Portsmouth Abbey grads ready to embrace the future

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PORTSMOUTH — In the three weeks leading up to his graduation from Portsmouth Abbey, Julian Minondo said his alarm clock took a “savage daily beating.”

The fuel that had driven him — the college application process — had been burned up. But new adventures already beckoned.

“Maybe those things we cherished during our tenure here will provide new fuel for the future,” Minondo said during Portsmouth Abbey’s May 25 commencement exercises.

Minondo and 80 of his fellow graduates said goodbye to Portsmouth Abbey, a coeducational Benedectine boarding school situated along the picturesque shores of Narragansett Bay. Dozens of beaming parents and other relatives and friends attended the daytime graduation on a pristine Sunday afternoon with perfect sunny weather.

Amberlee Majewski, a graduating class speaker, described the personal growth that she and many of her classmates experienced in their four years at the Abbey.

“We have slaved over long nights of studying,” Majewski said, “trying to answer crucial questions such as whether we could dodge our way through the classroom building without being caught for not having a blazer … we scarcely imagined that we would make it here, now ready to face the most important question: What do we want to be now?

“Perhaps our past can help us figure out our future,” Majewski added.

Portsmouth Abbey’s Headmaster, Daniel McDonough, who was named headmaster last September, congratulated the Class of 2014, and joked that the graduates would no longer have to fear him materializing by their side when they were doing “something silly.”

McDonough quoted the late Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw in reminding the graduates that “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” McDonough also cited scripture, noting Revelation 3:16 where the risen Christ warned what he would do to lukewarm Christians.

“No, you are not lukewarm, and for that I love your class,” McDonough said.

John M. Regan III, the chairman of Portsmouth Abbey’s Board of Regents, and himself a member of the Class of 1968, addressed the graduates on the need for informed, thoughtful and engaged citizenship.

“While I see the potential for a bright future for all, I believe that we, as global citizens, need to step up our game,” said Regan, who also touched upon the “incredible progress” that the world has seen just in the last half decade.

“The trajectory of scientific and technological advances is breathtaking,” Regan said. “There is, indeed, a bright future – one that offers us the potential to greatly improve the human condition while better distributing its benefits to all.”

Regan also said that the “Three R’s” of Portsmouth Abbey — Reverence, Respect and Responsibility — are “the basis for a life of good will and duty that is, to paraphrase New York Times columnist David Brooks, lived not for your resume but for your eulogy.”

In addition to the formal speaking program, the commencement featured prayer, hymns such as “Pater Noster” and “All Creatures of Our God and King,” not to mention unbridled cheering from loved ones when their graduates walked across the stage and received their diplomas.

“This is great. I can’t believe that we’re leaving,” said Ryan Nicholas Quinn, 17, a Bristol native who will be attending Emerson University to study film and television.

Matthew Raul Fonts, 18, of Portsmouth, will be studying history at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

“I’m really pumped,” Fonts said. “All the hard work paid off. It’s going to be a big summer.”

Brian Fredericks, 18, of Middleborough, Mass., said he planned to spend two weeks in Rome before working at a YMCA camp the rest of the summer. He will then study business this fall at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

“It’s pretty incredible. It’s the culmination of four years, all at once. It’s pretty overwhelming,” said Fredericks, who played football, hockey and lacrosse for Portsmouth Abbey.

Melody Mo, 18, a native of China who will be moving on to New York University, said she was “relieved, but also very nostalgic.”

“Now, I’m actually feeling a little sad,” she said. “I’m going to miss all my friends here.”