05/30/10 — Wayne Country Day seniors say their goodbyes, thank yous

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Wayne Country Day seniors say their goodbyes, thank yous

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 30, 2010 1:50 AM

Headmaster Todd Anderson was positioned in the hallway at Wayne Country Day School Friday morning, giving last-minute instructions to marshals before the 39th commencement ceremony began.

He called the 19 diploma candidates this year an "extraordinary group" of young men and women.

Faculty were also wistful as they donned their own caps and gowns and prepared to line up for the proceedings.

Cathie Hooks, a teacher in the middle school, said, "It's really sad to lose such important people in our school. It will certainly be empty without them."

Athletic Director Michael Taylor recalled when he started working at the school seven years ago.

"This class was in the sixth grade," he said. "So I have seen this group grow up through middle school and high school ... It's just been an honor to see these kids grow up and go off to college."

"It's a big day, especially with your first grandchild," said Hal Tanner, Jr., there with wife, Linda, and other relatives to see Georgia Tanner walk across the stage.

Tanner said the occasion was "kind of sobering" as well as momentous -- Georgia is the first of 12 grandchildren on her father's side and 13 on her mother's side to graduate from high school. She was also co-salutatorian for the class.

"It's exciting, and we're real proud of her, I can tell you that," he said.

The Carolina Brass performed throughout the 45-minute ceremony.

Two awards were presented to outstanding educators at the school.

"Every year I ask the seniors who their most memorable teacher was," Ander-son said. "They come up with the same list. They list nearly the entire faculty."

Recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award were Edward Clark, chairman of the history department, who also delivered the faculty address, and Ann Hine, a kindergarten teacher who is retiring.

"I told her she couldn't (retire)," Anderson said, to which she came back with a reason he couldn't argue with -- she is going to be a grandmother and that's a full-time job. "She has been a giant during her time here."

When it came time to determine valedictorian and salutatorian, it was a very close race, the headmaster said.

"Two students finished in a dead heat and they were awarded the salutatorian award -- Cameron Ford and Georgia Tanner," he said before introducing the valedictory speaker.

Blake Marchese, he said, turned down the chance to attend Harvard so he could go to college in North Carolina. It helped that he received the prestigious Benjamin N. Duke Scholar-ship, which provided a full ride to attend Duke Univer-sity.

Marchese told his classmates about the importance of their "obligation to posterity," which entails setting an example for others.

"We impress an influence on every person, whether we realize it or not, and our influence is not always positive," he said. "We are constantly looking up to someone, whether it be our parents, coaches, peers, politicians, business leaders, friends and neighbors, to uphold morals and values and represent the paragon of the person we want to be when we grow up. ...

"Each individual in this class is the person he or she is today because of everyone else around them as well as those who came before us. So, from this day, let us go forth and shape the world just as it has shaped us."

Clark passed along four suggestions for the next phase of the students' journey -- it is better to give than to receive; always do the right thing; power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; and everything in life does not always go as planned.

He encouraged them to make learning a life-long habit, and to leave the world a better place than they found it.

"When the going gets tough, embrace the words of the poet William Ernest Henley, whose poem, 'Invictus,' I have always found inspiring. ... Repeat this mantra often -- 'I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.'"

As each student's name was called, he or she approached the microphone, expressed thanks to faculty, family and friends who had been supportive during his or her educational journey, then accepted the diploma and paused briefly for a photo with the headmaster and Trustees Chairman Judson Pope.

"I could stand up here for hours talking about how much people have done for us," graduate Quinton Grady said. "This is seriously one of the best schools in the entire nation."

"I'm going to miss this group," said Landon Case, co-president of his class.

Co-salutatorian Cameron Ford covered all bases in his remarks.

"I want to say thanks to everybody in this room because whether you realize it or not, you have influenced me," he said.

Outside moments later, students were reunited with the family and friends who were there to cheer them on.

"It's nerve-wracking," said Julie O'Donnell, who plans to attend UNC-Wilmington and study exercise science before embarking on a career as a physical therapist. "I'm not ready for high school to be over."

She said she came to the school two years ago, transferring from a much larger school in Chapel Hill.

"I can't imagine graduating with a better class or being at a better school," she said.

Grady said he looks forward to going to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall and was glad to be "finally done with high school," but with some mixed feelings.

"It has hit me. I feel like later on it may really hit me," he said. "I just really appreciate everything."

The rest of his day, he said, would be spent celebrating with friends and family -- "the people that have helped me out along the way."c