Porter-Gaud’s Stellar Class of 2021

Commencement Set-Up (image from Walton Sign and Graphics)

Surprisingly, I haven’t missed teaching much at all – until last night when I crashed Porter-Gaud’s Class of 2021’s graduation. These were the last students I had taught and wanted to see them as a group one last time.

Because of the pandemic, the ceremony took place in the stadium, not the Green, and there was no stately procession to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The candidates-for-graduation sat with their families in rows designated by blown-up images of their senior portraits printed on large cardboard placards. Large video screens straddled the temporary stage that had been set up in front of the home seats, so once it got dark enough you could see the students receive their diplomas close up.[1] Traditionally, on the Green, faculty members presenting awards share the stage with the graduates, but last night, faculty, administrators, and staff sat six feet apart on white wooden folding chairs diagonally facing the stage. 

As a non-invitee, I was not hip to the change, so after parking my car in the Lower School lot, I headed to the Green, but the gates were locked, and a weird, Twilight Zone silence prevailed. I heard the soft growl of a golf cart, and my pal Andrew of the Security Staff allowed me hop abroad with a couple of grandparents and whisked me to the stadium about five minutes before the ceremony began.

Several faculty chairs were empty, and my friend Kael Martin graciously invited me to grab one.

Truth be told, attending graduation was not one of my favorite Porter-Gaud responsibilities. In fact, I didn’t enjoy my own high school graduation with all the speeches and award presentations. However, what made last night so special for me was seeing just how grown up the sixteen-year-olds I had taught two years ago seemed. On a day-to-day basis, you don’t notice the transformation; however, twenty-four months is one-ninth of their lives, and the changes were profound. They were taller, leaner, more confident. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed them. What hadn’t changed was their openness and friendliness.

By all accounts from my colleagues – and I heartily agree – the Class of 2021 was superlative, one of the top classes ever. They were dealt a bad hand by historical forces beyond their control and made the best of it with stoicism, good humor, and grace. 

I wish every last one immense success and happiness. 

[1] You know, like an arena rock concert.

image credit, Jamie Elliott

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