Jac-Cen-Del and South Ripley hold
commencement exercises on Saturday, May 28
graduate from 3 schools
Wanda English Burnett
Students received the final word they were official high school
graduates at ceremonies held across the county on Saturday, May
Speakers at each ceremony had similar words of wisdom for the
graduates and yet each had a distinct difference.
Five graduates of the class of 1942 from Milan finally had the
honor of crossing the stage and being granted their diplomas.
Milan High School Principal Rich Healy explained the exceptional
ceremony was held with the blessing of the Class of 2011. Its
not to take anything away from the present graduates, he
told The Versailles Republican.
In 1942, an outbreak of scarlet fever had the graduating class
quarantined to their homes with no commencement exercises. They
did receive their diplomas, but the moment every graduate dreams
of was taken from them.
Roselyn McKittrick of Milan, was given credit for getting
the ball rolling and Bonnie Walker of Milan High School,
and others picked it up.
The only five members of the 1942 class who could be contacted
arrived at the high school eager to participate in the graduation
ceremony although it was 69 years later. They are: Leroy Edens,
Edna Grossman Taffe both of Milan; Elizabeth Grossman Grace of
Moores Hill; Gloria Hensley Murray of Southport; and Janice Wetzler
I think its just fantastic, noted wife of Leroy
Edens as someone helped him get his gown on even though hes
now wheelchair bound. Mrs. Elizabeth Grossman Grace said she couldnt
believe it. Sixty-nine years later? she questioned.
But, all of them agreed it was a great honor and they were thankful
to the class of 2011 for sharing a small part of their day with
them. It means the world to us, Gloria Hensley Murray
told The Versailles Republican.
The class of 2011 at Milan heard from four speakers, all classmates:
three valedictorians - Kaitlin Marie Dickey, Arielle Nikole Noel,
and Elaina Michelle Voss; and salutatorian Erin Elizabeth Seithel.
Principal Healy wished the graduates a successful and prosperous
future and gave them one last instruction, to take control
of your lives.
The second commencement exercises held in Ripley County on Saturday
were held at Jac-Cen-Del where physics teacher Gene Westerman
addressed the graduates.
The unique aspect of the 2011 graduation ceremony at JCD included
honoring the graduating Class of 1961, of which Westerman was
Several classmates from 1961 gathered and sat on the floor during
the ceremony as they saw the Class of 2011 give speeches and make
their way across the stage to receive their diplomas.
I think they invited us here today to let you (class of
2011) see what youll look like in 50 years, Westerman
jokingly told the crowd. He took a serious note and encouraged
the graduates not to withdraw into a shell like a turtle, but
to take educated risks, get the facts, and then proceed. He explained
graduation was an ending, a completed task. Commencement, however
is a time of beginning.
There was a solemn moment when salutatorian Nicole Marie Wirth
asked the audience to pause to reflect on beloved educator, Don
Snedaker, who died in the school year, leaving students and staff
alike with a void. She noted that May 28 would have been his birthday.
Rebecca Lynn Wagner gave the valedictorian address.
Some county residents such as Lori Taylor of Holton, would attend
yet another graduation ceremony for the day at South Ripley at
5:00 p.m. She was glad for the staggered times so she could attend
all three due to having relatives in all of them.
South Ripleys ceremony was a little more somber as classmate
Tanner Tucker was remembered. Tanner lost his life in a car crash
at the beginning of the school year.
Principal Bob Meyer reflected on the loss and noted the empty
chair draped with a gown and flower saying it was the graduating
class' request to honor their classmate and friend.
Best friend of Tanner and salutatorian, Samuel Stratton, had a
different address. He told the crowd up front his speech was not
typical. Among other things, he said he has learned that tomorrow
isnt promised to anyone. He encouraged everyone under the
sound of his voice to know where they stand with God (should they
die). He then prayed and quoted a scripture.
Meredith Knollman gave the valedictorian speech using the word
fall. She talked about the past, the present and the
future the graduates now have ahead of them.
Before giving out diplomas, Dr. John Mehrle, superintendent of
South Ripley schools, noted, Todays a big day....were
all in this together.
Diplomas were given and the ceremony, which had a note of solemn
respect to that point, became a little lighter as the graduates
lined the gymnasium floor in a square and celebrated by throwing
their hats in the air, just as every other school had done that
day. They were graduates. It was the end and also a new beginning.
Altogether, Milan, Jac-Cen-Del and South Ripley saw 235 graduate