O’Hara Class of 2013 ‘Leaves no one behind’

Thursday, June 13th

Delaware County News Network

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013


by Patti Mengers

Cardinal O’Hara High School Principal Marie Rogai has a special place in her heart for the Class of 2013.

“At a time when more people tend to focus on their own needs, the Class of 2013 chose to leave no one behind,” she said last week during commencement exercises at Villanova University’s pavilion.

Rogai mentioned a student giving up a speaking role in a show so an injured dancer could still have a part; students helping a classmate who was far from home celebrate a birthday; and students wearing the color purple to honor a classmate, as examples of “cohesiveness.”

Such gestures, she noted, meant as much as the class members’ many athletic, academic and artistic achievements.

With that, the principal dispatched the 308 graduates of the Roman Catholic high school that is located in Marple Township, to the world. Assistant Principal Daniel Commale and English teacher Denise Ahern read the names of the graduates, who were clad in the school colors of dark red and navy blue, as Rogai handed them their diplomas and Archdiocese of Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Thomas shook their hands.

Among them were Valedictorian Alexander Fox, who has scored scholarships to Bucknell, Temple and Villanova universities, and Salutatorian Matthew McCalla, who is bound for Harvard on a scholarship.

“You are powerful beyond measure,” McCalla told his classmates during his turn at the podium.

He cited the importance of working together to solve the world’s problems as exemplified by civil rights pioneer Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Blessed Mother Teresa, who embraced the poor and suffering people of the world, and Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to independence through a peaceful revolution.

“All of these people didn’t change the world until they changed someone else’s mind,” said McCall.

His speech moved Paulette Bourdon, who traveled all the way from Memphis, Tenn., to witness the graduation of the oldest of her 11 grandchildren, Kaylin Bourdon. The daughter of David and Krysten Bourdon, the O’Hara graduate moved to Delaware County from Minneapolis just two-and-a-half years ago.

“She has made many close friends here,” said her grandmother, who noted that Bourdon’s parents will soon be moving to Hong Kong while the graduate moves to California to attend the University of San Diego.

O’Hara’s 47th graduating class garnered nearly $16 million in academic college scholarships, noted high school President William McCusker.

He encouraged the graduates to support Catholic education in the future, and quoted Pope Francis: “All of us must have the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord.”

Roslyn Hawkins of Brookhaven said as a single mother of four, she had to make great sacrifices so she could afford to send her son, William Vernon Clark III, to the archdiocesan high school.

“It was worth it. He excelled here. He was homecoming king,” said Hawkins as she and Clark’s 21-month-old sister, Amaya, patiently waited for the graduate to be awarded his diploma.

His father, William Clark Jr., three other siblings, grandmother, aunt and cousins were also there to applaud Clark, who won both chancellor and provost awards from Penn State University. His mother said Clark is planning to attend Northampton Community College with an eye toward becoming a neurosurgeon.

The graduates entered and exited to the music of the Cardinal O’Hara Concert Band, which also accompanied Carolyn Stillman as she sang the National Anthem, and Giovanna Cimino and Timothy McCarry as they led their fellow graduates in their first rendition of their alma mater since becoming alumni.

Some Delaware County parishes that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput recently announced will merge with others July 1, were represented at the O’Hara graduation for the last time. They include St. Alice in Upper Darby, parish of Miranda Kirsten Mathias; and Holy Saviour in Lower Chichester, parish of Jamie Nicole Gallagher, Katie Plucker, Noelle VanHorn and Grace Louise Schueren, who was the recipient of the Cardinal O’Hara Medal of Excellence in English.

At the class’s Baccalaureate Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, McCusker referred to O’Hara’s first president and his longtime friend, Bishop Joseph McFadden, who was stricken and died of a heart attack May 2. McFadden, who served as the bishop of Harrisburg from 2010 until his death, is credited with bringing the archdiocesan high school into the age of high tech and instituting such events as the annual O’Hara Family Christmas while he was there from 1993 to 2001.

McCusker spoke of how the late bishop, who was a monsignor, affectionately known as “Monz” during his eight years at O’Hara, liked to talk about the cathedral and how it was constructed in the 1830s without street level windows to avoid vandalism during a time of Catholic persecution.

“He loved that cathedral,” said McCusker, who noted that the high school’s namesake, the late Cardinal John O’Hara, Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1951 to 1960, oversaw renovations at the back of the majestic structure.