Grad bids a mixed farewell; St. Mark's grads told to join fight.


Byline: Donna Boynton

SOUTHBORO - Gertrude Storey Akers took a deep breath after receiving her diploma. As the valedictorian asked to address her class, she was the last of the 84 St. Mark's School graduates to receive her diploma yesterday during the 142nd Prize Day exercises.

When she spoke, it was with a mix of memories, humor and hopes. She began by welcoming the faculty, staff, family and friends, mimicking the too-loud, singsong voice she said was ingrained in her from her middle school public speaking course.

But Ms. Akers was quick to get to her point - to highlight what will be missed and what will not; and what the St. Mark's experience has meant to them all.

"Valedictorian literally means `good-bye sayer,'" said Ms. Akers, calling upon her Latin knowledge. "Simply she or he who unofficially bades farewell to a place one loved."

Ms. Akers said she was bidding good riddance to some things at St. Mark's, such as the dormitory heating system, the twice-weekly sit-down dinners, campus restrictions and early morning fire drills; while bidding a fond farewell to the things she, and likely her classmates, will miss: the school many called home for the past four years.

She said her classmates have become family, learning that love isn't just about smiling and holding hands, but about raw emotion as well - fighting, cursing and that "whatever scars we bear from our time here were truly done out of love."

"There is nothing more difficult than leaving childhood behind," said Ms. Akers. "Some say we live in a bubble, but that bubble has raised us."

Ms. Akers said some lessons that the faculty taught them may not make themselves known for years to come, but that St. Mark's faculty and staff have helped them grow into graduates on "the cusp of a new chapter."

"I can't thank you for all you have done, because I don't know yet all that you have done," Ms. Akers said. "We don't know how deeply you have affected all of our lives."

Julie Kennedy, a 1989 graduate of St. Mark's who has since gone on to work to reduce poverty in Africa, told graduates to be lifelong learners and work with the gifts and talents they have to combat global poverty.

She told graduates not to ignore economic hardships of those countries half a world away, because their struggles have a global impact and impact self-esteem, tolerance and other human values.

"All of you can draw from your personal and academic experiences to know that prosperity matters," Ms. Kennedy said...

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