As the 300 members of St. John’s Prep’s Class of 2013 paraded into the tent for graduation yesterday, the past was walking in front of them.
Literally, that’s because members of the class of 1963 — wearing straw hats rather than mortarboards — were leading the procession.
“It’s a tradition at St. John’s for the 50th reunion class to celebrate their reunion over commencement weekend,” said Beth Forbes, managing director of marketing and communications at the school. “They take part in the baccalaureate mass on Saturday, and they walk in the commencement procession with the seniors on commencement day.”
But in another sense, as the seniors graduated they were carrying on the traditions of the Prep, which will lead them in their lives.
The strength of those traditions was evident yesterday not only in the return of so many graduates from 50 years ago, but also in the acknowledgement of 25 years of service to the school by Spanish teacher Tess Witwicki.
It was apparent in the 33 pairs of Legacy Awards that were handed to sons and fathers who had both graduated from the school, and in the acknowledgement of Bill O’Brien, class of 1988 and the new head football coach at Penn State, as winner of the distinguished alumnus award.
The school’s many traditions were also celebrated by yesterday’s speakers, beginning with senior class speaker Nathaniel Torto, of Marblehead, who was chosen by his classmates to reflect on their legacy.
While stating how proud he was of the volunteer work his class had performed in the community, Torto recognized the founder of the Xaverian Brothers, a lay religious order that sponsors the school and provides its values.
“Prep is huge on service,” Torto said. “My class has done so much for so many people, which is all you can ask for. Somewhere, Theodore James Ryken is super proud of us.”