ST. JAMES, Md. — Commencement is a bittersweet time of year for everyone at Saint James School because the older students act like mentors for their younger counterparts, the school’s headmaster said.
“This is not a school in which the graduating class graduates like a month before exams so we can get rid of you,” said the Rev. D. Stuart Dunnan, headmaster of Saint James. “We actually need you. We need you to be here. We need you to be on campus and really to help us take care of the younger students.”
But for 39 students in the Class of 2012, it was their time to say goodbye.
More than 200 people, including family, friends and classmates, attended Saint James’ commencement exercises Sunday morning on the lawn in front of Claggett Hall.
“Saint James empowers you as you journey through the school, all of you, and that prepares you to lead a powerful life,” Dunnan said in his opening remarks.
Serving as the ceremony’s guest speaker, John M. McCardell Jr., vice chancellor of The University of the South, talked about the history and near-extinction of an extremely rare southeastern United States bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Mainly due to destruction of its native swamp forests, the woodpecker, also called the “Lord God bird” among other names, was believed to be extinct in the mid-1940s until it was sighted again near the small town of Brinkley, Ark., in April 2005, McCardell said.
“Miracles can and do happen,” he told the crowd. “Something that had been thought lost, had now been found. What amazing grace had brought this about.”
The story served as a reminder that the biggest opportunities and discoveries can occur when and where people least expect them.
“As you travel life’s interstate highways, from time to time, get off at a Brinkley, Ark., exit,” McCardell said. “Allow yourselves to be amazed.”
After receiving her diploma and celebrating with classmates on the ceremonious steps in front of Claggett Hall, Alyssa Glass was feeling “really, really overwhelmed.”
The Chambersburg, Pa., native and varsity girls’ soccer player at Saint James is headed to The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., in the fall to major in pre-med and join the school’s gymnastics team.
“This is really exciting. Happy, sad,” Glass said. “I’m going to miss my friends, but it’s been a great experience and I’ll have so many wonderful memories from here.”
Another graduate, Hannah Louise Itell of Williamsport, admitted that she got a little emotional about leaving the independent college-prep school.
“Yesterday at baccalaureate, I was a little bit of a waterworks, but today I’m just kind of more excited,” she said. “I’m very proud of everything from Saint James and I love this place.”