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Class of 2008 Celebrates Commencement

6/2/2008
On May 30, the Class of 2008 became Poly's newest alumni, as another group of outstanding young women and men graduated ready to take on the world.

On May 30, the Class of 2008 became Poly's newest alumni, as another group of outstanding young women and men graduated ready to take on the world.

The morning began with a processional of trustees, faculty, and graduating seniors exiting Poly to be seated in the Oval. Headmaster David B. Harman said goodbye to the class of students that began at Poly's main campus the same year he did, wishing them well and reminding them that they are the ones who will determine our future. "Of those to whom much is given, much is required," said Harman, quoting John F. Kennedy.

The headmaster continued the ceremony in a contemplative vein, quoting John Dewey and verses from Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day." In the poem, Oliver concludes with a question sure to have reverberated in the minds of the graduating seniors: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"

Next, head of Upper School Bud Cox took the stage and spoke of the class's knowledge, understanding, and empathy, which he said he had witnessed over and over in the halls and classrooms of Poly. "As a class, you represent decency," said Cox, offering as examples the class's initiative in raising money for a school in Cambodia and for cystic fibrosis research, among other causes.

After a laudatory introduction by Cox, Ed McCole '08 delivered the senior speech. Composed and comical, McCole thanked his inspiring teachers and classmates, and described a little about his Poly experience. "There were days I didn't think I'd ever get out," he said. "And there were days I didn't want to go home because I was having so much fun. Nothing comes close to expressing the love I have for you students out there."

After congratulating his classmates as a group, McCole went on to offer a few words of love to each of his 110 fellow seniors. From A to Z, McCole offered gracious thanks and touching tributes to each of his peers. He concluded: "I love you all. I'll never forget you, and I sure hope you'll never forget me!"

Ed Ruck, retiring Poly Prep teacher and coach, addressed this year's graduating class as the featured speaker. The much-revered Ruck, who is retiring this month after 40 years at Poly, came to the mic with a bobblehead doll of himself, made especially for his retirement party, and set it on the podium with the words, "I never travel anywhere without him." When the laughter subsided, Ruck became serious. "I have the privilege of graduating with you," he said, before continuing with a little bit of wisdom he said he'd picked up over the years.

"After I graduated from high school, I thought I'd be a world-famous architect," Ruck recounted. But his real passion had always been sports, and an aunt encouraged him to take a job teaching phys. ed. He soon found his way to Poly, where he says he has loved coming to work every day for forty years. "Be yourself" he advised. "I know you'll be successes in whatever you decide to do." Finally, Ruck offered his gratitude to the 2008 varsity girls' swim team, who came from behind to win Poly's first Ivy League swimming title in 28 years.

When Ruck finished, A Cappella came forward to sing the senior song. Led by senior soloists, the group performed their rendition of "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.

The audience next heard from Michael Kay '58, a former Poly student who left school without graduating fifty years ago. Despite eventually going on to college and achieving success in his work, Kay said he had always felt something was unfinished in his life. After getting back in touch with the school he left half a century ago, Kay was finally awarded his long-deferred Poly Prep diploma. Kay thanked headmaster Harman and the school for helping him to complete what he started so long ago.

Then it was finally time to award the Class of 2008 its hard-earned certificates of graduation. Board of Trustees chairman Vincent Vigorita '68 spoke briefly, remembering the late, beloved Poly drama teacher, David Winder, thanking departing head of Middle School Larry Patton, and congratulating Ruck and the graduating class, whom he called "diamonds in the rough." Vigorita introduced science teacher and new senior master Paul Raso to do the honors of handing out diplomas. Raso inherits the job from Ruck, as the teacher who will have the most seniority after Ruck retires.

After the final diploma had been awarded, new graduate Fernando Bolles '08 led everyone assembled in singing the school song, "Far Down on the Heights Called Dyker," by Cornelius Boocock.

When the song was finished, Harman took the podium one last time to announce that the proceedings were formally over, and congratulated the newest class of Poly Prep alumni, the Class of 2008.

Students and families then enjoyed the beautiful weather with a reception in the Quad.

For a photo gallery of Commencement, click here.