19 St. Mary’s grads embark on ‘majestic’ lives

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
/ Photos by Dana Larsen

A tradition of several years took on a special meaning Sunday at St. Mary’s graduation, which happened to fall on Mother’s Day. In an emotional moment, each graduate delivered a rose to his or her mother in the audience.

Commencement speaker John Meyer, a 1968 St. Mary’s graduate and retired vice president of Sprint Nextel Corporation, flew in from his home in Florida to address the 19 graduates, noting that occasion flooded him with memories.

He recalled that the gym where the ceremony was taking place was built when he was 7 years old in 1957. At the time, it was the biggest such facility in Storm Lake, and was shared with the university for basketball games.

“Life is not an Instagram or Snapchat profile,” he told the students. Devotees of social media often assume that everyone else’s lives are perfect, because people tend to post “the good stuff” and not their challenges and mistakes. He compared this false impression to a forest, which looks majestic from a distance, but up close is filled with fallen trees and other challenges to navigate. “All of our lives are messy but also majestic.”

The longtime corporate executive revealed that he had struggled as a student at St. Mary’s, had very little self-confidence, and had dropped out of college after only one semester. He worked for a time in a grocery store during days and a theater at night, until he saved enough money and worked up enough nerve to try again.

“The moral of this story is not to take a year off and sleep in your parents’ basement,” he joked. “The important thing is knowing the right questions to ask, not knowing all the answers.”

At 68, the unassuming alumnus is a world traveler and outdoor sportsman. He has hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, helicopter snow skied remote regions, and climbed the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. He urged students to take good care of their minds and bodies and pace themselves for the sake of their later lives.

He also advised them to avoid living on an emotional roller coaster, noting that top athletes like the NBA’s Steph Curry tend to avoid celebrating too much when they win, or suffering too much when they lose. “Take your highs and lows in stride,” he told grads.

Meyer also noted that unless they protect against it, their daily lives can tend to be consumed with stress. “Unplug,” he advised, telling them to find a place they can go to enjoy peace and quiet. “Escape the noise in life.”

He also encouraged them to make moral decisions. “Rarely do the defining moments of your life announce themselves,” he said. Recognizing them, and making the right choices, makes all the difference. “As Will Rogers said, ‘If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.’”

Meyer also made several predictions for what the students will be talking about when they gather for their reunion in 2068 - noting that this was not particularly bold of him, since he won’t be around to blame if he is wrong.

They include: “Remember when we had to actually drive a car,” “Remember when Amazon used to deliver by truck instead of drones,” “Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” and “Can anyone remember who gave the graduation speech?”

Several awards were presented:

• The Citizenship Award chosen by faculty - to Joshua Feltner

• Kiwanis Beavers Leadership Award - to Olivia Schaller

• Mary Catherine Hagedorn Scholarship - to Josue Castro

• St. Mary’s Service Award - to Abby Jones

• Spirit of St. Mary’s Award - to Kallie Goettsch

Valedictorian Abby Jones and Salutatorian Olivia Schaller received medals, and presented a joint address. They claimed theirs was the most accident-prone class in school history, recounting the incidents that plagued their classmates (in humorous fashion), as well as each classmate’s greatest achievement.

They thanked the parents of the graduates for “always being there to pick us up when we fell,” and thanked their teachers for believing in their dreams and goals, taking a special moment to honor Diane Frank, retiring longtime St. Mary’s math teacher. Their school, they said, taught them what friendship and family are all about.

In another annual tradition, a slide show was presented with photos of the grads as they progressed through their school years, set to a mashup of sentimental music like “I Hope You Dance” and “Good Riddance” (Time of Your Life.)

2018 Senior Class President Abby Jones presented the Key to the School to 2019 President-to-be Lizzie Lenhart.

Members of the graduating class: Jacey Benna, Carlos Del Villar, Kallie Goettsch, Alexis Huddleston-Monroy, Kathya Ibarra, Dalton Lullmann, Cale Murray, Guillermo Ocegueda, Olivia Schaller, Tuan Truong, Josue Castro, Joshua Feltner, Hailey Hartman, William Hurd, Abby Jones, Melissa Murillo, Hailey Nepple, Brandon Prudenz, Tanner Snyder.

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