“Being a man is knowing where you are needed most..” -Will Florer ’20, Bishop Lynch Award Recipient
This year, the seniors were able to experience this important coming-of-age moment, transforming from boys to men. These men, crafted under the Jesuit education, will be heading to their next stage of life beyond high school, ready to serve their next mission just as St. Ignatius did some time ago.
On June 5, 2020, the entire class of 2020 came together for the final time to celebrate the remarkable accomplishment of graduation in the vast, air-conditioned Cowboys Stadium. Here’s how it went:
This year has been unique in many ways, and this idea applies to this year’s graduation. Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas has never held a graduation ceremony until now. Jesuit Dallas is the first school to hold graduation at AT&T Stadium. Jesuit is and will continue to make history. Just a thought to keep in mind.
Anyways, the jumbotron went through and showed each individual award of excellence for the seniors. Additionally, the screen wrapped across the decks said the name of each senior, showing how Jesuit was dedicated to commemorating each and every senior. Parents were then presented with a montage highlighting the special moments from the seniors during this school year before the officers of the Class of 2021 presented the flags. The seniors then began to process one by one to their seats, set six feet apart seats. This usually happens in the Senior Convocation, but the event was unfortunately canceled.
Next, after an opening speech by Mr. Garrison and a prayer by Mr. Earsing, several Jesuit students physically obtained prestigious awards celebrating their work at Jesuit including the Wunderlick Award (Jack Barton), the Bishop Lynch Award (Will Florer), and the Man for Others Award (Dagmawe Daniel, Liam Leahy, and Trevlan MacGregor).
Will Nickols ’20 finished as the class valedictorian and will be attending Harvard in the fall with a final GPA of 102.3. Jack Casey ’20 finished as the class salutatorian and will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall.
Will Florer ’20 gave an inspiring speech about Jesuit’s Class of 2020, a class that showed extreme strength amongst shattered expectations. “My brothers, unrealized expectations undeniably make-up a substantial piece of our shared Jesuit experience, but they do not define the legacy of this class…the spirit of resilience defines the Jesuit Class of 2020,” Florer said. He went on to thank the administration and parents who were able to make this moment possible. “To the parents, thank you for loving us at our best and our worst. We will never forget the sacrifices you have made for us.” His speech really set the tone for the graduation, ending this year on a high note. Florer will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall.
Finally, the seniors all received their diplomas before exiting in a socially distanced procession.
Student & Faculty Interviews
I was able to speak with student speaker Will Florer ’20 and Mrs. Bruce, a computer science teacher who attended the event, to recap their final thoughts on the class of 2020 and attending the ceremony. Here’s what they had to say:
How does it feel to be able to attend the ceremony and see this moment?
Mrs. Bruce: “It was emotional only because I know I’m not going to see them next year. Having it at the stadium [made] it so grand, big, and different. It already made me feel like next year is going to be so different. I’ve seen them since they were freshmen. I was close with other senior classes, but I’ve had so many of them in so many of my classes and in so many of my activities. I’ve traveled abroad with them and I’ve done the Sophomore Retreat and the Freshmen Retreat. I know them inside and outside of class. And…Emotional, because I know that next year, they’re just not going to be there. It’s just weird. I didn’t have that many students because I taught upper level programming, but there’s not as many classes as freshmen programming. I had a ton of freshmen and then I did Stagecraft, and I’ve done a lot of service events with them. I learned the ropes with them since they were my first class of freshmen who tested me.”
Will Florer ’20: “I’ve been telling people it probably wasn’t worth it to lose two and a half months and then to have this awesome graduation at AT&T Stadium. I would’ve rather had the rest of our senior year, but it’s a pretty good consolation prize. Getting everyone back together. It was such a cool venue to finish our story. It was just a little bit overwhelming to see guys that I hadn’t seen in like a quarter of a year, because it all ended so suddenly in March. Seeing everybody back together and getting to walk the stage as brothers in arms figuratively was a beautiful thing. So that’s why I would call it, overwhelming.”
What stands out to you most about the class of 2020?
Mrs. Bruce: “One word that we have used is resilience, because they they’ve been through a lot. I know that word was used at graduation, but they just had a lot of challenges. The ones who graduated made it through all those challenges and having the two deaths, which was really upsetting to them. They’re a very diverse class. [They’re] more diverse in what they think and who they hang out with. When it came to like Community Days last year and Kairos, they mix it up and they all got along so well. They appreciate people who they don’t hang out with. They’ve matured. I’m happy to see them go to college, because I know that they’re equipped to be good and do good.
Will Florer ’20: “I’d probably go back to what I said in the speech. It was the idea of shattered expectations. Not everything went the way we thought it would for our class. There were some big disappointments, whether it’s on a personal level or on a class wide level. What stands out to me most about our class is just that spirit of resilience, the ability of 2020 to rise above these great challenges that we’ve experienced over the last four years and find a new way around those challenges, create something beautiful together, and leave a legacy for the underclassmen to look up to. I think it all comes back to that resilience. I’m just exceedingly proud of the legacy that my class leaves behind.”
What are your favorite moments from spending time with these seniors?
Mrs. Bruce: “Laughing with them. Just all the stories there. I don’t know, they had so many ups and downs and I was with them during those ups and downs. Just being able [to be with them], like our communication, but mostly laughing.”
Will Florer ’20: “Well, you have your classics, like Community Days and Senior Kairos. Those are your times for a lot of class-wide growth and personal growth that you get to experience together, but honestly just any given day and the senior courtyard where we’re just spending time with each other hanging out, eating lunch, or playing games. Those were the fondest memories of mine. Just looking back on those days where we got to just have each other’s company and just share genuine good times with each other. Those are some of my favorite memories. The big Jesuit activities have their place and they are very special but also any good day at Jesuit can be a special memory. So you gotta make the most of all this day. That’s my greatest advice, you know, just appreciate the random days at Jesuit.”
If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mrs. Bruce: “Never doubt yourself. I don’t even know how to say that. Never second guess how you feel. Never doubt yourself, because they know what’s right and they what’s wrong and they all have a really good moral compass.”
Will Florer ’20: “It’s the one you’re going to hear from so many seniors. And, it’s the one, when you’re an underclassmen, you probably feel like it gets emphasized too much, but I would tell you to enjoy every last moment you have at Jesuit. I used to wander when I was an underclassmen, why the alumni network is so profound about the current students at Jesuit. The alumni want to know what our experiences are like. It’s like, ‘Why did these people still care? They were here decades ago.’ Now that I’m finally an alumni of the school, I’m gonna miss all the days I shared with my brothers and all the fun memories we made together. You gotta just live in the moment and seize the day and love every last experience that you have in Jesuit. Don’t waste that time because it’s not gonna be the same once you graduated. Appreciate your brothers who are around you and the time you get to spend together.”
Coming in as a freshman, you tend to look at the seniors and hope to be where they are. The Senior Courtyard. Senior privileges such as off-campus lunch. Less stress as the college admissions winds down. It’s an aspiration that each student spends four years working toward. There’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with going to a new school. However, it’s the class in front of you that can help guide and advise you. They are one year ahead of you, so if you want to ask about classes to take or sports to try, they are always there to help you. When you get older, they are your teammates on varsity sports. They are your classmates in your favorite classes, and you see them in the halls all the time. They are your comrades, comrades who serve as instrumental role models to guide you.
It’s not just the bond of a single class that stands out, but rather the interlaced connections between classes that truly form this community. That’s why students often have friends across class years, because Jesuit has so many activities to get involved in that it’s easy to find people of all ages to join. It’s the greater diversity of age, perspective, race, ethnicity, and other forms of background that help contribute to this community. The class of 2020 continued and truly exemplified that theme. We stand together, not alone. We are stronger together, not alone.
Many things contrasted their assumed expectations. As Will Florer ’20 said in his speech, “On an individual level, some guys didn’t make the cut for their first choice
sport. Others discovered that a certain academic path wasn’t right for them or their
future. Some saw their early passions dwindle or change. And others had to let go of
their passions because of an unfortunate injury. On a larger, class-wide level, we didn’t
get closure at our Senior Service Sites, and we missed the final opportunity to serve at
our Special Games. We were unable to spend the last 6 weeks together in the halls of
Jesuit with teachers and friends, as it came abruptly to an end one routine Wednesday
in March. And most-devastating of all, we lost 2 of our brothers along the way, 2 caring
and compassionate men who we wish we had by our side this morning.”
But now, I realize the impact of this class and this year in general. It’s something that former News Editor Ashton Casey ’20 indicated his viewpoint. “I never would have imagined that this would have happened to me. I had everything going my way: my grades were excellent, I was happy, I was much more social, I had already been accepted into one of my top colleges, and I was excited about my future. Then the future I had been envisioning and the life I had been living all came crashing down. And while I have been regaining my confidence and trying to recreate my previously “normal” life, I know that will never truly happen. ”
We don’t always get what we want. Things don’t go our way. We can hope and plan and dream for our perfect future. We can spend countless hours working toward that future with that goal in mind. No matter how hard we work, it won’t come to us easily and in the way we want. We don’t win every award or every teacher’s heart. However, we must accept the reality and keep working towards our future. We must take every accomplishment we have and celebrate it. We must use every mistake or obstacle to teach us how to proceed in the future. We must stay resilient in the face of adversity. And most of all, we must be ourselves when we are doing so. I hope that this class and everyone who reads this can take something away from this year.
“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. ” -C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne
Thanks to the administration and faculty who were able to create this event and make it special! Thank you and congratulations to the 2020 seniors who left behind a legacy Jesuit will never forget! Here’s my gift to you guys.
And as always, check back to The Roundup for more coverage of Jesuit graduation!