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Groton, MA-- Glorious high blue skies, and wispy white clouds framed the 224th graduation exercises of Lawrence Academy held in Groton, Mass. on June 2.
LA's "elm tree-shaded hillside" -- packed to bursting with family friends, faculty, and students -- watched the 100 members of the Class of 2017 spend their final moments as high school students draped in traditional blue gowns.
Tears and smiles intermingled on the faces of the soon-to-be graduates as Lawrence Academy Head of School Dan Scheibe, who opened the proceedings, spoke to the power of emotion.
Art as a Creative Force
"Emotion can be shaped into a creative force for a better world," said Mr. Scheibe, who added. "In fact, it must be."
LA's head spoke to the importance of artistic endeavor on campus, and the breadth of its manifestation at the school and in the graduates; performances, shows, and recitals not saved only for the spring trimester, but ubiquitous throughout the academic year.
"Now we are performing the art of graduation," he continued. "Practicing and performing at the same time, full of feeling."
Senior C.J. Carter introduced the day's keynote speaker: the English department's David Smith '65, who has been teaching at LA since 1969.
"If anything, we are all his students on this elm tree-shaded hillside," said Carter of Smith, adding, "a hillside he would like to call his dojo.
"David Smith has been working at LA for 48 years. Those years include being an English teacher, drama teacher, wrestling coach, mountain biking coach, admissions officer - pretty much everything, I could go on forever.
"He is a member of the Class of 1965, giving him a grand total of 52 years at Lawrence Academy."
Students Kept Smith on his Toes
Smith took the podium next and recalled those decades, and spoke to his first steps onto the school's campus in Groton.
"It would be central to my life for the next half-century," said the beloved mentor and teacher, who mused, "a small step for a 16-year-old, a giant leap for David Smith."
Smith also spoke to the people he met at LA and their importance in his life as both a student and graduate.
"Like you, I graduated on a fine spring day, and four years later I came back to teach," he said. "Life in a community of young people like you graduates is invigorating, stimulating, creative.
"Although the rules imply that we adults are in charge, the truth is that it's your energy, your curiosity, your passion that set the pace day-by-day.
"You keep us on our toes; you keep us honest. You punish us mercilessly if we forget our sense of humor."
An inherent sense of humor took the stage as Annie Barron '17 addressed her classmates and fellow students.
However, Barron -- known at LA for her wide smile and kind, easygoing nature -- got serious as she spoke of her time on campus.
"Each of us is able to find people here [at LA] who support us, are kind to us, and who will listen to what we have to say," she said, noting that Lawrence Academy helped her find her voice.
"I know so many people who wanted to come up here and give a speech today. And I am going to be honest - at first, I didn't want to.
"But after all my trouble with finding my voice, here I am surrounded by all of you who watched it happen," she said.
Fellow senior Matt Glassman also spoke directly to his fellow students and gave some sound advice to everyone in attendance.
Glassman acknowledged troubles finding someone to talk to when he first arrived at school and admitted, "I've been that kid who has walked through the dining hall and didn't have a table to sit at."
Because of that experience, and other moments of loneliness, Matt said he goes out of his way to say, "Hi!" to people because, "I don't want anyone to feel alone on a planet populated by 7.5-billion people."
"I have three suggestions," added Matt to that end. "The first is to reach outside of your comfort zone. My second suggestion is to be yourself. And finally, my third suggestion is to always interact kindly with others."
One Last Hurrah
Finally, with speeches given, prizes accepted, and with the graduates holding their diplomas, Mr. Scheibe took to the podium one more time.
The head of school led the graduates in one last rendition of the school song, and started the day's less official celebrations by saying, "Congratulations to the Class of 2017, graduates of Lawrence Academy."