PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Abbey School awarded diplomas to 79 graduates during its 88th Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 27.
Headmaster Daniel McDonough told the Class of 2018 that “this was one of the best years of walking with the Sixth Form” in his four years as headmaster. He thanked them for their “implicit and explicit guidance” of lowerclassmen, and advised an embrace of solitude. “Once a day, go into your quiet room and talk to God,” he said.
Student speaker Maya Catherine Eid reminisced about the friendships forged at the Abbey with fellow students “who became like brothers and sister to us.” The lessons of humility, love, and non-judgment imparted through four years at the school prepared the graduates well for the new life they would begin after commencement, she said.
“The Abbey is a difficult place to leave,” Eid said, “but we have so much more ahead of us.”
Graduate Arthur Ray Shipman, also emphasized the strong friendships and memories that “are only possible because of my Abbey experience,” he said. Shipman leavened the humor and inside jokes in his talk with serious gratitude towards the faculty, saying “You teach us and you love us, and we love you,” and to parents: “We’ve only ever wanted to make you proud, and we hope we can today.”
The commencement address was delivered by Christopher B. Howard, Air Force veteran, Bronze Star recipient and currently president of Robert Morris University outside of Philadelphia. Howard praised the Benedictines for knowing how to live in community — something the country at large could learn from the religious order, he said.
Howard’s animated speech drew hearty laughs from the crowd, tempered by pointed silences when Howard made a somber point. His talk focused on what he called “the four ‘Bs’:” “be yourself;” “be humble;” “be accountable” and know that beyond the Abbey’s walls there will be greater responsibility; and “be courageous.” Each “be” was illustrated by an episode from Howard’s life, the last a harrowing experience when his plane nose-dived and he had to eject from the aircraft. He considered giving up his dream, but returned to duty and became an Air Force pilot. Howard urged graduates to display the same courage in their future lives.