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Graduation Weekend 2019 - A Most Memorable Time




Anticipation, excitement, and joy filled the air on graduation weekend as members of the Cardinal Gibbons Class of 2019 joined in fellowship at Baccalaureate Mass, and two days later turned their tassels and celebrated a milestone achievement: graduating from high school. 

2019 graduates turning their tassels at graduation.

On Friday, May 24 and Sunday, May 26 graduates and parents alike commemorated academic achievement, friendships, family, and faith. The summery weekend, all agreed, was a most memorable time.

​It started Friday evening when graduates, families, and friends, gathered at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Luis Rafael Zarama, Bishop of Raleigh, was the principal celebrant.

In his homily, Bishop Zarama highlighted the importance of time, place, and love in students’ lives, emphasizing to them that “life without love is empty.” He also told students: "Each of us is called to find and fulfill our vocation in life. In doing so God will give you a taste of His love, a taste of His joy, a taste of His mercy."

After his homily, Bishop Zarama thanked Principal Jason Curtis for his years of dedicated service to Cardinal Gibbons and to the diocese. His special thank you was matched only by a standing ovation from attendees for Mr. Curtis, who will be stepping down as principal to assume the role of president at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, CA.

Later that evening, Caroline Kelly ’19, a member of the executive student council, gave an inspiring speech. (Read Caroline’s speech.)      

“What I want to say to you today is that we act in love … choosing to love means embracing all the emotions,” said Principal Jason D. Curtis.

At graduation, seniors - girls dressed in white caps and gowns and carrying yellow roses; boys dressed in green caps and gowns - filled NC State University’s Reynolds Coliseum. The Gibbons community stood by to honor the graduates.

Standing ovation for Principal Jason Curtis at Baccalaureate Mass 2019.

When Principal Curtis rose to address the seniors, he was greeted with cheers and applause. In his speech, he talked about children's television star, Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers, who coined the use of 1-4-3 as a special code for I love you, which emerged as the theme of Mr. Curtis’ speech. (The code? Each digit corresponds to the number of letters in each of the three words.)

“Today is a wonderful day, and it’s also a day filled with mixed emotions…” Mr. Curtis told the students while conceding he shared those same emotions. The Class of 2019 is the last group of Gibbons graduates Mr. Curtis will address as principal.

“What I want to say to you today is that we act in love … choosing to love means embracing all the emotions,” he said. Then, one by one, he personally addressed the school’s board of trustees, the parents, and educators, expressing what he loves about each.

Class of 2019 at graduation.

A moving moment came when Mr. Curtis addressed the students, telling them “… how willing they are to serve and to help, how often they say thank you, how caring and thoughtful they are, how excited they are for Cookie Tuesdays and Wagon Wheel Fridays, and how they share their optimism with a world that needs hope. “

Then, quoting Fred Rogers, Mr. Curtis told the students, “ ‘Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else.’”  He said his fervent hope and prayer for the Class of 2019 is “that you will continue to love God and love others so that you feel all the emotions.”

Students  at 2019 graduation.

He also reminded students that their Gibbons home “has never really been a place.” Rather, it is wherever they remember a story, hear a song, or see green and gold, and they feel all the emotions. “That is when you are back at Gibbons, back at home,” he said, adding, “at those moments I hope you remember the most important thing that makes Gibbons home:  (1) I –(4) L-O-V -E (3) Y-O-U.”  (Read Jason’s speech.)

This year's valedictorian, Michael Hensgen ’19, who is headed to MIT, and salutatorian, Sean Cleary ’19, who will attend the University of Notre Dame, delivered their speeches to an attentive audience. (Read speeches by the valedictorian and the salutatorian.) Mr. Curtis presented diplomas to all the seniors as well as special commencement awards to certain students. (View the list of students and the awards they received.)


Overview of cap toss for Class of 209 at graduation.

Commencement 2019 ended when the sea of white and green mortarboards came raining down on the late afternoon crowd gathered in front of Reynolds Coliseum. Before they left the graduates exchanged stories of the journey that brought them to graduation day. 

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