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Washington High School: Commencement etiquette exemplified

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Rory Ryan

By Rory Ryan
The Highland County Press

Since it is that time of year, perhaps this is somewhat timely. One can hope.

By tradition, the high school or college commencement ceremony is a formal, dignified event to honor the academic achievement of scholars. It is often a time to recognize the parents of those scholars as well.

Commencement is both a joyous and solemn event. Parents and guests of those graduates should remember the latter modifier.

Too often, these ceremonies can suddenly turn into free-for-alls. Let's not have that. Sure, we understand your excitement for the one in 200 whom you are there to see. But express your excitement in a manner that will not prevent others from hearing the speakers and enjoying the ceremony.

On Friday, May 26, I was invited to the commencement exercises at Washington High School in Washington Court House. As instructed, we arrived about an hour before the 7 p.m. start. As parents, family and friends of the graduates filled the south-side bleachers at Gardner Park, I noticed that – almost to a person – everyone was very respectful.

At 7 p.m. sharp, the soon-to-be graduates filed in from both end zones and took their appropriate seats on the football field. One of the first things I noticed was the uniform mortarboards atop the senior class of 2023. All were a distinct Blue Lions blue, sans messaging, graffiti or any other potential distraction – very dignified and respectful.

Pam and I did not pick up a program prior to taking our seats, and it was about this time that I mentioned Dale Lynch and wondered if the former Washington educator and director of athletics was still around. Dale and I met in the summer of 1990 at the former Terrace Lounge for a preseason South Central Ohio League meeting of coaches and sportswriters. I recall covering his son, Ryan Lynch, when he played for the Blue Lions.

What a pleasant surprise a few minutes later when Dale Lynch was introduced as the keynote speaker for the class of 2023. Dale provided a wonderful message to the seniors and recognized the district championship baseball team's seniors. I especially appreciated the recognition of those seniors who will be serving in the military and those who attended Laurel Oaks.

After Dale's speech, four Washington seniors – Arianna Bagheri, R.J. Foose, Claudia Fuller and Madison Hayes – provided the student addresses.

We were there for Miss Fuller. She did not disappoint. She delivered an important message to all graduates to work toward a bright future, utilizing the education provided by Washington City Schools. 

During the presentation of diplomas, the crowd cheered respectfully for all graduates. At no point did they drown out the speakers who called each graduate to the podium. Similarly, each graduate extended the professional courtesy of accepting his or her diploma without incident.

All in all, the Washington commencement ceremony was as close to perfect as one could expect. (OK. For full disclosure, on one of her academic awards the aforementioned Miss Fuller was accidentally handed another student's award. Her family had a laugh from the bleachers.)

Also, for full disclosure, Miss Fuller is my niece and goddaughter, the daughter of Hillsboro High School and Ohio University graduates Chris and Kathleen Fuller. Like her parents, Claudia will be furthering her education at Harvard on the Hocking.

A tip of the cap (or mortarboard) goes to Washington Schools Superintendent Tom Bailey, Board of Education members Jennifer Lynch, Mark Chrisman, Kenneth Upthegrove, Zach Camp and Dennis Garrison and the faculty and administration.

The new graduates will come to appreciate all you've done through the years. I'm guessing their parents also appreciated a formal and dignified commencement ceremony for the class of 2023 – a great example of how it should be done.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County's only locally owned and operated newspaper.


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