The 161 members of The John Carroll School's Class of 2014 have the distinction of graduating during the school's 50th anniversary year, a fact immortalized in a time capsule created by some of the graduates.
"May the heritage that we pass on to the future be honored as treasured memories of our legacy of Catholic education in Harford County, just as we honor and celebrate all that has been passed down to us since 1964," President Richard O'Hara told the graduates assembled on the Gerry Gray Memorial Field for Saturday's 47th commencement ceremony.
Friends and family members of the graduates sat on the concrete stands, looking over the Class of 2014.
The John Carroll School's Bel Air campus opened in September 1964; the school was named for Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in colonial America and the founder of Georgetown University, according to the school's website.
O'Hara said the time capsule, which was a project of the Student Affairs Council, will be opened in 50 years during the 100th anniversary of John Carroll.
Campus minister honored
Campus Minister Patti Murphy Dohn, who will retire this year after 33 years with the school, got a surprise honor during the opening of the commencement ceremony when Principal Madelyn Ball announced that a scholarship had been established in her name with financial support from Del. Donna Stifler and her family.
Stifler's daughter, Kelly, is a member of the Class of 2014.
Ball said the scholarship will go to a student who exemplifies "the fruits of the Holy Spirit."
"We will think of you every day when we say, 'God is good, all the time,' " Ball told Dohn on stage.
Stifler said later that the Patti Murphy Dohn Christian Character Scholarship of at least $1,000 will be awarded to a student, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, who shows "Christian character" based on the attributes stated in Galatians 5:22-23, including "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control."
Ball extolled the Class of 2014's academic achievements, which included earning more than $9 million in scholarships and grants, as well as their community service.
She noted each student must complete 60 hours of community service to graduate, but this year's graduates had performed more than 16,000 hours of community service collectively, about 6,500 more than required.
"That is truly an example of your appreciation of the common good," Ball said.
She encouraged them to "spread the good news of Jesus Christ" by living their lives in accordance with the principles laid out in the gospels.
"You won't have to say a word," Ball said. "Just live your lives accordingly."
Valedictory, salutatory addresses
Lindsay Kraus is the Class of 2014's salutatorian.
She noted her class is a "mile-marker class" because of its association with the 50th anniversary of the school.
"It's an enormous responsibility and a massive honor for our class, but I couldn't imagine a better group of people," Lindsay said.
She recalled a meeting between her class and a man who survived the Holocaust; she noted his strong sense of humor, despite living through a genocide, and his description of everyday events as "unbelievable."
"To the Class of 2014, you are all truly unbelievable," she said.
Margaret McGuirk is the valedictorian.
"Our class is so special," she told her fellow graduates. "Seriously, you guys rock!"
She highlighted her class bringing back the tradition of the senior class variety show, and said the qualities such as creativity and perseverance demonstrated while putting the show together "are the building blocks of the great things that I know we will [do]."
"Each and every one of you has the potential to set the world on fire, and I mean that in a good way," she said.
Margaret challenged the graduates and the members in the audience to "put down your phones and your cameras and experience the world with all of your senses."
"Appreciate what is happening now, because you only live once," she said.
Peter Long, a 1985 graduate and recipient of this year's Rev. Charles K. Riepe Alumni Award, was Saturday's graduation speaker.
He is the president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which works to extend health care to low-income people and end domestic violence in California, according to the foundation website.
O'Hara extolled Long's "zeal for social justice."
"Your alma mater is deeply proud of you," O'Hara said.
Long's mother, Betty, was in the audience Saturday, and his late father, Jim, was a long-serving teacher and school administrator.
"To be selected from among my peers and fellow alumni is humbling – and slightly daunting – but it's a tribute to my parents and the education that I had," Long said.
Long's professional life has included serving on the South African constitutional convention during the 1990s in the wake of the fall of the apartheid government, and he encouraged the graduates to remember the concept of "ubuntu," or "people are people through other people."
He also encouraged them to show gratitude to those who have helped them along the way, and those who will continue to help them.
"As successful as any of us are, we never do this alone," Long said.
School officials announced during the ceremony that Class of 2014 member Xavia Kieran Borys Pirozzi, who died during her sophomore year, would receive a posthumous diploma.
Dohn said later that Xavia died in March 2012 after a lengthy battle with lymphoma; the diploma was presented to her family during Wednesday's awards ceremony.
She was 15 years old, according to her obituary.
Graduates Emily Stasuk, 17, of Baltimore, and Clarke Rich, 18, of Bel Air, gathered with their fellow graduates and relatives after the ceremony, posing for pictures.
"I'm really excited," Clarke said. "It's been a really awesome four years."
Clarke said she plans to study biology at Illinois Wesleyan University; Emily plans to study elementary education at Kean University in New Jersey.
"It doesn't seem real, but I'm excited to start the next chapter of my life," Emily said.
They were also excited to be part of the 50th anniversary class.
"We've been through so much at John Carroll, and it's awesome to have some special recognition," Clarke said.
Emily echoed her friend's sentiments.
"It was just so meaningful and memorable," she said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun