Monday June 11, 2012

LENOX -- There were two valedictions at Sunday's commencement exercises for Pittsfield High School at Tanglewood.

The first was the traditional farewell address from class president Brendan Hamel.

The second was an emotional goodbye from departing Su perintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III.

"I hope I can get through this," said Eberwein, who is leaving the post for personal and professional reasons.

About 30 seconds in, he was overcome with emotion. From the seats in front of the stage, a graduating female student shouted, "We love you," and the Shed erupted in applause. Eberwein seemed to draw strength from that, and he carried out his speech.

Hamel received a warm ovation when he took the podium. He thanked his family and his teachers who have "given us a helping hand through school. Without them, it surely would have made the last few years of school more difficult."

He recalled how his mother used to speak fondly of her classmates, "names that mean nothing to most of you here today, but to me they are people similar to Rip Van Winkle and Paul Bunyan, people of folklore and great allure."

Hamel praised as "exciting" the amount of positive energy that "has radiated though our school."

Hamel pointed out that, "as we move forward, it is inevitable that some of us will drift apart, but it is these connections we have made in the last four years that will keep us together. We will always have the same home; the home under the dome. We will always be Generals."

Eberwein is ending a 20-year career with Pittsfield Public Schools.

His speech was at times humorous and at times poign ant, as he reminded the members of the graduating class of several lessons. These included keeping an open mind, paying attention, persevering and recognizing that there is no substitute for hard work.

"Don't waste time making enemies," he cautioned. "Be lieve in the inherent good in people.

"There is no limit to how excellent life can be -- or how excellent you can make it," he said.

"Without love, life has no purpose," he added.

School Committee member Daniel Elias also spoke. He asked the graduates to take the time to seek out friends and members of the Class of 2012 that may not be friends, and to wish them good luck. He added that students should also thank their parents and teachers.

"You will not know what sacrifice is until you stand out there yourselves and watch one of your children graduate," he said.

A total of 209 seniors received their diplomas at the ceremony. The Class of 2012, as well as teachers and School Committee members, was led in a procession into the Shed by drummer Dakotah Cole and saxophonist Domenic Petretta, both graduating seniors.

Following the speeches, the Pittsfield concert band performed a spirited version of the jazz/hip hop tune "Spit fire" as arranged by musician/composer Gary P. Gilroy.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile