Blue Ribbon Day for the Class of 2012: the 170th Commencement
Posted May 22, 2012
The white lace handkerchief dropped with a delicate grace at the conclusion of the 170th commencement on Sunday, May 20, to symbolically close the 2011-2012 school year. It was a blue-ribbon celebration for 71 Saint Mary’s seniors of the Class of 2012. The graduates processed through The Grove on a cool and blustery Sunday morning under bright Saint Mary’s blue skies to receive high school diplomas from retiring Head of School Theo Wilkes Coonrod.
By all accounts, Saint Mary’s commencement exercises embody personal touches of academic excellence, personal achievement, friendship and grace that are hallmarks of the Saint Mary’s experience. This year’s ceremony seemed to exceed all expectations.
“Graduation has vestiges of tradition no other ceremony has,” said Theo Coonrod. “It’s the celebration of the feminine spirit. It’s about honoring and celebrating.” Read Theo Coonrod's full remarks.
Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina, wowed the graduates and guests with an unforgettable, inspirational and engaging commencement address that made you want to shout, “Amen, sister.” Mrs. Marshall shared her extraordinary life story that took her from a childhood of poverty living with her mother and five siblings in a public housing project apartment in Richmond, Calif., to achieving her goals, against all possible odds, of graduating from college (two degrees from the University of California Berkeley); becoming “president of something” (a major U.S. corporation); and getting her mother out of the projects. The graduates responded to her, “I’m Every Woman” speech with a rousing ovation, a rare commencement address endorsement.
Valedictorian Sam Macfarlane of Davie, Fla., delivered the valedictory address. Salutatorian Jean Turlington of Clinton, N.C., offered the salutatory address. Theo Coonrod also addressed the graduates with an inspirational and memorable message about her mother and aunt striving for equal opportunities for women in the course of their lives.
Board of Trustees Chair William Taylor, Dean of Academics and Faculty Thomas Mueller, Margaret Highsmith Dickson, Ann Highsmith and Theo Coonrod presented special commencement awards.
Madeleine Roberts of Raleigh is the recipient of the 2012 Cooper Medal, in recognition of achieving the highest GPA for the year.
Sam Macfarlane and Jean Turlington are co-recipients of the Niles Medal for finishing with the highest GPAs over their years at SMS.
Duncan Weaver of Raleigh received the Catherine Ruth Proctor Award for the greatest scholastic advancement over the past four years.
Eliana Sved of Raleigh is the recipient of the 2012 Georgia Lee Kinsey Award for accomplishing the greatest scholastic advancement over the past two years.
Anna Lewis of Holly Springs was chosen to receive the King Medal, given each year to the graduate, who, in the opinion of the faculty, has most consistently practiced good citizenship at SMS and inconspicuously served as an example to others.
Carrie Coleman of Woodberry Forest, Va., was voted by her classmates to receive the Margaret and Ann Highsmith Medal, awarded to a graduate who exemplifies the Christian idea of helpfulness to others motivated by her genuine love for all members of the school community. Ann Highsmith and Margaret Highsmith Dickson, Saint Mary’s alumnae sisters, were on hand to present the award that was established in 1969 by their parents, Ann and Seavy Highsmith of Fayetteville, N.C.
Madison Haliloglu of Raleigh is the 2012 Marian Drane Graham Award winner. This award was established in 1968 as a memorial to Marian Drane Graham, Class of 1919, wife of Frank Porter Graham, former president of the University of North Carolina and a former U.S. Senator. The award is made each year to a graduate who exemplifies Marian’s “reverence and humility of spirit, scholarship without pride of excellence, zest for life, faith and fortitude, and all-around development in the course of her radiant and nobly useful life.” The recipient is chosen by representatives of the faculty, student body and alumnae of Saint Mary’s School on the basis of character, academic achievement, spirit of leadership and contribution to campus life.
Following the final singing of the year of the School Hymn, Chief Marshal Mary Gordon Utt ’13 stood at the top of the steps of Smedes Hall, directly beneath the lantern adorned with Saint Mary’s blue ribbons, to drop the handkerchief and declare the 170th session at Saint Mary’s to be officially closed. After the traditional hanky drop, the marshals walked into Smedes and closed the doors on another Saint Mary’s commencement.
Baccalaureate in the historic Saint Mary’s Chapel preceded the commencement exercises with Chaplain Ann Bonner-Stewart presiding and delivering the homily.
The celebration continued after commencement with lunch on the lawn on Nimocks Field.
Once again, Saint Mary’s graduating class boasts 100 percent college acceptance to a broad ranges of outstanding colleges and universities around the nation. Members of the Class of 2012 have been offered more than $2 million in college scholarships.
Mary Virginia Swain ’77C
Director of Development Communications