The Class of 2019’s final hours as Harker students were memorable ones, as Thursday’s graduation ceremony brought together families, friends and faculty to celebrate a major milestone in the seniors’ lives.
Cheers went up from the crowd at the Mountain Winery as the seniors arrived to take their seats during the processional to the familiar swell of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” performed by the Harker Chamber Orchestra.
Following a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the 2019 Graduation Chorus and a welcome message from Upper Division Head Butch Keller, Kaushik Shivakumar ’19 took the podium to deliver the valedictorian speech to his fellow graduates. Shivakumar implored his classmates to use the intellectual curiosity they gained at Harker. “If there’s one thing we should take away from our high school years, it wouldn’t be what we’ve learned,” he said. “Instead, it would be the desire to learn more, which manifests itself as curiosity. In order to thrive within the world we find ourselves, we have to ask questions. Lots of them. And in particular, we must never ever hesitate to ask the question, ‘Why?'”
Shivakumar’s speech received enthusiastic applause and was followed by another performance from the 2019 Graduation Chorus, this time of “I Shall Pass This Way But Once,” written by conductor Susan Nace with lyrics by Etienne De Grellet.
The Hon. John B. Owens ’85 was this year’s keynote speaker. Owens’ said his memories of Harker have had a profound impact on him, as evidenced by the many teachers he remembered and thanked, including longtime math teacher Pat Walsh and the late beloved history teacher John Near. Owens noted that while many schools offer a good education, Harker set itself apart by also teaching him to be a good member of society. “What Harker taught me at the end of the day are things you don’t really learn in books,” he said. “[Harker] taught me how to be a good citizen.”
The 2019 Graduation Chorus then gave its final performance of the evening, singing “The Harker School Song,” before Head of School Brian Yager gave his farewell address.
Yager gave the audience a brief retelling of the journeys of Richard Henry Dana Jr., who in the 1800s explored the sparsely populated area that would later become known as California. Dana’s portrait of California was very different from the populous state known today, and with growth has come many problems waiting to be solved by the next generation. Like California, he said, Harker has also experienced massive changes in the 125 years since it was founded. “Its journey, like the journey of the state in which we live, has been a remarkable one,” he said. “It has also been one built on hope … the hope that our efforts to educate you will enable you to appreciate the world of yesterday, love the world of tomorrow, and that your fantasy will be to stand in a world 50, 60, 70 – maybe even 125 – years from now that is one you can say with pride and joy that you helped make happen.”
The graduates then received their diplomas one at a time as their loved ones cheered from the stands. Once all members of the class were seated, they symbolically moved their caps’ tassels from the right to the left and cheered loudly as they flung their caps into the air. The ceremony officially ended with the traditional releasing of doves, eliciting shouts of awe as the beautiful birds flew overhead.