Commencement 2017

Saint Mary's School celebrated the Class of 2017 on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Families and friends were in attendance as members of the Class of 2017 received their diplomas and were recognized for their achievements during commencement exercises for Saint Mary's historic 175th academic session on Sunday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m., in the Grove. Seventy-seven members of the Class of 2017 graduated and are looking forward to college and gap years around the state, the country, and the world. Click here to see where our graduates are heading next year.

For a full update on Commencement 2017, click here.

N.C. First Lady Kristin Cooper: 2017 commencement speaker

Saint Mary's Board of Trustees Chair Ted Bratton and Head of School Dr. Monica Gillespie were pleased to welcome Kristin Cooper, the First Lady of North Carolina and a past Saint Mary's parent, as Saint Mary's 2017 commencement speaker.


Kristin Cooper is honored to serve as the First Lady of North Carolina, a state she has called home for nearly three decades.

In her role as First Lady, Mrs. Cooper is working to improve the lives and well-being of children in North Carolina. Her focus is on childhood hunger, literacy, foster care, child abuse and neglect, and the arts. Most importantly, she is shedding light on how all these issues integrate to ensure the social and emotional health of children in our state.

The daughter of Geri Bernhardt, an artist, and Sam Bernhardt, a Vietnam veteran and physician, Mrs. Cooper grew up in Oklahoma City along with her three younger sisters. She attended public schools, earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma, and then attended Campbell Law School in North Carolina. After graduating law school, she worked as a staff attorney to the legislature in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

It was at the North Carolina General Assembly that she met a young legislator from Nash County named Roy Cooper. After they wed, the Coopers settled in Rocky Mount. While Roy served in the legislature and practiced law, Kristin concentrated on their busy family life. The Coopers have three daughters, Hilary, Claire, and Natalie, a 2011 Saint Mary's graduate. Mrs. Cooper and the girls enjoyed singing and acting in local theater productions, with all four appearing on stage together in Camelot.

After Hilary graduated high school in Rocky Mount, the family relocated to Raleigh to be closer to Roy's job as North Carolina Attorney General. Natalie and Claire finished middle and high school and spent many hours at the Raleigh Little Theater, where Kristin served as a member of the Board of Directors, booster and ticket taker--and played the role of mother in many productions.

Mrs. Cooper has served as a Guardian ad Litem for children in Wake County for eleven years, using her legal training to represent foster children in court. Guardians ad Litem assure that at-risk children do not become neglected or abandoned. Mrs. Cooper also served two terms on the North Carolina Arts Council, working to support arts and arts organizations.

Enjoy this feature about Mrs. Cooper in Raleigh Magazine.

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