Published : Thursday, June 15, 2017 | 4:01 PM
Dressed in long white gowns symbolizing their hope for the future, 69 young women have graduated from Mayfield Senior School, a class described by Head of School Kate Morin as “astonishingly wonderful,” open, sincere, lively and joyful.
“These are the qualities that have created a class united in love and appreciation for each other,” Mrs. Morin told the crowd of about 1,800 gathered at the Pasadena campus on June 4.
Every member of the diverse Class of 2017 will be attending one of 49 colleges and universities across the country, including Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC and Duke, among others.
Their years at Mayfield have been marked with achievements in athletics, the arts and scholarship and they enriched their learning with prestigious internships at JPL and Caltech, City of Hope and USC. Their final weeks as Mayfield students served as an emblem to their commitment to Christian service as they performed more 3,500 hours of volunteer work at schools and nonprofit centers throughout Pasadena and beyond.
Mrs. Morin praised the graduates assembled on the North Lawn, noting that their joy has been rooted in their determination and discipline to “cut through” the stresses of teenage life and get in touch with core values of their Holy Child education, “the clear and constant belief that we are cherished and nourished by our loving God.”
Senior Class President Claire Walker likened the Class of 2017 to a garden of flowers that started at Mayfield as seeds, but now graduate “in full bloom” thanks to the support and guidance from nurturing families and the wisdom imparted from their teachers.
“We are so blessed to have been granted the opportunity to attend Mayfield,” Claire said in thanks to parents. “From bringing snacks for games and plays to giving us amazing breakfasts in the Senior locker room, our parents have never stopped providing us with love and immense amounts of food!”
The enduring lessons from teachers extend far beyond textbooks and iPads. Theology teacher Frank Karl “let us think for ourselves,” Claire said. English teacher Shandy Carlson “taught us to look for depth in a poem that truly seemed to be about picking blackberries.” Social studies teacher John Duvall “taught us history is made every day.” And math teacher Melissa Tighe taught not only how to solve for X, but how to deal with life through “healthy eating, making lists, and knowing how to handle an uncomfortable roommate situation.”
The Class of 2017 received one last and powerful teaching on their graduation day from commencement speaker Suzanne Nora Johnson, whose remarkable career has placed her in the top echelons of the investment banking world. Mrs. Nora Johnson is former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs and was the firm’s most senior woman executive. Her rarefied leadership earned her a 35th-place ranking on Forbes 2006 list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women.” At the time, the magazine said she “served as a role model to women throughout Wall Street.”
She challenged graduates with this question:
“Do you have the spirit to have grit? Do you have the grit to have spirit?”
Her words were particularly poignant because Mrs. Johnson is truly a daughter of Mayfield. Her mother, Valerie Norton Nora, was a graduate of the Class of 1955, a cherished wife and beloved mother of five accomplished children.
“Like all of you, Valerie was smart, beautiful, funny, talented, charming, generous and kind, and by far the best athlete in our family,” Mrs. Nora Johnson said. After her mother’s death, her husband, Dr. Paul Norton, established a full-tuition scholarship in her name for the high school she loved. The family continues to support this generous gift.
Mrs. Nora Johnson said her mother had spiritual grit. Valerie Nora was confident, true to her values and determined. In her speech, Mrs. Nora Johnson offered a few thoughts to graduates on how to develop these traits.
“Keep your glass half full when life overwhelms you, you need the energy that optimism and a can-do attitude provides,” she said. “You will distinguish yourself from the pack just by being bright and buoyant. People need and like to be lifted up, not dragged down—life is challenging enough.”
She advised students to “define what is important to your life and you have to go after it. You have to speak up; you have to search for it. You can’t let things just happen to you,” she said. “You have to go and get them. You can’t be afraid of your dreams. You can’t be afraid of your callings.”
To fuel their spirit, Mrs. Nora Johnson told graduates to “always power your purpose.” Although passions are like sparklers, she said, “let your purpose fuel your life. You will keep your focus, you will turbo-charge your drive and you will have mystical powers of endurance.”
In the spirit of Mayfield’s motto, “Actions Not Words,” Mrs. Nora Johnson reminded students that “words do matter, facts do matter, numbers do matter and, most importantly, actions really matter.”
Then, in their final actions as Mayfield students, the Class of 2017 threw handfuls of red rose petals into the air as their loved ones cheered and the Mayfield community sent them forth to transform our world with their bounty of God-given gifts, including joy, openness, liveliness and sincerity.
Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus, 500 Bellefontaine Street, Pasadena, (626) 799-9121 or visit mayfieldsenior.org.