Honored guests, trustees, colleagues, parents, grandparents, family members, friends and members of the Class of 2019, it is my privilege to open this Commencement.
Once again, we gather to celebrate the achievements of a senior class at GSB and an extraordinary year. Indeed, the weeks since Convocation in September have been nothing short of amazing. Of course, I am referring to the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series last October and the New England Patriots collecting another Super Bowl trophy in February. And now the Boston Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals; yes, it has been a truly special year… at least for me. I know… I better enjoy it while it lasts!
Of course, our own GSB Knights were even more successful this year, garnering a state championship in boys’ soccer, a state prep championship in girls’ tennis, yet another county championship in basketball (with the team finishing the season ranked #4 in the state) and several of our teams advanced to the state sectional finals, most recently, the boys’ varsity baseball team.
In addition, the new PACC opened in November, with a list of shows, concerts and other events too lengthy for me to detail. It is difficult to remember what things were like before this fantastic facility came on-line and how it showcases the many talents of our students and faculty. I do hope though, that with the close of this academic year, I can finally get the lyrics to the Trolley Song out of my head (Clang clang clang went the trolley…).
We are here this afternoon to recognize a special group of young women and men who have worked hard (most of the time) to complete the course of study here at GSB and have qualified for the diploma. Commencement signals the formal end of their secondary school experience and after today, they now begin the next chapter of their educational journey in college. That list too, is most impressive.
However, before we can award the diplomas; there are some traditional thank you’s and acknowledgements that must take place. First, I ask the members of the graduating class to now stand and applaud your parents. Without their commitment, support and love, you would not be here today.
Second, I ask you to remain standing and give a round of applause to your teachers. They have given countless hours of their time, both inside and outside the classroom and today their work is done.
Finally, I ask that the members of our Board of Trustees stand and be recognized by all. These women and men give generously of their time, talent and resources to make our School the best it can be, with no thought of receiving anything in return. This is the essence of the trust they hold, and we are grateful for all they have done for Gill St. Bernard’s.
The Gill St. Bernard’s School Medal was established as a way to recognize those rare individuals who have made an extraordinary impact on the School through their service. This medal is rarely awarded and is the highest honor the School can bestow upon an individual.
There is a very special member of our community who is retiring this year who merits this recognition. Stephen Graham came to GSB in 2001 after a successful career in the world of finance. Assuming the role and responsibilities of Business Manager and later CFO, he has overseen the School’s budget, numerous construction projects, the food service, health & safety, managed our relationship with both Peapack Gladstone and Chester Township and much, much more. In his 18 years, he has literally left his mark on almost everything here. I could not ask for more from a colleague or a friend, despite him being a diehard Yankee fan. In short, Steve has been a loyal and dedicated steward of the School from day one. He will be sorely missed as he begins the next phase of his life in retirement.
For all of his many contributions, I am honored to present the Gill St. Bernard’s School Medal to Stephen Graham.
Indeed, it has been an extraordinary year for Gill St. Bernard’s School. Against and amidst a plethora of issues here, in our country and throughout the world, we have persevered, and worked together to find a way forward. Many situations have tested us; requiring patience, compassion and doing what is right. These things have challenged us to learn what it really means to be a community and to support each other.
In particular, we have struggled this year with the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Marilyn Dori, who passed away in December. However, throughout everything we have encountered this year our school has endured and in that process we have grown and become stronger.
On many occasions in the past few months, I have considered the words of the great American novelist and playwright, James Baldwin, who once observed, “Not everything that is faced, can be changed . But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Using the Gill St. Bernard’s core values as our guide, let us resolve to continue to address the difficult issues of our lives, together, as a unique and special community of learners.
Finally, as we take time to celebrate the Class of 2019 today, I hope that we might offer them more than just congratulations. Let us also offer them our encouragement, the encouragement to face the future, confident that they are prepared to handle what comes next; and change what needs to be changed.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.