It was apparent to anyone at Denison High School’s commencement ceremony that, not only are the lives of the graduates changing, but Denison Independent School District is undergoing changes as well.
The ceremony took place in Munson Stadium — a facility currently being upgraded, standing half complete. In her salutatory address, Mackenzie Thompson reminded those in attendance that the Denison High School class of 2014 is the last class to have attended all four years of high school at the old South Mirick Avenue building. The school will be converted to a middle school campus over the summer and high schoolers will move to the district’s newest addition next fall.
“They have definitely saved the best for last,” Thompson said.
Valedictorian Daniel Lecheler asked the graduates to think back to when they started at DHS four years ago. Could they have predicted what would have happened? Everyone has made transformations, he said. The class of 2014 came to DHS as “diamonds in the rough” who were “shaped and polished” by their teachers.
Lecheler said he now regards the past as “water under the bridge,” and sees the future as a “clean slate.” He encouraged his fellow graduates to do the same.
While Denison ISD has been ushering in the new, the past was given remembrance during the ceremony; possibly the most when Denison High School class of 1960 graduate and accomplished U.S. Air Force pilot B.C. Thomas delivered the commencement address.
At the beginning of his speech, Thomas held up a gold graduation cap tassel.
“This is the tassel that I wore at my graduation from Denison High School 54 years ago. I keep this because it’s very important to me,” he said.
Thomas described the format of his speech as a “military brief:” “Sparse on humor, but very concise.”
He reflected on the impact that DHS had made on his life, specifically recalling his American history teacher. Mr. Cline, Thomas said, was a World War I combat veteran who taught the class the importance of knowing what America was built on.
“He emphasized that we as Americans are not born with a special physical makeup which makes us free. But rather our freedom comes from our character, actions, customs and laws, which distinguishes us from everyone else in the world,” Thomas said.
Thomas urged students to find heroes to look up to, and gave to examples of heroic figures from Denison. The first was Denison-born Dwight D. Eisenhower — five-star general, president of Columbia University and President of the United States, among countless other accomplishments.
The second was pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger. Sullenberger grew up in Denison and graduated from DHS. Among his many accomplishments, in January of 2009 Sullenberger emergency-landed a plane in the Hudson River and managed to save the lives of 150 people.
Perhaps Thomas’s most sage advice was given in bullet-point form: “Be true to yourself.” “Be a wise and informed voter.” “Discover what you want to do, and then pursue it doggedly.”