Mercersburg Academy grads celebrate with stogies instead of Silly String 6/7/08

June 11, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

MERCERSBURG, PA. -- MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews might have missed Mercersburg Academy's graduation Saturday to cover Hillary Clinton's announcement that she was suspending her presidential campaign, but jokes of his absence made multiple appearances at the academy's 115th commencement.

"I don't know what Chris Matthews was going to speak about, but odds are that right now, he is drinking beer in an airport bar with a nagging feeling that he forgot to do something important," said Tom Thorne, second-string commencement speaker and instructor of Latin at the academy.

Neither no-show celebrities nor 90-degree heat could stop the 122 graduates from having their moment in the blistering sun and sending the pomp and circumstance up in smoke.

With a cigar clenched in his smile, Christopher Freeland said the cloud of smoke is a tradition at the academy.

"As soon as we have our diplomas, we light them," he said while taking a puff. "We are not allowed to smoke on campus as long as we are students, and we are not students any more."


While the graduates opted for stogies rather than Silly String, their joy was much deserved, Head of School Douglas Hale said.

Twenty-four students received the President's Award for academic excellence, more than any class in the academy's 115-year history.

"Only 11 students in the history of this school received this honor," Hale said. "This year, we have 24."

The ivy, limestone and prestige did not stop family and friends from whooping it up when their graduate was awarded a diploma.

"Oh my gosh, I am totally overwhelmed with pride right now. My heart is beating a hundred miles a minute," Linda Gordon, mother of Cree Riley, said while she watched her daughter. "She is my first to graduate, and I am so incredibly proud of her."

Student speakers at the ceremony included valedictorian Remy Wheat of Richmond, Va., salutatorian Emily Weiss of Greencastle, Pa., Schaff Orator David Strider of Charles Town, W.Va., and Class Orator Laura Diller of Chambersburg, Pa.

Class President Ethan Strickler gave the welcome, Diane Schrom provided the invocation and Chris McClintick gave the benediction. Christopher Freeland and Lauren Dobish served as class marshals.

Number of graduates: 122

Valedictorian: Remy Wheat

Salutatorian: Emily Weiss

On the Web

Read about all the Tri-State-area graduations and view hundreds of pictures on our Web site at Just click on the Photo Store icon and click Graduation - Class of 2008.

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