VANDALIA – There were tears of joy and sorrow on Friday evening as the Butler Class of 2017 celebrated its achievements and remembered an absent classmate. The Class of 2017 had 298 members and earned $6.8 million in scholarships according to Superintendent Bradley Neavin.
Musical selections were performed by the Butler Chamber Choir, Kierstyn Hale, Ericka Washburn, Deanna Cohen, and a duet by Melanie Barrett and Allison Gabert.
An empty chair with a cap and gown were left to remember Allie Fowler who died last fall in a car accident. Tears flowed when her cap, gown, and diploma were presented to her mother by Butler Principal Thomas Luebbe which drew a standing ovation from the audience.
Class President Alison Barlow said that experience brought the students together even as students dealt with the normal headaches of high school.
“We lost a friend. It took the enthusiasm right out of a lot of us. But we overcame,” Barlow said in her welcome speech. “We found a support system in our teachers, administrators, and more importantly in each other.”
Salutatorian Elaine Dean spoke about the spirit of unity at Butler.
“Although this is the last time we will all be together, I am confident that the spirit of unity that Butler has taught us will stay with each of us forever,” said Dean.
She had special words for Luebbe who completed his first year at Butler.
“Mr. Luebbe, from day one you have shown us that any time is the perfect time to greet someone with a smile and a friendly handshake,” she said.
Valedictorian Spencer Brokaw had the audience laughing after first stopping to take a selfie with the Class of 2017 in the background. “I’m a Millenial,” he said.
He urged his fellow classmates to enjoy life.
“If I’ve learned anything, its that sometimes we shouldn’t be afraid to put the quality of our own enjoyment before our responsibilities,” Brokaw said. “Life is too precious for us to waste our time and energy solely dwelling on its stress and negativity…we can not expect to enjoy ourselves if we choose to be its spectator.”
Before presenting the class to Neavin, Luebbe asked the audience to raise their hands over the students as he charged them to make a “positive and lasting difference throughout our world.”
“May you always possess the gift of strength and the reward of insightful wisdom so as to enjoy a lifetime of years upon years of happiness, to seize every opportunity that life will present you, and to handle with the fortitude of courage every challenge which you will definitely encounter,” said Luebbe. “May you always answer the call to use your talents in service of others and to use the knowledge which you have learned at Vandalia-Butler to make a positive and lasting difference throughout our world.”
Before the presentation of diplomas, Neavin, who is retiring this summer, gave his final speech as Superintendent.
“Choose to do something you that makes you happy each and every day,” Neavin said. “Decide to do something you truly love, and you will never, ever work a day in your life. Go! Do great things! Godspeed, and remember, we will always be Aviators!”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.