By Leslie Yager
Thursday afternoon was sunny and mild, perfect for Stanwich School’s first-ever commencement.
Head of School, Paul Geise, sent positive wishes to the 13 Stanwich students and their driver who were in a van accident on Wednesday. The remainder of the ceremony focused on the accomplishments of the 16 graduating seniors.
“The character of community lives in the moments of celebration as well as challenge,” said Geise. “This is truly an auspicious and momentous moment.”
Upper School Head Jerome Murphy introduced the founder of the school, asking, “Would we be here right now if it were not for Pat Young? We are all here because of a dream that Pat Young had 16 years ago.”
Young said the Blumenthals of Greenwich were among Stanwich’s charter families back in 1998. The two youngest Blumenthal children, David and Claire, began their early schooling in Stanwich’s primary house. “Mrs. Blumenthal was our library volunteer,” Young said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) said it was an honor and thrill to speak at the ceremony.
“I have been a longtime admirer of Pat Young,” he said, before thanking the school founder for her leadership and perseverance.
“This is the best graduating class, ever,” Blumenthal joked. “I can also tell you as a parent of four children, that there is no way today that you would be graduating without your families and loved ones. But you have earned it,” he said.
“You are trailblazers and ceiling breakers,” Blumenthal said, describing the seniors as part of a generation obligated to leave this world richer – culturally, ethically and morally. “That bond of shared responsibility is all important,” he said.
Blumenthal contrasted the path followed by Eduardo Saverin from Facebook with that of a man named Orlando Morel.
Of Saverin, Blumenthal explained that he and Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook.
“Eduardo came to this country at the age of 13 from Brazil to escape threats of kidnapping. He was forced out of Facebook, so he sued and won $2.2 Billion. To avoid paying taxes on $2.2 Billion, he renounced his citizenship and moved to Singapore,” Blumenthal said. “He took the money and ran.”
Morel came to this country at the age of six from Haiti with his mother on a boat that almost capsized. “They were desperate, having run out of water and food,” Blumenthal said, adding that the boy and his mother were rescued by the US Coast Guard and brought to Florida. After his mother died, Morel was raised by another refugee before attending the Coast Guard Academy and serving in the Coast Guard.
Blumenthal said Morel was, for a time, stationed off the Coast of Florida, where, among his other duties, he rescued refugees like himself who came to America to seek the freedom that many may take for granted. “Eduardo decided to stay, to serve,” the Senator said. “He is giving back to America.”
Of people like Saverin, Blumenthal said, “They poke holes in our social fabric. They are takers. But people like Orlando give back to this country.” The Senator urged the graduating seniors to emulate Morel.
“So for us to say to graduating classes that you must give back, must seen daunting, challenging,” Blumenthal said.
Lamenting the cost of college and the indebtedness of graduates, Blumenthal said, “This nation expects people to go to college and incur debt at unprecedented levels.” He added that students graduate with an average of $27,000 in debt.
“You are trailblazers and ceiling breakers,” the Senator said, adding that he seniors are part of a generation obligated to leave this world richer – culturally, ethically, morally. “That bond of shared responsibility is all important,” he said.
Stanwich School’s Class of 2014:
- Sarah K. Alva
- Chantal De Dios Benavidez
- Katrina Hillary Black
- Jessie Caroline Drennen (Salutatorian)
- Gregg Febbraio
- Esther Hoekstra
- David Lau Yi
- John Armando Lombardo
- Randy Anthony Maldonado
- Katherine Diana Elizabeth Medina
- Roderick Dasean Mullins
- Garssandra I. Présumey-Leblanc (Valedictorian)
- David William Rivera
- Allyson M. Tracey
- Gordon Sterling Ziegler IV
- Juancarlos Zumaeta
Stanwich School is located at 257 Stanwich Rd in Greenwich. Tel. (203) 542-0032
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