Northampton High School bids musical farewell to 223 graduates



Published: 06-11-2017 10:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton High School’s senior class president Matti Tacy spent much of her commencement speech Sunday talking about the class of 2017’s accomplishments:

There were Nickolas Smith and Patrick Quinlan, who won All-American status in track in March; the football team beating Longmeadow High School for the first time since 1996 last fall; Lily Rogers being elected Key Club International governor of the New England region; and Caitlyn Richmond, placing 11th in state golf sectionals.

Commencement offers time for reflection. But it symbolizes the possibility of the future, a blank slate.

“We need to take our strengths, passion, character with us as we move forward, facing that same anxiousness and excitement that we felt our freshman year,” Tacy said.

Tacy addressed a packed (and sweaty) John M. Greene Hall on the Smith College campus as 223 graduates walked across stage to receive diplomas during the school’s 151st commencement.

Principal Bryan Lombardi opened the ceremony with three wishes and hopes for the graduates.

“First, I wish you happiness and success in whatever you do,” he said. “Second, I wish you a strong mind — a mind that is both critical and analytical, a mind that is flexible and a mind that questions and desires to learn and grow. Lastly, I wish you a strong heart. A heart that instills with you passion, compassion, empathy, kindness and love.

“I believe that with a strong mind and a strong heart, you will be able to face the challenges that await you,” Lombardi said.

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After a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” by the school’s Chamber Choir, senior Wilfredo Guzman and others presented math teacher Ester Matlock with the Mary Gray Teacher of the Year Award.

“Every time I asked for help, she always responded with patience and tenacity,” Guzman said, “and would not give up until I understood what seemed impossible to grasp.”

“Thank you for your courage and your passion and your hard work — for challenging yourselves and for challenging me,” Matlock said. She hoped the graduates found something they were “passionate” about and “spend your lives working to be the best you can be at whatever it is that you choose to do.”

The ceremony was jam-packed with musical performances from the school’s band and choir. Along with “The Circle Game,” the band belted out “Irish Tune from County Derry” by Percy Grainger.

That was followed by a higher-energy rendition of “No Such Thing” by John Mayer from the choir, and an instrumental performance of “All You Need is Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

In place of a traditional valedictorian and salutatorian, Superintendent John Provost awarded seniors Mairead Blatner, Scarlet Bliss, Talia Feldscher, Sophia Renauld and Gretchen Saveson the class of 2017’s Academic Excellence Awards.

Before the presentation of diplomas, Emma Henderson, whom the senior class chose as their speaker, was last to give a speech.

“Every single one of us is still growing and still changing,” Henderson said. “The last week of high school I literally got yelled at for playing pretend volleyball with a water bottle in the hallway.”

She said the graduates should be grateful to go to NHS.

“It is such a wonderful and accepting community,” she said.

Henderson talked about daydreaming in class and checking online to see if she could spare an absence.

“I don’t feel like high school has been the best chapter of my life, but it was a chapter nonetheless,” she said. “I think high school is more like the early chapter of the book where you get all the exposition rather than the chapter later in the book with the big, explosive plot twist.

“Now, please note, I have retained some information from high school,” Henderson said. “The concept of a metaphor, as you just saw — thank you, thank you.”

Jack Suntrup can be reached at