Grads have ‘power of 12’

Published 10:11 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Pacelli High School 2008 graduating class had just completed commencement exercises Wednesday evening.

The graduates posed for a group picture in front of the steps at St. Augustine Catholic Church.

They joyously tossed their mortar board caps into the air and shrieked with joy.

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Off to one side stool was Steve Murray, commencement speaker.

Murray and his wife, Bonnie, saw two sons, Ben and Jesse, graduate years earlier from PHS.

Bonnie Murray painted the colorful mural on a PHS classroom wall.

Today, Steve is the dean of students at Aquinas High School, La Crosse, Wis.

“I think it is,” Murray said, when asked if high school graduation is still the most significant life milestone of them all. “Thought more people are going on to college or to seek their master’s degrees, they will measure their life by the high school graduation experience.”

Nancy Christensen provided the processional and recessional music Wednesday evening.

The Rev. Joe Fogal, pastor of St. Augustine and St. Edward Catholic churches, gave the invocation and benediction.

Mary P. Holtorf, director of Austin Area Catholic Schools, remarked how this year’s graduating class has only 12 members. “The first Pacelli graduating class in 1913 had one graduate,” she said.

That was Larry Gavin, who went on to become a Roman Catholic priest and to make an influence on lives.

“That’s the power of one,” Holtorf said.

She described the class as a “quality class” of graduates and predicted they, too, would make a difference in the lives of many.

Allison Johnson, the class valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA and bound for St. Mary’s University in the fall, admitted, “It is a personal goal of mine not to break down and cry during my speech.”

Johnson struggled to keep her emotions in check, but faltered occasionally.

She said attending PHS had allowed her to “find herself” and to “prepare for the future in the presence of God.”

Johnson advised underclassmen, looking at the graduates, “Don’t take anything for granted.”

Co-salutatorians Maria Burke and Samuel Stier also addressed the commencement audience. Stier’s address included a poem about knowledge.

The Pacelli Singers and the Senior Class Choir entertained with musical selections.

Norman Blaser, director of development, introduced the commencement speaker, calling the former PHS teacher a “good colleague and friend.”

At the outset of his speech, Murray said, “If I have any compassion it came from my years of teaching at Pacelli.”

His fond memories of the Murray family’s years in Austin, included worshipping at the “cathedral on the prairie,” the beautiful St. Augustine Catholic Church, and Pacelli traditions including the Christmas Basket project each holiday season.

He discounted the significance of only 12 graduates and pointed to the Bible’s “power of 12.”

In the Bible, the number 12 is significant, as it implies structural beginning or foundation of organization, as well as governmental perfection, according to scholars.

Twelve Pacelli graduates, Murray said, “can change the world.”

With a toss of their mortar board cap tassels from right to left, that’s what the PHS class of 2008 plans to do.

The PHS class of 2008 included: Alysha Barth, Marta Burke, Tiffany Carlson, Cameron Dooley, Allison Johnson, Jordan Juenger, Vanessa Kilby, Alan Meidl, Samuel Stier, Ashleigh Smith, Connor Williams and Drew Williams.