The murmur of friendships renewed filled the foyer of the ITE Building on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, shortly before 7 p.m. June 15.
About three dozen young men, many in suits, exchanged inside jokes and caught up on each other's lives as they awaited the start of the awards ceremony for the Cardinal Gibbons School's Class of 2011.
The setting was no match for the grandeur of the Basilica of the Assumption, site of the graduation ceremony for the 65-member Class of 2010 from what once was the all-boys Catholic high school, the only high school among 13 schools closed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore last spring.
But it was something special, nevertheless.
"Gibbons was pretty much the biggest part of my life," said Devin Elliott, aHanover resident who decided to take classes at the Keystone School, an online high school and middle school, instead of starting his senior year at a new, non-virtual school.
"It's a little bittersweet," said Elliott, who will attend Baltimore International College in the fall. "Every time I go by the building, it still hurts a little bit."
Cody Haigis, a Catonsville resident who will attend Towson University in the fall, said seeing his Gibbons friends lifted his spirits.
But it was not as good as graduating from the school, which closed at the end of the 2010 academic year, would have been.
"It was really hard coming up to the end of this year because I didn't even go back to another school," said Haigis, who was home-schooled for his senior year. "I didn't even get to really graduate.
"For me, this really helped, because this is my graduation."
During the ceremony, several audience members sniffled and fought back tears as alumni recalled what the school, which opened its doors in September 1962, meant to them.
Gibbons Educational Services, a nonprofit formed in March to support alumni and keep the memory of the school alive, organized the event.
"This became a formal step to recognize those guys after they graduated that they are indeed Cardinal Gibbons alumni," said Jay Dillow, a member of the nonprofit."More importantly for us, the big goal was to get all the guys back together one last time.
"We plan to do it again next year and the year after that, until all the guys there have graduated from high school."
About half of the 73 students in what would have been the school's graduating class attended last week's ceremony.
Each received a letter inducting them into the Cardinal Gibbons Alumni Association and a plaque with a photo of the school.
Among the students in attendance was Jordan Green, who was class president before the school on Wilkens and Caton avenues closed.
Green gave a speech about the Cardinal Gibbons School's importance to him and lamented the fact he couldn't return to the school he considered a home.
"It was a great experience," the Owings Mills resident said of the event. "It was nice to see all my classmates.
"It was a good time, but a little sad because we don't get to experience what the other classes experienced when graduating."
Green, who plans to attend Coppin State University in the fall and play baseball, noted a school tradition involving the class ring was among those that members of his class missed out on.
Upon receiving their class rings as juniors, students traditionally wore the jewelry so the graduation year pointed outward and the Crusader school mascot, pointed to the heart.
After graduation, the students turn it around.
"We didn't get to change ours. Now, I feel like being inducted into the alumni association we get to flip our ring on the other side, which is a big accomplishment for me," said Green, who promptly slipped the ring off his right ring finger and turned it around.
"That felt really good."