|Pittsfield High Bids Goodbye to Two Eberweins|
|By Stephen Dravis, Special to iBerkshires|
10:59PM / Sunday, June 10, 2012
|The top 10 students in the class were awarded plaques. |
LENOX, Mass. — Pittsfield High School's graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon was a big occasion for Superintendent of Schools Howard "Jake" Eberwein III.
||Top, Elena Eberwein gives a little back to dad Jake Eberwein, superintendent of schools. The elder Eberwein often used stories about his children in his class addresses. Left, class President Brendan Hamel said classmates will live on through memories. See more pictures here.
It was his second commencement of the day after also attending Taconic's earlier.
It was his last commencement after announcing in January that he is stepping down from the position he has held since 2008.
And, most importantly, it was his first such ceremony as a Dad.
"I'm writing this letter to tell you... how proud I am of you," an emotional Eberwein said in his address to the class of 2012 at Tanglewood's Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed.
The outgoing chief of the city's public schools took a moment to gather himself at the start of his speech, then proceeded to pass along sage advice sprinkled with anecdotes from the life of what another speaker Sunday called Eberwein's "favorite graduate," honor student Elena Eberwein.
Elena, the oldest of Eberwein's five children, was the butt of some good-natured kidding during her father's remarks. Later, she had a chance to join Class President Brendan Hamel in honoring her father, whose career in the district included a stint as principal of Pittsfield High.
"It seems like only yesterday you were asking me to help you write your graduation speech," Elena joked. "Actually, that was yesterday.
"I guess you were more prepared than I thought."
The elder Eberwein framed his speech around 10 life lessons that he wanted to impart to the graduating seniors.
"Life is change," he said. "As an overbearing parent who assumed his daughter would be a Rhodes Scholar, a star athlete and a world-class musician, I had to learn to dial it down."
But the lesson he learned was that when Elena realized softball was not her forte, it opened the door to opportunities in Pittsfield's Drama Club, where she played not the Disney characters her father envisioned but the likes of Roxie Hart in "Chicago" and the title character in "Sweet Charity."
"Eventually I came to grips with it — with a lot of therapy," Jake Eberwein said.
Elena Eberwein's exploits on stage were far from the only reminiscences in the ceremony, which saw 211 graduates receive their degrees.
Although Pittsfield does not name a valedictorian or salutatorian, 10 members of the class were singled out and honored on stage for outstanding academic achievements: Kirsten Bossio, Allegra Chin, Maximilian Marshall, Alice Murphy, Eric Raymaakers, Thomas Tagliaferro, Nhi Ton, Kristen Trimble, Peter Wilke and Yi Zhong.
Speaking on behalf of the class, Hamel told his classmates that their lives have been shaped by young men and women who surrounded them on Sunday afternoon.
"As I look around here today, and gaze upon all these familiar faces, I realize that these are the people that will live on through our memories and stories," Hamel said. "Whether they may be funny, sad or just plain bizarre, they will immortalize us with each other and those who are lucky enough to hear our tales.
"My mother use to tell me stories of her classmates, Sammy Shivarshi, Shelly Kelly and Jane Emma — 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 said no matter where his classmates go, they should never forget where they have been.
"I just wanted to unite the class," he said in an interview last week about the speech. "It's the last time all of us are really going to be all together as a unit in high school.
"We've always been told we're one of the better classes they've had at PHS. We've seen a lot of changes. I thought as a class we were a good example to the younger kids in the school that you have to roll with the punches and keep things positive."
One of those changes Hamel mentioned was the fact that the class of 2012 has gone to school under three principals in four years.
The latest, Tracey Benson, helped preside over his first PHS commencement on Sunday.
Like Hamel, Benson encouraged the graduates to take stock of their time as students — not just in high school.
"Whether you were the kid who bolted out of the car on the first day of kindergarten or the one who clung to your mother's leg, you got through it," Benson said.
And they got through it all the way to graduation day, a time to look forward and back.
"Where are you going? Who knows?" Benson said. "As you embark on your journey post-high school, know this: You have been successful You have been educated.
"And if you ever have a question about where you're going, just think back to where you've been."