Music, fun and a few somber moments highlight 88th Unionville Commencement
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
NEWARK, Del. — At times solemn, at other times raucous, Unionville High School’s Class of 2011 celebrated the school’s 88th commencement just one way: it’s own.
The packed ceremony at the University of Delaware’s Carpenter Center featured a lot of things one might expect from a graduation: a look back at the past, some advice for moving forward and — of course — no small amount of celebration for the graduates and their friends and families.
But, Unionville being Unionville, there were more than a few unusual touches, from somewhat somber references that this will be retiring Superintendent of Schools’ Sharon Parker’s final ceremony, to a live music performance in lieu of a student speech that brought the house down to more than a few tongue-in-cheek references to the chaos and controversy regarding the renovations of the high school.
Unionville High School principal Paula Massanari set the tone for the afternoon, characterizing the event with two words: priceless and bittersweet.
“All of you have had the good fortune to receive a priceless education,” she told the graduating class. “Isn’t there a teacher, you’ll never forget, one you’ll tell your children and grandchildren about?” She noted that despite that, it was understandable that many students might feel a bit bittersweet about moving on from Unionville.
Parker, when she took her turn to address the graduates moved rather quickly to disperse any sense of sadness at her departure, and rolled into a rollicking, fun talk starting with her memories of graduating from Interboro High School in 1964.
“It was a steamy, drippy night,” she said, after invoking the old “dark and stormy night” joke. “We wore rented gowns of wool. They bore the stains and smells of those who graduated before us.”
She spoke a bit about the nature of youth and admitted that even now, she still feels like she’s still 18 years old.
“Part of you will always be 18,” Parker said. “Those around you will tell you you need to grow up. But…everyday I look in the mirror, I find myself a bit shocked to see the face looking back. The hair that was once blonde is now grey and gravity has not been kind to me….but I know the sound of my laughter and of my beating heart have not changed from when I was 18.”
She cited Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and read some of the lyrics to the pop classic and ended with: “Today a community sings of you,” she said. “And you are the pride of Unionville-Chadds Ford.”
Parker left the stage to loud, sustained applause.
Senior Savy Leiser was the first of three students to speak and spent some time looking at a letter she had written to her future self while still in middle school.
“I expected to own a DeLorean,” she told the audience, noting that Back to the Future had been her favorite movie — which featured the silver-bodied sports car as a time machine. The letter, Leiser suggested, was its own sort of time machine, serving as a reminder of how much she had changed and grown during her high school years.
Max Berger took things in another direction, having a lot of fun with his speech.
“This is what we all dreamed of,” he said. Being up here on the stage, wrapped in a blue table cloth, wearing a square hat.”
Berger made light of various school issues, from parking to the construction dust and dislocation, but said he valued his time at Unionville and hoped he could give his own kids the same sort of experience.
“I want my children to grow up in a community like this,” he said.
Kacey Stewart continued the construction jokes with his speech, “like our school, we’re all under construction. The only thing complete is the foundation, but we’ve had pretty good contractors.”
He then surprised the crowd by ripping of his graduation gown and hat — and picked up a guitar and harmonica rig and completely blew the house down with an original song in Bob Dylan style: “The best of the best come from Unionville.”
Dr. Mike Magnan, chair of the social studies department was named at Educator of the Year and was fairly blunt in admitting that he had a certain fondness for this graduating class.
“Class of 2011, you are my favorite class,” he said.
For an awful lot of folks in the audience — it was pretty easy to share that sentiment.