DANVERS — As the graduating senior best epitomizing the values of an Xaverian education, senior class speaker Joseph Burke Thibodeau of Andover traced his years at St. John's Preparatory School and the personal connections he made that formed him and others.
Before hundreds of well-wishers gathered for St. John's Prep's 100th commencement exercise, Thibodeau recalled a senior retreat to Cape Cod in which a diverse group stayed up late and sang songs strummed on a guitar by a fellow classmate. They sang even when they did not know the words.
"For some reason, we relished in the music we were all creating," said Thibodeau, who said the retreat summed up life at St. John's much more than the pomp and circumstance of yesterday's graduation.
"We are graduates, yes. We are Eagles, yes. But let's face it, we are vastly different people."
This diverse bunch of "golden eagles" made history yesterday as the 100th graduating class of the Xaverian Brothers-sponsored secondary school for young men. The school was founded in 1907 and the first class graduated in 1911.
Spectators' cars filled the parking lots of the 175-acre hilltop campus on Spring Street while well-wishers gathered under a huge outdoor tent for the 11 a.m. ceremony. Headmaster Albert J. Shannon awarded 305 diplomas.
Valedictorian Alfred J. "A.J." Rossi III of Manchester exhorted his fellow classmates, many of whom have achieved great things in high school, to have a measure of humility in life.
"We must build ourselves up and lift those around us," said Rossi, who won the valedictorian medal.
This year, social justice and Western philosophy teacher Michael Leonard of Salem gave the commencement address.
At first, Leonard was humbled by the "tremendous honor," but then approached Religious Studies Department Chairman Alexander Roche on advice about what to say to seniors.