PITTSFIELD -- The Class of 2014 at St. Joseph Central High School has shed the trademark student polo shirt, yet continues to don the ideals the uniform represents.
During Sunday's commencement, valedictorian Timothy Wiles said the graduates can expect some day to trade the polo for a college sweatshirt, lab coat or police uniform, but they will always "wear" what they've learned on the St. Joseph campus on Maplewood Avenue.
"The qualities that the St. Joe polo represents -- the dedication to faith, the passion to achieve, excellence in everything, the commitment to serve the community -- should be a permanent part of you, influencing the way you live your life," Wiles said.
He added, "Simply by wearing the uniform, students create an image that sets them apart from their peers at other schools."
Wiles' remarks came before Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, bestowed diplomas on the 34 newest St. Joe alumni before hundreds of family, friends, school staff and parish clergy gathered at St. Joseph Church.
For first-year students at St. Joseph, wearing a uniform is one of many changes they encounter entering the grade 8-12 private school.
Salutatorian Katherine Nugai highlighted how the Class of 2014 went through plenty of change in five years, such as two new principals, an evolving dress code, different teachers and the elimination of gym class. Nugai believes the "chaos of change" brought her classmates together as one family and taught them how to adjust to future challenges.
"Change is the invisible force that pushes us to be someone greater than we are now," she said. "Never fear change; accept it, learn from it, adapt to it, excel."
Bishop McDonnell also urged graduates to avoid the gripe of fear as they move through life.
"Do your best, put your faith in God and don't be afraid," he said. "Follow through on that and live up to what you've learned at St. Joe."
In the fall, the most noticeable change at St. Joseph will be the absence of Lillian "Lil" Quinn. After 41 years of service at the school -- 32 teaching English, the last nine as the academic dean -- Quinn is retiring later this month. She was also best known for staging the school's annual spring musical, directing a cast and crew of 50 to 60 teenagers each March for nearly 30 years.
On Sunday, Quinn was given an honorary diploma, two standing ovations and a fond farewell from Michael Garrity, representing the Class of 2014, calling her the "heart of St. Joseph."
"We have a saint among us who helped us in so many ways, [thank you] Mrs. Quinn," he said.
Last fall, the Springfield Diocese honored Quinn with a life-time achievement award for her dedication to St. Joseph Central High School.
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