Some of the 185 members of The John Carroll School's Class of 2015 have future plans that will take them hundreds or thousands of miles from the Bel Air campus they have called home for the past four years, but as one parent put it, they will always have a family at John Carroll.
"The John Carroll community has always stayed with me, my entire life," said Rich McCaughey, a 1985 graduate of the private Bel Air school who watched his son Collin get his diploma Saturday. "I have found myself coming back to this community time and time again. It'll always be a part of my life."
McCaughey, his wife Barbara and their extended family held oversized photos of Collin's head on boards like signs, which they called "fatheads."
Barbara McCaughey joked that the pictures were payback for Collin teasing his cousin Jordan Catalana during her recent graduation from Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. Catalana, who traveled from her home in New Jersey for the John Carroll commencement, held the largest fathead.
Collin took the fatheads in stride when he greeted his family after the ceremony, which was held on the school's new turf football field. He wore a broad smile and sunglasses as he hugged his parents and posed for pictures.
"I'm very excited," he said of graduation. "It's a long time coming."
Collin plans to study marketing at Salisbury University in the fall.
He described his emotional state as "a little melancholy, sad that [high school] is over, happy that I'm moving on, excited for the future."
Barbara McCaughey said her son's graduation is "everything you always hoped for for your child at this point in his life, but it's bittersweet, because it's never going to be the same again."
The school's 48th commencement, along with its annual baccalaureate mass, took place on the new artificial turf athletic fields, which were built during the 2014-2015 school year and blessed by a local priest earlier this month.
The commencement ceremony included remarks from school administrators, Billy Boniface, who is Harford County's director of administration, a 1982 graduate of John Carroll and the recipient of this year's Rev. Charles K. Riepe Alumni Award, salutatorian Rawlison Zhang and valedictorian Kathryn Deaver.
A posthumous diploma was also granted to Gloria V. Sedney, who died in December of 2013 during her junior year. She was 16 years old, according to her obituary.
Gary Scholl, vice principal for academics, called for a moment of silence in Gloria's memory before the diplomas were handed out to her classmates.
"Rest in peace, Gloria," Scholl said.
The new alumni gathered with their friends and families after the ceremony.
Collin McCaughey, who played baseball and football for John Carroll, noted the school and alumni are raising funds for a permanent lighting system for the new athletic fields.
"Hopefully we can bring Friday night lights back to John Carroll," he said.
Graduates Hanna LeBuhn, 18, of Churchville, and Fred Zhang, 18, of Jarrettsville, hugged each other after the ceremony.
LeBuhn said she plans to study exercise science at the University of Connecticut, and Zhang, who is from China, said he plans to study international relations at American University on Washington, D.C.
"All of my friends, teachers – especially my teachers – my counselors, everybody, we are a family," Zhang said of his experience at John Carroll.