After nine years as principal of Andover High School, Peter Anderson said he'll be doing more than just hitting the links in retirement.
He also plans to tackle a stack of books he's let accumulate on his nightstand for the past few years.
Just as Anderson enters a new phase of his life, so too last night did Andover High's class of 2009 with its commencement at Tsongas Arena in Lowell.
The event celebrated both the academic accomplishments of all 401 graduates and Anderson's departure.
"I guess you can either celebrate or be sad about it," said Anderson before the ceremony. "It's graduation, so let it be a celebration."
Relief that graduation time has finally come was the main theme among students.
"I never thought I'd make it, I'm really excited" said Ariel Kykendall.
Lisa Bourgeois said it was "about time" after all these years.
Meanwhile, graduates like Jake Mattison couldn't believe the hour had finally arrived.
"It's hard to believe it's already here," Mattison said.
Thomas McQuillan, class salutatorian, had advice for underclassmen to "savor every moment."
"Take advantage of everything the school has to offer," he said.
Anderson doubled as the guest speaker and insisted that the evening was "never to be about him."
"I'm not going to tell you to change the world," he told the graduates.
He warned students that only careful reflection of themselves would show them the true measure of their potential.
"Take a risk, exercise a little courage, it all comes together," Anderson said.
At the conclusion of his speech, every student raised a photograph of Anderson to their face in their solidarity behind their former principal. Each student also presented a personal thank you note to him as they received their diplomas.
Anderson is a 30-year veteran of Andover public schools, which included teaching math and English at the former East Junior High School.
Students also announced the class gift — a massive seal of the school's mascot on the floor of the school's entrance.
Julianne Konjoian, who presented the class essay summarized the optimism of Andover High's 2009 class with the concluding remarks of her speech.
"What you need to know is that each of you possess an incredible opportunity," she said. "All 401 of us have the ability to achieve more and make a difference."