James Buchanan awards 160 diplomas

June 05, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Jessica Landis, valedictorian at the class of 2002 commencement exercises at James Buchanan High School Tuesday, told her classmates that they should feel blessed to live in a small town.

The commencement was interrupted by a thunder storm that rolled over the football field, forcing hundreds of parents and grads to head to the high school gymnasium where the ceremony resumed.

James Buchanan High School, known affectionately among students and former students as "the high school in the middle of a cornfield in a town with one street light," is a place where family and friends have value, said Landis, one of 160 graduates.


"It's a cohesive community where people find belonging and fulfillment," she said.

"It's impossible to find words," said Salutatorian Marcus Rauhut, in an address to his fellow graduates. "We've had four memorable years ... it's hard to let go."

Rauhut said he learned much at James Buchanan. "I learned a new language, how to drive and how to do taxes. If we learn this much in four years, imagine how much more we have to learn," he said.

Class President Deric Gochenauer laced his remarks with humor telling his classmates, "It's finally come at last. Our parents can't control us any more."

Gochenauer presented School Board President Jeffrey L. Spidel with the class of 2002's gift to the school - a new sign over the entrance to the press box in the football field.

Schools Superintendent William Konzal told the graduates that their senior year had a different focus because of the events of Sept. 11.

Stephen Fritz, class of 1976, was the graduation speaker.

Fritz grew up in Lemaster, Pa., and earned a degree in accounting from Shippensburg University. He went on to become president of garment maker Jantzen. His father, Harry Fritz, 72, still drives a school bus in the Tuscarora School District.

Stephen Fritz urged the seniors that to be successful in life they have to always be prepared to succeed, be ready to succeed and stay ready to succeed.

He used as an example World War II Gen. George Patton, great-great-grandson of Hugh Mercer, an aide to George Washington in the Revolutionary War and namesake of Mercersburg.

"I use George Patton as a picture of someone who was ready to succeed," Fritz said. "He had patience. He was 59 years old. Success doesn't always come on your schedule. He prepared himself and when the opportunity came (to take over the Third Army after D-Day) he had the preparation and the confidence to rise up and succeed."

The way to stay ready to succeed in life is to keep learning. He said personal computers and cell phones didn't exist when he graduated from college, he said.

"New technologies similar in impact will come out in the next 10 years," he said. "This will be obsolete what you know right now. You need to stay current."

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