Commencement is one of Saint Mary's most beloved traditions, when graduates cross the stage in the Grove in cap and gown to receive their high school diploma from the head of school. The ceremony is held outdoors on front campus in the Grove under Saint Mary's stately oak trees. Graduates process through the Grove and down the center walkway to take their place for a most beautiful and personal commencement ceremony filled with traditions such as turning the tassels on the graduation caps, turning their Saint Mary's rings with the crest pointing out to the world they are about to enter, special awards, speeches, and the legendary dropping of the handkerchief by the chief marshal at the top of the Smedes Hall steps to declare the academic year officially closed.

Commencement 2021

Commencement for the 179th session at Saint Mary's School is scheduled for May 23. We look forward to celebrating the 78 members of the Class of 2021! 

Saint Mary’s School is pleased to announce Jamie Valvano as its keynote speaker for the institution's 2021 commencement exercises to conclude its 179th year. Ms. Valvano accepted the invitation from Head of School Brendan O'Shea and will address the class of 2021 during its on-campus, socially-distanced graduation ceremony to be held in the school’s historic oak Grove in downtown Raleigh, Sunday, May 23, 10:30 a.m.

An inspiring and relatable speaker, Ms. Valvano is the middle daughter of legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano. She has witnessed amazing victory and heartbreaking tragedy, including her personal battle with breast cancer. As a cancer survivor, Jamie continues to share private and personal insights to a variety of audiences in her role as a public speaker and uses her voice as a cancer advocate, teacher, and writer. She also often shares lessons through her late father's life story.

"We are delighted to welcome Jamie Valvano to Saint Mary's to speak to the graduating class of 2021 during our on-campus commencement ceremony to close our 179th year," said O’Shea. "Among Jamie’s goals is to 'push others to embrace their personal vision.' She has shared incredible life lessons, and I am confident she will have a powerful message for our graduates and the Saint Mary's community."

A graduate of North Carolina State University, Ms. Valvano worked for The V Foundation for Cancer Research in its formative years and helped to establish the organization, which has awarded over $225 million to cancer facilities across the nation since its inception. Ms. Valvano currently resides in Apex, North Carolina, with her two sons. To learn more about Ms. Valvano, please visit

Saint Mary's School will livestream the graduation ceremony, in addition to welcoming parents and siblings of Saint Mary's graduates during a socially-distanced event. Guests will be limited to a set number of family members only for each graduate to attend the in-person event. Family members will be seated in socially-distanced pods.

"We are excited to honor the Class of 2021 with an on-campus graduation ceremony," says O'Shea. "We are fervently planning to make the celebration special, memorable, and safe for all."