Commencement is the celebration of a beginning, and the emotions and atmosphere on display on the Ridge over the sunny and brisk May weekend reflected the beginning of incredible possibility for 157 new graduates from McCallie School.
Despite their collected list of accomplishments, the focus of the day was not on the things these young men have done, but rather on who they have become.
Headmaster Lee Burns ’87 spoke to the high future expectations of the class with his words from Commencement. He charged them with taking the lessons and values learned on the Ridge and carrying them into the next chapter of their lives.
Despite a list of college choices as impressive as any in the history of the school, the theme of the weekend was not on the individual student, but on the interconnectedness of their class with the school and greater community.
Grayson Medal winner Graham Hartness spoke of the importance for all of us to push ourselves out of comfort zones and celebrate our shared humanity and true releationships in a world that is so often focused on superficial levels of success or prestige.
We must strive to cultivate life-giving, rich, genuine relationships for the rest of our lives ― like those that we’ve formed in our time at McCallie,” Hartness said. “Let’s continue the pursuit of our chief end...........to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
As Hal Daughdrill ’73, Chairman of the McCallie’s Board of Trustees, officially welcomed the Class of 2018 into the Long Blue Line of alumni, he shared with them a brief reflection on what makes the diploma and their experiences on the Ridge so indelible for their lives. He spoke of his visit to a Golden M reunion, where men celebrate their 50th reunion year and one particular conversation he had.
It was at that point that I turned to one of the gentlemen standing next to me and said to him how remarkable it was that these men felt the impact of McCallie and their teachers so deeply and so strongly so many years after the fact. He turned to me and said, “Hal, it’s been this way ever since the day we graduated. It’s been like this for the last 50 years.”
In his Valedictory speech, Allen Liu reflected on how learning that he did not have all the answers in life helped him to grow and embrace new challenges during his time at McCallie.
“Although we must never stop our pursuit of knowledge, we must also recognize that the most important questions are the ones for which we don’t have answers,” said Liu, who will attend Princeton in the fall. “I challenge everyone to find those questions and, when you’ve found them, to be able to admit: ‘I don’t know.’”