WHS Graduation 2021 Speaker: Dr. Robert O’Donnell, Principal

WHS principal Dr .Robert O'Donnell addresses the graduates at the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 12. (photo: ATG Visuals)

The following is the message delivered by Wilton High School principal Dr. Robert O’Donnell at the WHS 2021 Graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 12

It is an honor to greet and welcome graduates, students, parents, community members, [superintendent] Dr. [Kevin] Smith, and members of the Board of Education. We also want to welcome all family members, some of whom will be viewing this ceremony virtually across the nation. I extend a special shout-out to Jake Arnowitz and our WE-TV team for filming and broadcasting this ceremony for the world to see. [APPLAUSE]

Graduates, there is nothing that compares to a Wilton High School graduation ceremony on Tom Fujitani Field in Veterans Memorial Stadium on a beautiful June day. And this is your day! [APPLAUSE]

It is good to see you all together here at this celebratory moment in your Wilton High School career and this pivotal point in your lives. You have strived to this point and deserve to cherish this time with your classmates. Not surprisingly, graduates, you are finishing this year in a stellar fashion with a deep sense of class unity. Look around briefly and capture this moment that you will remember forever. Look to your left and look to your right and just remember your friends and classmates — that’s right, smile right at them. Remember this forever. You guys are beautiful.

Graduates, what I’d like to do here today is take you down a recent walk down memory lane with some of your accomplishments. Firstly, you were able to reunite during the last few days of the school year as a class, get rid of the cohorts, and experience your teachers, yourselves, your classmates, and of course, ‘the jungle.’ (For those who are not aware, the seniors affectionately call the senior lounge, the jungle.)

During your senior picnic, you gathered together to socialize and sign yearbooks, a true right of teenage passage. As should be the case, conversations revolved around seeing your friends, getting ready for prom, gowns, how to wear a tuxedo, and decorating your cars in true Class of 2021 spirit (which you did very well, by the way, you looked great).

Under the leadership of your class officers, you organized a successful prom in a magical setting that is representative of this awesome class. You really looked like the group of young adults that we have crafted you to be. (By the way, you’re actually pretty good dancers.)

Remarkably talented in the fine and performing arts, you staged the first, open-air musical in school history, when your production of Working captivated audiences and met with wide acclaim. [APPLAUSE]

Our music students, unable to perform live for a Wilton High School audience for over a year, crushed it with the Pops Concert. Let’s give a round of applause to our musicians, our student musicians, who are all playing here. ([The] best fine and performing arts department in the nation, we all know that.)

Finally, you are here today on your home field without masks for this beautiful commencement ceremony. I wish you from the bottom of my heart and with my deepest love, I wish you great joy and togetherness tonight at PGP, and I thank our wonderful Wilton High School families for organizing this PGP for our students under some adverse circumstances. Thank you to all of our parents. [APPLAUSE]

At your prom on Thursday evening, I had the chance to talk with many of you and glean your perspective on what these end-of-year experiences have meant to you. You expressed that you were surprised to be able to engage in these end-of-year rites of teenage passage and how genuinely thankful you were. You spoke about the seeming return to relative normalcy. You noted that as a class, you handled it all well under the circumstances. Three graduates talked about the resilience of this graduating Class of 2021. I could not agree with you more and I largely credit you, and your mature and compliant behavior in school with keeping us going in person, well done. You spoke about the Renaissance of athletics and how much it meant to your physical and mental wellbeing to be back on the fields and in the pool and on the fields again. Finally, you expressed that the year is now a great success because it is much better to finish strong than to end abruptly.

Some graduates noted that even when separated and isolated, they were still together as a class. This will always be the case as you are forever linked by the unique and special bond of this graduating Class of 2021. Graduates, I speak on behalf of all of our staff and parents and family members that we are just thrilled that this year turned around for you and that you were able to enjoy these memorable experiences for the remainder of your lives.

I want to state that the ultimate success of this school year also lies with our faculty and staff. Graduates, to your left and right sit some of the most talented faculty members in this country. They share in your pride in this accomplishment. Their level of commitment to your education has been unparalleled over the past four years. It has been a very, very difficult and challenging year for your teachers, but here they sit right now by your side, physically and figuratively.

Recently during the student presentation to the Board of Education, the first thing that the students cited about what went well this year was the flexible support that our staff provided during this school year. Please join me again for a warm round of ovation for our Wilton High School staff and faculty who are here on the field and up in the stands. [APPLAUSE] These educators are absolute heroes.

At this point, I commend you for emerging from this time stronger than ever, graduates. You have succeeded in maintaining an academic focus and meeting importing important learning goals. It is clear that you could not have done so with the support of your families. And I know that you felt the love for them all year long, that Dr. Harvey spoke about earlier. So I congratulate our parents because I know that you are immensely proud of these graduates and rightfully so.

In closing, as you prepare to graduate, I want you to know that I, our faculty, Dr. Smith, our Board of Education, all express our deep Warrior pride for your accomplishments during your Wilton High School years, and of the contributions that you have made to our school and to our town. You are an exceptional class that is truly leaving a very positive legacy at our school, just like the name of your yearbook, “Legacy.”

Dr. Smith, I present to you the Wilton High School graduating class of 2021.