After graduation rehearsal on May 30 at Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville, Headmistress and President Sr. Shawn Marie Maguire insisted that her girls would put on a perfect showing when the real thing came on Friday, June 1, on the Brooklandville campus.
During rehearsal, Sister Maguire talked the students through every part of their big moment: take the diploma, shake her hand, shake the chairman of the board's and turn back for a picture with Sister.
She explained each step with a smile and a guiding hand on the girl's back, no matter how many times she had to repeat it.
It was a familiar role for Sister Maguire — one of guidance and compassion — and one that the school will undoubtedly miss when she steps down this summer after 30 years as head of school, and 34 years total at Maryvale.
"She always has a hand on your back, and she's just always making sure we all know where we're going and have everything we need," said senior Shelby Kuhlman, 18, of Fallston, said after the graduation rehearsal.
Reflecting on her time at Maryvale, Sister Maguire couldn't pick just one thing she'd miss the most — but said graduation was certainly high on the list.
"You just hand (the diploma) to them and you're sending them forward," she said. "My hope always is, in any of the work that I did, that I could never make a difference — I myself — the way that all of these young women can."
As special as the 30th and final graduation as head of Maryvale was for Maguire, it was equally important to the 67 graduating seniors that the headmistress' final commencement be theirs.
"I think we're all really glad we got to have our last year with her," said Molly Henderson, 17, of Columbia. "Going to Maryvale wouldn't have been the same without having her here for our last year, and I think it makes it special that she was able to stay with us, and now she's graduating with us."
Sister Maguire said she decided last June that this would be her last school year. With the school's master plan almost completed — the school unveiled a new artificial turf field, track and humanities building in March — she knew she would leave Maryvale "in a vibrant position."
"I just felt that it was a nice time to hand this over to someone else who could take the reigns and move it forward," she said.
On July 1, Tracey Ford, director of development at Towson University and a former administrator at Notre Dame Prep and St. Paul's School for Girls, will assume the role of president at Maryvale.
Sister Maguire is unsure of where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur order will send her — her common answer to questions is that she'll tell you when they tell her — but she has plans for reflection, prayer and vacation.
"In all of my past years, I certainly have done that, but it's always been with a second thought back here," she said.
But if she does think back to Maryvale in the next chapter of her life, this year's senior class has left her with plenty to smile about.
At their annual gym meet at Oregon Ridge, Sister Maguire — wearing a tiara and red high-tops — was driven around on a golf cart and named "Queen of Gym Meet Forever."
And though she didn't know it yet at the rehearsal last week, they also presented her with a small token of gratitude and recognized her during the Baccalaureate Mass last Thursday night.
At their retreat in April, the seniors were challenged to have a "good goodbye," and chose to do so by getting Maguire a graduation cap of her own.
"We're all going to sign the bottom of it and paint a sunflower on top for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur," Kuhlman said before the big event.
During spirit week, the senior's displayed a big sign on their portion of the gymnasium wall that read, "Sr. Shawn, you're going with us."
"I appreciate them pulling me in," Sister Maguire said.
"I came here as a vice principal in 1978. To be leaving in my capacity in 2012, that's a lot of years," she said. "I always tell the girls they're much swifter than I am. It takes them four years. It's taken me all these years — but I wouldn't trade one of them."