this is life at the moment. It has made me realize that you never know what will happen so we must learn to be adaptable and “go with the flow” when we cannot control our outside circumstances ."

It has also been a time for me to reflect on the past, as well as think about the future. Interestingly, it has actually made me rethink where I want to go to college. Before the virus, I was initially thinking about going to college in the UK, but then changed my mind and was in the process of discussing with my parents the possibility of doing a GAP year to travel and gain some life experience. However, because the SAT’s are non-mandatory for some schools this year, it opens up the opportunity for me consider going to college in the U.S. (my school is in Scotland so I had to choose between taking the SAT’s or A-level exams which is the European equivalent). My choices for college have now widened and, for that, I am grateful. 

More importantly, it has made me think about my family and how different it would be if everyone was together. I am currently in Paris with my sister and mom, but her side of the family is in Tennessee. My dad has been in New York City during this crisis. With everyone spread out and the time zone differences, connecting has been a bit more difficult. We’ve been doing a family meal over Zoom every Sunday at 7pm and that time works well, luckily because it’s dinner time in Paris and lunch time in New York City. The good news is that being at my mom’s house for this extended period of time has allowed me to tackle overdue projects in my bedroom including painting, putting up shelves, hanging my snowboard… I never would have taken the time to do these things so that has been one benefit.

8. Even more specifically, does the virus affect your thinking about your future career path?

The virus hasn’t necessarily changed my thinking about my career path, but rather, how I can potentially help change that field for the better. My dream is to be a sports agent and I have been following closely how spectator sports have had to adapt to the situation. I would imagine that some drastic changes need to be made to protect both players and spectators. Living through this pandemic has made me think about what is needed for the sports industry to thrive again in the future.

9. Are you worried about starting college in the Fall with the risks of the virus still among us?

I am not worried.I know that the California State University schools in the U.S., for example, are planning to start the school year with online classes, while others are choosing to re-open. Whatever college I end up choosing, I have to trust that it will take the best measures to keep their staff and students safe, no matter what the cost.

1 Response


June 06, 2020

Very mature and level headed young man!! I wish him all the best for a bright future.

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