June 2016

Commencement 2016
Follow your dreams!

Reach for the stars!

It's not the end ... It's the beginning!
Frequenters of graduations will be familiar with the genus Addressio commencementus. Gowned in black, camouflaged by forgettability, its cry is a clamor of corny jokes and inspirational clichés. After speaking it disappears, leaving behind a few chuckles and an absence of meaningful memories.

This creature was not in evidence at Thomas MacLaren School’s 2016 commencement exercises.

The Class of 2016 gathered in the first pew of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Colorado Springs this past Saturday. The location was no accident. First designed by Thomas MacLaren as St. Stephen's Church in 1894 (now the parish hall), the church is one of the city’s architectural treasures. Sunlight streams through dozens of stained-glass windows. The stonework is grand, the woodwork handsome.

These seniors were the first class to complete the entire MacLaren curriculum, from the sixth to the twelfth grades, and it showed. Many wept. They looked like people who had come to the end of a long journey together: celebratory, changed, and not a little sick at heart.

The valedictory address was by Beatrice Hall, winner of the 2016 Graduate Award, MacLaren’s highest honor. In a lovely meditation to her friends in the front row, Beatrice described herself as a recalcitrant three-year-old: having been lured to preschool with the promise of painting, she refused to sit in the circle of children. Instead, Beatrice marched to the center of the circle and demanded her paints.

Fifteen years later, she recounted the process of entering into adulthood through the doorway of the Socratic seminar: rather than placing themselves in the center of the circle, she and her friends learned to sit together like guests at a banquet, with a great work of literature or philosophy as the feast.

Dr. Kerry Koller, President of Trinity Schools, Inc., and one of the architects of MacLaren’s curriculum, was the commencement speaker. His address was a tour de force. In an admixture of erudition and accessibility, utterly free of banality or cliché, he gave nothing less than a concise history of the universe, a meditation on the nature of existence and the meaning of life, and a call to live one’s life in the furtherance of the great human endeavor, delivered in a quietly urgent twenty-minute speech. It was far more than a commencement address; it was a gift.

After the granting of the diplomas, Mary Faith Hall, MacLaren’s Head of School, exhorted the Class of 2016 to continue to live their lives sitting at the feet of the masters, to bear constantly in mind the “habitual vision of greatness” that MacLaren inculcates in its students.

After moving their tassels from the right to the left, the newly-minted graduates of Thomas MacLaren School walked down the aisle to the fourth movement of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks—performed, of course, by MacLaren students.

The cliché gets it wrong. It was not in fact the beginning but the end of a MacLaren education. Such an education, however, will only continue to bear fruit and give gifts over the course of a life well lived. We wish all our graduates the very best.
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