Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins made a strong case for what he called a kind of intelligent daydreaming during his 14-minute commencement address Sunday before 650 people at the Community School graduation.
Indeed, Collins warned the audience at the outset that he was going to speak for 14 minutes and 14 minutes only. He said they deserved knowing they were in for a finite experience. He said, "The universal truth is that no one ever remembers a commencement address."
Then Collins, winner of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for Humorous Poetry in 2004, proceeded to deliver a memorable commencement address using humor as "a door into the serious," as he has said before.
Attempting to tiptoe through the minefield without tripping on a cliché, Collins moved directly into his Top 10 List of life suggestions, starting with No. 10—don't spend a lot of time on glossy magazines.
There is no such thing as a bad submarine movie, Collins said, adding that No. 8 is "be a good tipper." Pretend other people around you are actually real was No. 7. And No. 6 extolled the virtues of a money clip, which is way cooler than a wallet.
Pay close attention to the world around you was No. 5, which Collins suggested might be taken for granted in the beauty of Sun Valley. No. 4 was to think twice about getting a tattoo, especially on your neck.
Drum roll, Collins' top three:
When you find you're complaining about too many little things, fall to your knees and thank God for your eyesight. No. 2—Vote, Vote, Vote.
Finally, Collins said that his No. 1 suggestion was "slow is better than fast."
"I'd like to call for a kind of creative loafing," he said. "As you've grown in the last two decades, the pace of life has increased dizzyingly, mostly due to the pace by which information travels. This virtual acceleration and the desire for speed is never to be truly trusted."
Slowing down helps you sort things out, he suggested.
He warned the 31 graduates against the danger of absolute conviction and encouraged a way of thinking that leaves room for ambiguity, nuance and doubt.
Collins said, "Uncertainty and ambivalence should be placed right up there with the qualities that distinguish us from lower forms of life."
He advised that the 31 graduates of the largest ever Community School class learn the importance of gratitude and to be constantly thankful for daily fact of life and existence.
Collins wasn't the only speaker at the independent school's 31st commencement held inside the school gym.
Science Chair/biology teacher and 1986 Community School graduate Harry Weekes was chosen by students to be the faculty speaker, a new commencement custom.
Weekes got a lot of laughs as he waded through the thinking behind all five of the bad ideas he said he had devised for a speech. And he summed up with a good motivational idea for the graduates.
He said, "The future is not a place, not a destination—it's a story you get to write."
Andy Jones-Wilkins, completing his first year as headmaster, opened the two-hour and 15-minute ceremony with remarks about what he has learned about the uniqueness of the school.
Senior speaker Kat Dembergh amazingly enough wrote and delivered a short poem about each one of her classmates. The other senior speaker, Brendan Nelson, said about his class, "We've changed a lot," and left it at that.
Alden Remington and Christian Cairncross made the 2007 Yearbook Dedication—the only graduation award decided by the student body—in the memory of classmates Rocky Bates and Nick Stevenson.
As its senior gift, the Class of 2007 represented by Pepa Roth and Chase Englehart gave an arch to be used for future graduations. Cancer survivor Sarah Adicoff announced a $500 gift to Camp Rainbow Gold.
Other awards and honors
The Upper School faculty selected nearly all the special award and scholarship winners announced Sunday including the Beaupre Achievement Award, won by Weekes in 1986.
The Beaupre Award, the school's oldest honor goes to seniors who maintain high standards of scholarship, leadership, citizenship and athletic achievement. The recipient was Krista Detwiler.
For the first time, there was a repeat winner of the Headmaster's Award.
Jones-Wilkins announced senior Grayson Palmer as the 2007 Headmaster's Award winner. The award picked by Jones-Wilkins goes to the sophomore, junior or senior who has made a significant difference in school life.
Earning Senior Project honors were Sara Alcid, Rachael Becker, Sara Berman, Krista Detwiler, Lexi du Pont, Rian Ervin, Mali Noyes, Oey Parker and Pepa Roth.
The Bill Benjamin Memorial Scholarship for Senior Project Proposals went to Rian Ervin.
JoEllen Collins presented the $2,000 Idaho Mountain Express Award to Sara Berman. The award has been given annually since 1988 to a graduate likely to contribute to the community in the future.
The 16th Tom Johnson Memorial Award for excellence in performing arts was given to Louise Waycott. Sarah Adicoff accepted the Laura S. Flood Memorial Award, announced by her sister, Heather Flood Daves.
Honors distributed at Sunday's commencement and at the school's awards ceremony Friday included:
Dollars for Scholars scholarship recipients were Rian Ervin and Will Van Eaton. Rian Ervin also received The Works of Grace Foundation Scholarship presented to children of local teachers.
Winner of the 17th Dixie Grabos Memorial Award for the appreciation and love of literature was Krista Detwiler. Presenter was Fred Grabos. The Trophy Sagebrush Award for imagination as an important part of the educational process went to Rachael Becker.
Krista Detwiler was winner of the Klingelhofer Senior Speech award given in memory of George Klingelhofer for the best speech.
Louisa Waycott accepted the Boo Bushell Youth in Performance Art Scholarship. Will Van Eaton took the Sawtooth Board of Realtors College Scholarship. Ketchum/Sun Valley Rotary Scholarship recipient was Grayson Palmer.
Selected as graduating winners of the Peggy and Sigi Engl Memorial Achievement Awards were Sara Berman and Oey Parker.
The Engl awards, announced by Michael Engl, go to two students at each grade level who demonstrate significant improvement in performance through effort, determination and hard work.
Other recipients of the Engl prize at Friday's awards assembly were:
Junior class, Amaya Ingram and Rafael Pena. Sophomore class, Elizabeth Beesley and Mattie Griswold. Freshman class, Cameron Conn and Taylor Riviello.
Eighth grade, Daniela Stokes and Dane Inman. Seventh grade, Josie Bunce and Charlie Grabow. Sixth grade, Logan Shipley and Zach Lindahl.
Book awards went to Jessie Curran (Wellesley College), Caroline Fairchild (Smith College), Taylor Straley (Colby College), Cody Curran (Williams College), Courtney Hamilton (Whitman College) and Emily Eshman (Grinnell College).
Given for the 24th year, faculty scholarships were presented to Zana Davey and Eddy Albarran. Mac Whittington received the Class of 2005 Scholarship. The Anne Reed Gallery Award went to Rian Ervin.
Headmaster's Scholarship recipients were Mattie Griswold, Ian Ingram and Taylor Adler. They are continuing scholarships through their graduations.
Winners of the Middle School Community Award were Emily Williams (eighth grade), Morgan Atkinson (seventh grade) and Grace Guryan (sixth grade).
The 2007 winner of the Philip B. Detwiler Memorial Scholarship was Travis Stone. The Tom Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship went to Marissa Dreyer.
Recipient of the Karen Wright Cardozo Memorial Scholarship was Colby Benz. Sylvie Krekow earned both the Greg Allison Memorial Scholarship and the David Dorward Memorial Scholarship.
Bob Doyle Service Award winners this year were Daniela Stokes and Hannah Hennessy.
Other community service awards were distributed to:
- Gold (50-plus hours): Sara Alcid, Charlotte Anderson, Jon Atkinson, Morgan Atkinson, Peter Atkinson, Quinn Baser, Sara Berman, Cody Boeger, Cody Curran, Jessie Curran, Alex Dallago, Conor Davis, Lexi du Pont, Max Durtschi, Rian Ervin, Emily Eshman, Caroline Fairchild, Kathryn Farmer, Sam Farnham, Keller Gibson, Courtney Hamilton, Max Harris, Spencer Harris, Hannah Hennessy, Charmayne Inman, Dane Inman, Kyla Jarrett, Sylvie Krekow, Julianna Lamb, Chloe Lynn, Riley Lynn, Mike Matteson, Jean Montgomery, Kingsley Murphy, Austin Nalen, Regan O'Reilly, Si Park, Geoffrey Ruppert, Gabby Sisson, Chet Stephens, Daniela Stokes, Reed Stokes, Taylor Straley, Jenn Tormey, Will Van Eaton and Louisa Waycott.
- Silver (35-plus hours): Melissa Becker, Austin Bourret, Camille Bourret, Ashley Bradley, Jessica Bradley, Zana Davey, Alexi Fitch, Fynn Funke-Riehle, Emily Gillespie, Khrystyne Inman, Jamie Jameson, Christopher Nalen, Tee Pidgeon, Allison Sher, Anita Vorsteveld, Lucas Vorsteveld, Natalie Vorsteveld and Hailey Zanes.
- Bronze (25-plus hours): Jordan Achs, Elizabeth Beesley, Taylor Benz, Nellie Brown, Casper Brun, Katie Dumke, Madi du Pont, Bryce Ervin, Charlie Grabow, Ian Ingram, John Martin, Emmy O'Reilly, Grayson Palmer, Emma Wilander, Emily Williams and Brina Yates.