After growing together over four years at Grand & Warren, through classes and clubs, through athletic events and adventures near and far, and through the tragic loss of their classmate Jeff Hoens, '17, last summer, the 226 members of the Prep Class of 2017 prepared to embark upon their new journeys Saturday as they celebrated Prep's 139th Commencement.
Student speaker Theo MacMillan, '17 was uniquely positioned to ponder the brotherhood that has formed among his diverse classmates. He was homeschooled along with his siblings before coming to Grand & Warren, giving a new meaning to the notion of classmates as brothers! When he arrived at Prep in the fall of 2013, he explained, "I was looking for friends and a community, and although I hadn't articulated it yet, I was looking for people to call my brothers." But it would be a different sort of brotherhood he found here. "What I shared with my brothers at home didn't seem to lend itself to defining brotherhood in the world, and at Prep."
Instead, he would discover brotherhood at Prep is more complex. "We urge each other to into going on religious retreats like Kairos and Emmaus. We care about each other's religious lives. We push each other to stand up against injustices in the world, and to be open to views we haven't heard before...We help each other grow academically...We support each other when disaster strikes." And when it comes to the "Grad at Grad" goals of being open to growth, religious, loving, intellectually competent, and committed to doing justice, "Prep has taught us these five traits over the four years we've been here, but perhaps more powerfully, we've taught ourselves."
In the faculty address, Mr. Rich Peters, '85 of the English department described Prep as a place where students with diverse interests each find a way to contribute to the community. Reflecting upon the growth of newer athletic programs such as water polo and fencing, he remarked, "Even both my brothers played 'niche' sports at Prep...But we have far more niche sports than ever before. I'm sure that term, 'niche,' makes Rich Hansen cringe, but hopefully he'll soon be sporting a state championship fencing jacket. And it isn't just sports; robotics, Vox, CLC, and other clubs and activities allow less mainstream students to find their niches, their cozy spots."
Many personalities, fitting into many niches, he explained, mean that "Saint Peter's possesses a staggering wealth of human capital. And the interaction that occurs within the walls of our school or under the banners of our institution constitute what is called social capital – the sharing, communication, and collaboration of talents and knowledge to improve an environment.This social capital is Prep's niche, what it does best. And what it does best is give students opportunities to share and collaborate with others: peers, mentors, alumni, supporters, even strangers."
Mr. Peters reflected on the opportunities that come with twenty years teaching at his alma mater, and interacting with a new crop of fellow Prep men each year. "Each year, I have a second chance at attending high school, and each year I'm getting a little better at it," he said. "So after twenty years, I think I finally got it right. I must have gotten it right, because I'm the graduation speaker! And whom do I have to thank for it? The boy who looked out the window all year; the boy I wanted to throw out the window; the students that cursed me under their breaths; the students who cursed me over their breaths; the students that eventually became colleagues; even the students that vanished after graduation.
Remembering his brother, Dan Peters, '86, who passed away just a few weeks ago, Mr. Peters recalled telling the Boy Scout troop he leads that Dan was a great scout, "not because he earned so many merit badges, or achieved the Eagle rank. He was a great scout because he became a great husband, and a great father, and a great community leader, and a great co-worker. And that's what I want from you...with commitment, that niche will become your legacy."
Having discovered their niches at Grand & Warren, it's now up to the Class of '17 to secure that legacy in the next chapter of their journey.
The timing of Mr. Peters' faculty address was apt, as he and Mr. Hugo Elo of the Operations Department were both recognized with the Bene Merenti award, honoring their 20 years of service to Prep. In addition, as he heads to a well-deserved retirement following 45 years in Prep's History Department, Mr. Carl DeLorenzo, '67 was presented with the Insignis Award, the highest honor for members of Prep's faculty and staff.