Hugh Sanford speaks about the late Marjorie Keeley, who was posthumously awarded Teacher of the Year. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Some will tell you that you learned everything you needed to know in kindergarten, but Mount Greylock Regional School's 2017 class speaker had a different idea.
"When we were younger, most of us read Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare," Josh Narey reminded his classmates at Saturday morning's graduation. "The moral of the story is: ‘Slow and steady wins the race.'
"And it's a load of crap.
"That guy Aesop was a complete clown. Slow and steady does not win the race. It loses it. Best wins the race. You have to put everything you've got into everything you do."
Narey encouraged the graduates to take risks and, in the words that became a running theme in his remarks at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Amsler Campus Center, "go balls to the wall."
"Which, by the way, is not a salacious term," Narey said. "It's actually a term used by pilots when they push the throttle lever, with its ball-shaped top, all the way to full throttle."
Narey borrowed the aviator's phrase to repeatedly prod his 88 classmates to continue to push the envelope, and he reminded them of the many times they have already.
Mount Greylock held its graduation exercises at MCLA and on a Saturday morning instead of the customary Saturday evening event at the school's gymnasium because it is "off line" during the school building project.
Narey, who was selected by the class to speak, was joined on stage by Dagny Albano, who was chosen by the school's faculty.
In her own way, she also told the grads to go to extremes. In her case, she emphasized some of the extreme activism that the class has demonstrated throughout its time at the school.
"Our dedicated student government groups, both our class officers and student government groups, work incredibly hard to help not just our class, but the school as a whole," Albano said. "But the number of people who care a lot about this class and the greater community far exceeds our representatives in student government.
"Whether [issues] are brought up as part of a lesson or randomly prompted by a student or teacher, our class feels passionately about pursuing not just our own best interests but those of others as well. And we have proven that we are more than capable of making change."
Albano, a decorated athlete in volleyball and track and field, was further decorated on Saturday with the school's music award and wellness award, two of 11 honors given at the graduation ceremony.
Other honorees included: English, Margaret Duffy Martin; history, Simon Bruce Kent; mathematics, Matthew Henry Kleiner; science, Neel Vipul Patel; language, Catherine Elisa Cavalli; Latin, Najla Khoury Nassar; art, Camryn Zoe Roberts; business and technology, Savanah Sky Brown; and wellness, Albano and Thomas Joseph Astle.
In addition, the school awarded five graduates with its John B. Clark Scholars Award, for four-year academic records that indicate promise of success in higher education. Those went to Carly Jane Munzer, Claire Jolene Whitaker, Niku Rayna Darafshi, Nassar and Sarah Anne Stripp.
The emotional highlight of the morning came when graduate Hugh Sanford reflected on the career of the Latin teacher Marjorie Keeley, who died in February. Keeley was chosen by the class of 2017 to receive the school's Teacher of the Year Award.
"She called herself 'Ma Keeley,' and she meant it," Sanford said. "Over the course of my six years in her Latin class and in the Junior Classic League, Miss Keeley was my mentor and my second mother.
"She inspired me to run for state office in the Massachusetts Junior Classic League and to win. She was not only a Latin teacher, but a life teacher. Through her life experiences and her silly stories, she taught all of us lessons I feel responsible to carry on to honor her memory. She is — and always will be — an inspiration to me."
After six years of being inspired to learn the three Rs at Mount Greylock, the Class of 2017 on Saturday heard about the three Cs from Principal Mary MacDonald.
"This spring, I cast around the generations of alumni for their collective advice, and three concepts emerged: curiosity, commitment and compassion," MacDonald said.
"Inextricably tied with responsibility, commitment allows you demonstrate your ability to weather adversity, give without ready compensation and persevere without guarantee of success," MacDonald continued. "Commitment might occasionally require courage, however it requires some sacrifice and the ability to apply both word and deed to one's beliefs."
And, she told the grads, "Become as compassionate as you are passionate."
There was no shortage of reminders to the graduates to hold onto their passion. In his way, Narey made that concept central to his remarks.
"All of us here, may take wildly different paths in our futures, but it does not matter what we end up doing," Narey said. "It's how we do it. As a class, I want us to be remembered by the extraordinary things we did, not the ordinary. And I wish for us all to aspire to leave a similar legacy in our own adult lives.
"You have to put everything you've got into everything you do. Do not be afraid to take risks. In fact, let me rephrase that: Take a lot of risks. If you don't take risks, you're a coward. Sure, you might get hurt or die, but at least you'll die a reckless savage and not a little sissy baby.
"It's been a pleasure knowing you savages, and I pray that should we meet again I will still be able to refer to you as such."
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