by Mitch Lehman
Great Gatsby was the official theme of San Marino High School’s graduation proceedings last Friday evening, but ‘transition’ could have made for a suitable, if far less compelling substitute as the Class of 2014, long-time educator and Superintendent Loren Kleinrock and Principal Keith Derrick all bid ‘adieu’ to Titan Town in one fell swoop.
For Kleinrock, it’s off to retirement and his “new boss” as it was suggested at a recent retirement party on his behalf, wife Sandy (Kleinrock countered with, “she’s anything but a new boss!) while Derrick will take over as principal of Royal High School in Simi Valley. As for the stars of the show – the 282 graduates, bedecked on a picture post card afternoon in royal blue and white – well, see pages 14 & 15. They’re going all over the place!
But before heading off into the Wild World, the grads received a few well-crafted words of wisdom.
“Can you believe it’s been four years since we graduated from middle school?” senior Gretchen Go wondered aloud.
“Sitting in a configuration not too different from the one we’re in today, contemplating our future, anticipating the limitless opportunities, and learning about the endless wonders of corn,” quipped Martin Liu.
Go: “I still remember choosing my first day of school outfit…”
Liu: “Worrying about how my hair looked…”
“Little did I know, that there was so much more to high school than I could ever imagine. Little did I know, that every moment matters,” said Go, as the crowd fell in silent reflection.
The pair led their compatriots on a stroll down memory lane, mentioning several classmates by name while recounting snippets both monumental and sublime.
“Jordan Agajanian killing it on stage, making the audience laugh until their sides hurt,” said Liu.
“Academic, debate, and gaming legend Jason Hu and his illogical logic,” countered Go.
The duo altered the words to Vitamin C’s popular ‘Graduation Song’ for their final number before issuing a last challenge: “Now, we move onto the next chapters of our lives,” said Go.
“We’re ready…” said Liu.
“Are you?” Go closed.
For Derrick, it was the final of his three graduation addresses before he begins an intimate relationship with the 118 Freeway.
To the delight of those over fifty, Derrick began his speech by quoting Jackson Browne, whom he acknowledged few if any of the grads even knew was on the planet.
“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but by perseverance,” said Derrick.
He then rattled off a list of the district’s achievements in all educational, artistic and athletic categories, including San Marino High School’s ranking in the top 1% of all high schools in the United States.
“Family, friends and community…thank you for raising your kids to be disciplined and nurturing them to make the choice to be great,” said Derrick.
In touting the merits of integrity, Derrick urged the graduates to, in the words of former UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden,“be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Because they each had graduating seniors in the audience, school board members Lisa Link and Nam Jack were given the traditional opportunity to address the overflow crowd as Board President Chris Norgaard politely stepped aside.
“Before you’re a mom, other parents will tell you, ‘it goes by so fast,’” said Jack. “No one has any advice for slowing it down.”
Jack and Link – sounds like a new fast food chain – then mentioned the transition form the many “firsts” in a child’s life, while now coming to grips with all the “lasts.’
“Or the realization that they are one and the same,” Jack noted.
“Seniors, when you were so very young, your firsts were monumental and celebrated and captured in photo and videotape. We all celebrated the joy of new beginnings, not realizing perhaps that we and you would not experience them again,” Jack said.
“And the last time you will gather as a class is today, June 6, 2014, in Titan Stadium,” Link added. “It is time to celebrate your firsts and your collective accomplishments, as well as to celebrate your ‘lasts.’ You are now in the last minutes of being a San Marino High School senior.”
“Of course, as mothers we have so much advice to give you about your next journey in life,” Jack added. “But we could be here forever, so we have just three important things to say, for now. Our first piece of advice is to Take a moment every day to express gratitude and appreciation.”
They then touted the exceptional San Marino community, which has supported them since inception.
“If you’re like I was at your age, you probably are ready to leave your teachers, your family, your community, and, frankly, even some of your friends,” Jack said. “That’s the way it should be. But before you do so, take a moment to express your gratitude and appreciation for all that they have done for you.”
Link then delivered another John Wooden quote; ‘Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.’ This class has many abilities, so we have high expectations for you.”
Kleinrock delivered his 20th – and last – graduation speech after 39 years in the San Marino Unified School District. He will retire on June 30 from his current post as Superintendent.
“I would submit that the yardstick by which you ought to measure your success over the past four years should not be your GPA or your accomplishments in sports, or orchestra, or drama,” said Kleinrock. “I would suggest that the true measure of your success in high school should be based on the quality of the character you have developed.”
Kleinrock would have been pleased to witness the good-natured hijinx that took place l;ater that evening at Grad Night. They are characters, all right…
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