ST. BENEDICT’S COMMENCEMENT: NOT YOUR ORDINARY GRADUATION CEREMONY
Ninety-two seniors receive diplomas; 50th Reunion Class of 1968 honored

June 4, 2018

St. Benedict's Prep's Commencement Exercise on Sunday included the customary pomp and circumstance that surrounds every graduation.

But what separates The Hive’s Commencement from any other is the spirited celebration, complete with song and dance, that makes the first Sunday each June one of the most inspirational days of the year.

What transpires after the standard presentation of the diplomas is a festive atmosphere that transcends Conlin Auditorium. The celebratory mood turns jubilant and gives all in attendance a glimpse of what takes place during morning Convocation at St. Benedict’s as the Senior Class bellows out the songs usually reserved for the early, schoolwide ritual on weekdays during the academic year.

Before things turned euphoric, however, there is the more formal portion of the day, which is isn’t unique to The Hive, but usually made up of speeches that keeps all eyes glued to the stage.

(View photos from St. Benedict's 144th Commencement Exercise)

Fr. Edwin Leahy O.S.B. ’63 kicked off the 144th Commencement with the Welcome Address before a packed house in the school’s auditorium.

“I’m here tonight to say thank you for trusting us and for providing us this opportunity to be of service to you,” said The Hive’s Headmaster. “We are able to turn another group of young men loose on the world to be a light in the life of somebody who may be wandering around in darkness.”

The day did have an emotional side when Luan Lamas gave the Salutatory Address. The native of Brazil, who came to the United States only two and a half years ago, got choked up when thanking his parents.

“I work hard to perform because of my parents - they support and trust me more than anyone else. Their sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here,” Lamas said, before directing attention to his parents, who flew in from South America to attend the event. “I’m able to go through all the suffering of distance because I have a little brother that I know misses and loves me like crazy. I dedicate myself and go through all these adversities because I know that there are thousands of kids in my country that share the same dream I have. They would do anything to have the same opportunity that I am blessed to have.”

The tone of the day got tough, too, when Ivan Lamourt, Psy.D ’82 gave the Commencement Address. St. Benedict’s Director of Counseling held no punches when discussing the challenges facing the 92 graduates from the Class of 2018.

“The reality is that you are about to enter into a world that many will say is spiraling out of control,” he said. “This year more students have been killed in school shootings than military personnel in combat zones. The opioid crisis continues to grow and claim more lives. The racial divide in this country seems as wide as it has ever been. The very freedoms that our ancestors sacrificed and died for are at risk of disappearing. At times it may feel like the country is ripping itself apart – but as we know, feelings aren’t facts.

“Feelings are powerful motivators that can direct behavior. The fact is that now, more than ever, the world needs hope. YOU are that hope. Yes – the world needs more Gray Bees!”

Lamourt stressed the responsibility these young men now have on their shoulders.

“I believe it is up to us, up to you, to live up to the values that have been instilled in you here at St. Benedict’s!” he stressed. “You must be ready to summon the hero inside of you every day. You have the power to change this country, to change history, with the decisions you make every day. You must not let fear keep you from dreaming about a future that is free of sexism, racism, hate and violence. Do not let fear paralyze you and keep you from acting.”

Liam Reilly, the Valedictorian, who is headed to the Naval Academy, gave the Farewell Address as the Senior Group leader for the 2017-2018 school year.

“The past four years of my life, were the best of my life, because of you guys,” said Reilly to his classmates. “I know the connection between us all is strong, but life gets more difficult and more stressful after today, so we all need to make sure that we stay in contact and more importantly not forget about each other.

“’Whatever hurts my brother hurts me’ and ‘whatever helps my brother helps me.’ Remember that motto when you leave here today and take it everywhere you go.”

Also honored during Commencement were members from the 50th Reunion Class of 1968. The members of the Class of ’68 were awarded a Golden Jubilee Citation and, just as the student graduates received their diplomas, the 50th Reunion class were invited to walk across the stage to be presented their citations by St. Benedict’s President Abbot Melvin Valvano.

The Class of ’68 began the weekend with a Friday evening gathering at the Biergarten in Newark, followed by their dinner the following evening, also in Newark, at Iberia Peninsula.

(Click here for photos from the 50th Reunion weekend)

Commencement Weekend began Thursday evening with the Awards Dinner honoring the Senior Class. Jerry Miraval picked up the evening’s biggest accolade by being named the 73rd Presidential Award winner.

“I want to thank all the faculty that were my mentors,” said Miraval, St. Benedict’s Freshmen Leader, who is headed to Boston College. “I want to thank all my friends here – my brothers. I wouldn’t have been the leader I am today if it weren’t for you.”

The other seniors lauded at the Awards Dinner were:  Liam Reilly, Headmaster's Memorial Award for General Achievement and the John Richard McDonough ’58 Memorial Award for Achievement in Humanities; Brian Pacceli, Rev. Casimir Finley, O.S.B. Memorial Award for Achievement in Mathematics; Ivan Jordan  - Rev. Laurence Grassman, O.S.B., '33 Memorial Award for Achievement in Science; Bryan Pino - Abbot Martin J. Burne, O.S.B. '32 Memorial Award for Achievement in Religious Studies; Liam Murphy-Torres - Thomas J. Hooper, Sr. '37 Memorial Award for Journalism and the Rev. Maynard G. Nagengast, O.S.B. H '94 Award for Achievement in the Visual Arts.

(View photos from the Awards Dinner Honoring the Senior Class)

The rest of the Senior Awards went to Aaron Sans (Music) and Myles Valentine (Theater) - Rev. John T. Browne, O.S.B. '47 Memorial Award for Achievement in the Performing Arts; Hunter Farinhas - John A. Conlin '41 Memorial Award for Service; Judah Marable - Carl Blake '80 & James Barnes-Hawkins '87 Award for Outstanding Improvement; Devionne Johnson - Thomas E. Durkin, Jr. '43 Award for Benedictine Spirit; William Adedeji - Thomas Huss '93 Memorial Award for School Spirit; Carlos Acosta - Rev. Mark M. Payne, O.S. B. '69 Award for Character and Leadership Development; and Luan Lamas – Michael A. DiPiano Sr. H’82 Hustle, Pride and Desire Award for Achievement in Athletics.

--Story by Ron Jandoli
--Photos by Mike Scanlan, Dr. Dennis Lansang
   & Michael Marmora