As the sun shone on the 226 newest Prep alumni and their families on Wednesday, it would have been tempting to view the day as just another step back toward normal life at Prep, a celebration not just of the Class of 2021 as they prepare to move on from Grand & Warren, but of a weight that continues to be lifted, day by day and bit by bit, as the pandemic’s grip continues to loosen. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story of the Class of 2021, nor of the 14 months that began in the midst of their junior year.
Rather than a distraction to be swept aside or viewed as having diminished the Prep experience for the class, argued student speaker Andrew Smith, ’21, the global and personal challenges of the pandemic instead define the bonds of this unique class and redefine what it means to be “Prep alumni, Prep brothers…Prep men.”
“Our white tuxes all match, polished and perfect like every other Marauder who has walked this same maroon line,” he said. “Yet, our experience was not synonymous with theirs. Our maroon line was much more rugged, embedded with the unknown of what tomorrow could hold.”
“While yes, we are Marauders,” he added, “this year, we became pioneers…Yes, we faced discomfort and anxiety and overwhelming loss; however, we did so, as we do all things: together and All for the Greater Glory….Our legacies we leave behind shall pave the way for Prep men who recognize our perseverance, our integrity, our dedication, and our camaraderie, even in the face of the utmost adversity. Today, we get to own…this new standard and this new experience that we have upheld Prep men to. We get to own that…we are now the definition of Prep men.
In the faculty address, Mr. Fred Galano, P’22, a member of Prep’s Religion Department as well as Director of Financial Aid, encouraged the class to engage in the sort of reflection that forms the backbone of his “Finding God in All Films” elective: “[Y]ou can do the same thing with the events of your day, or the events of your life. Think back, through the events of senior year. What was your favorite scene from this year? Relive that scene in your mind. Who were your favorite characters that you encountered this year? Be grateful for them. If there’s a musical score or theme to go along with this year, what would it sound like? How can you apply what happened to you this year to something that you learned or read about?”
“By doing this,” he explained, “you can catch glimpses of whoever or whatever God is to you in those reflections. It’s about finding God in all things.”
That process of discovery, discernment, and reflection, is perhaps the greatest gift Prep alumni take with them after graduation. In his closing remarks, Prep’s President, Dr. Michael Gomez, Ed.D., ’91, referred to the theme for the upcoming 150th anniversary celebration (Pride & Glory | Then. Now. Always.) in sharing his hopes for the graduates. “Obviously, when you think of your Prep experience, you have a then and a now of your own. Your always is just starting now. And to so many of us, the always means more. The always is what it has always been about,” he said.
“The Prep experience does not just help define the person you are, but it motivates you to constantly refine the person you will be for the rest of your life. And I hope as you continue this lifelong refinement, the refinement of your mind, heart, soul, and character, I hope you make a great discovery: the holy boldness and sacred madness inside of you…that stirs your soul to love and dream…the one that creates an unstoppable dream inside of you that puts a dent in the universe when it comes true.”
More from Prep’s 143rd Commencement: