Not a bubble, but a botanical garden of imagination: St. John's College commencement

Selene San Felice

Loved ones of students graduating from St. John’s College gathered in the Francis Scott Key auditorium Sunday after being rained out of the front lawn.

“This is our sunshine,” President Panayiotis Kanelos told the crowd. The college’s 226th commencement ceremony was his first as president of the college.

About 100 students from as close as Annapolis and as far as Venezuela, France, Georgia, Israel, South Korea, Nepal and China were given bachelors and masters degrees.

Tutor Matthew Holtzman, who has been teaching at the school for five years, addressed the class in the keynote speech. Holtzman told the crowd that while the school is often perceived as a “bubble” of discussion, he understands it more as a botanical garden of imagination.

“I see a class of students who have each acquired so many capabilities, they are poised to go off in any of a hundred ways,” Holtzman said. “This college might be the only living thing that is brought to life by what you’ve done together here and that can remain with you wherever you are….It seems to me you can find yourselves at home wherever you discover ways in which the world requires re-imagining— where there’s some distance with closing between the way it could be or should be and the way it is.”

Included in the 93 students receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees were Maggie Dillon of Annapolis, Ramsey Mahaffey of Davidsonville, Allie Matheu and Naomi Johnson of Edgewater and Robert Zellers of Arnold.

Among the 23 masters graduates were Michael Birdsell, Celine Healey and Samuel Harris Fox Smith of Annapolis; Heather Macon of Odenton; Mary Ross of Davidsonville and Jonathan White of Laurel.

Awards were also given out for writing, speaking, science, math, music art, service, sportsmanship and demonstrations of excellence.

The class’ gift to the school was the installation of a new book drop in the library.

“That’s so St. John’s,” Kanelos laughed. “They’re thinking about books even on their way out.”

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