Norwich Free Academy graduates 476 seniors in Class of 2013

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Jun. 25, 2013
The lengthy Norwich Free Academy procession makes its way to the athletic field for commencement on June 21. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.
The lengthy Norwich Free Academy procession makes its way to the athletic field for commencement on June 21. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.

A sea of 476 red caps and gowns washed over the sun-drenched football field as Norwich Free Academy granted diplomas to members of the Class of 2013. The June 21 graduation ceremony was a lively mix of the old and the new. Many students sported creatively-adorned mortarboards, decorated with everything ranging from artificial flowers to rhinestones to an actual pepperoni pizza. Yet during the ceremony, a choir of seniors performed the Hymn Dundee, sung at the dedication of NFA in 1861, and members of the Class of 1963 were honored on their 50th anniversary with a bagpipe procession.

Taras Pleskun, this year’s Ivy Orator, said that earning the honor was “a little like being the prom queen: I’m the center of attention and surrounded by people I know. One the one side, I’m happy and ecstatic; on the other side, I know I’m going to mess up. And to top it all off, I’m wearing a dress.”

He said that graduation is “a symbol, but it’s nowhere near the finish line. We’re like plants leaving the pots we’ve known since our childhood, in a vast, expansive garden. But our most fundamental roots will be planted on this campus.” He urged his classmates to “grasp life with every atom of your being. Live life with audacity and without regret.”

“We are the kids who live life with headphones on,” said Heather Plecan, the class speaker, who compared the four years of high school to driving. “Sometimes it’s a highway with an easy straightaway,” she said. “Sometimes you become lost… but every time, whether for better or for worse, your experience shapes who you are.”

Guest speaker Stephen Maguire, a member of the reunion Class of 1963, addressed the students with a tale of his own trajectory from NFA. He called himself an average student with grades that ranged all over the map. “I was a prankster, but not a troublemaker,” he said. “I was lazy, and it takes energy sometimes to get into trouble.”

He found purpose and adventure after he was drafted into the U.S. Army, moving up in the ranks until an injury suffered in Vietnam robbed him of his eyesight. “My world had become a very small place, the size of a bed,” he said. “That is where my life began.” He found ways to continue to indulge his love of reading and launched into a career in social work which has spanned four decades.

“Be informed about what is going on around everywhere,” he advised the graduates. “Seek the truth.” He urged the grads to choose their spouses wisely and to strive to become “a decent person. Why? Because the alternatives are horrible. I want you to fan out starting today… and make your one-person contribution to this world.”

Science teacher Steven Brunetti, who retired this year after a 37-year teaching career, presented the day’s first diploma. His colleague in the history and social studies department, retiring 35-year veteran teacher Geraldine Transue, presented the last diploma. 

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