A Fond Farewell to The Exuberant Class of 2022

The seniors toss their caps in front of the Montrose M on Miracle Field.

Wendy Miklus

The seniors toss their caps in front of the Montrose M on Miracle Field.

When I hear the word “Commencement,” my mind immediately thinks of some particular images. Graduates in full cap and gowns, the wonderful renditions of Pomp and Circumstance, the multitude of teary parents watching their children begin their next chapters, or the picturesque tossing of the caps at the end of the ceremony. All of these images help to define the beauty and joy of any commencement exercise. This year, the entire Montrose community was lucky enough to partake in that joy and help to celebrate the wonderfully exuberant Class of 2022.

The ceremony began with the procession of the graduating class, led by the faculty, from the “beloved tunnel door,” through the receiving line of juniors, and into the tent on Miracle Field. Neha Sunkara, Valedictorian of the Class of 2021, led the procession, symbolizing how even when you graduate, the lessons learned from and the connections you have made with your Montrose Sisters will last a lifetime. 

After the procession ended, Father John offered the Invocation, and when everyone was seated, Bill Noonan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, began the commencement exercises. He addressed the seniors saying “each of you is called by God to greatness,” a phrase we love to use very frequently here at Montrose. He described how this seniors class in particular has survived a “tumultuous, emotional, and trying” time. Mr. Noonan called on the graduates to thank the many people that have made the ultimate sacrifices to get them to this point, their graduation day. Montrose is celebrating its 42nd year as an independent school aimed at educating women with the values of greatness of mind, heart, and character. When Chairman Noonan described how the Montrose founders “had a dream for young women to be the best version of themselves,” the whole student body, whether new or returning, was able to see how the founder’s legacy and vision for our school is still alive and thriving in this present age.

Following Mr. Noonan’s remarks, Mrs. Elrod, our fearless Head of School, addressed the graduating senior class at her first Commencement as Head of School. Mrs. Elrod echoed Mr. Noonan’s sentiments when she thanked the parents of the graduates for their “indomitable spirit and love for our students.” She then addressed the graduates, reminding them they “stand on the shoulders of giants,” joining a rank of “Montrose sisters” that will share the common interest and love for our school. Montrosians hear the phrase “Remember that you are unique, unrepeatable, and called by God to greatness.” almost daily. I believe that this montra holds true to the mission of our school and the ways in which we can live out our call in daily life. 

Mrs. Elrod’s practical words of wisdom were then followed by the acknowledgement of two faculty members who each have spent over 20 years in service to our school. Known as the “heart of Montrose,” and admired for her “focused, prayerful attention,” Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Bowman respectively have dedicated over 20 years to enhancing the lives of many Montrosians and educating young women on the greatness of mind, heart, and character. To honor their service, Mrs. Elrod and Mrs. White have dedicated two pieces of student artwork that will hang on the walls of 29 North St as a testament to their hard work and dedication.

Known by Mrs. Elrod as the “co-sals” of the Class of 2022, Spandana Vagwala and Emma Barry, two editors for our Looking Glass Newspaper, offered both practical and funny anecdotes to help describe their time at Montrose and the ways in which it has impacted them.  

Beginning with their favorite ninth grade memories, Spandana and Emma illustrated how their first year of high school was a time of “navigating the unknown” and honing in on the critical skills of writing and leadership. Moving on to their sophomore years, the co-salutatorians emphasized the importance of the “connection and relationships” they formed, despite the stomach and fever plague of 2022, an event they describe as their first “coronavirus.” In 11th grade, Spandana and Emma believed that learning how to “disagree productively and the practice of dialogue” helped to get through what they believed to be the “hardest year of high school.” Finally, as graduating Seniors, the co-sals reminded Montrosians “not to take things for granted” and to “enjoy a good thing while it lasts.” These little stories and pieces of advice that Spandana and Emma provided serve as a guide for the whole student body on how best to move through and cherish each and every moment of their years at Montrose. 

After Emma and Spandana’s reflection, there was the distribution of diplomas along with the beautiful written senior tributes. The alumna address then followed, given by Emily Morgan, a graduate of the Class of 2010, and the Attorney Advisor for the U.S Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review in Washington D.C. As a sophomore interested in government and the life of a Montrosian after their graduation, I was elated when I read her biography in the program. Described as a “woman of conviction and ingenuity dedicated to noble pursuits,” Emily began by attributing Montrose graduating seniors as being “uniquely prepared for the journey that they are about to embark on.” 

Emily particularly focused on three unique Montrose skills that helped prepare her for her journey into the world. The first was asking questions. Emily emphasized how asking questions is very important in a world where so many different paths are possible. She said that the “questions matter more than the answers” and called on not only the graduates, but the entire crowd under the tent to follow your curiosities and not be afraid of where they lead you. The second practical skill she reminded us of was the importance of listening. Emily posed the question: “If we are always talking, when do we ever listen?”

 She quoted the prayer of Saint Francis, reminding us how “the spirit of listening is to understand.” The cycle of questioning, learning, and listening will lead us to our larger purpose in life; the service of others. I know that many people love to decorate or adorn their lockers, bedrooms, notebooks, etc with inspiring quotes or mantras of people that they admire. One that I believe will resonate with me from Emily’s speech is “Perfection is not a prerequisite for greatness.” This piece of wisdom helped me to realize that being perfect, even despite faults and mistakes, doesn’t mean that greatness is achieved. It means that the struggle of daily life and the hardships we endure are ways in which we can get there. Emily concluded by prompting all Montrosians to aspire to be “imperfect servants” living out our ultimate call to service and love of others. 

Tess Farr’s witty and grace-filled valedictory was the perfect finale. Tess began by recalling her memories of discussing a variety of different valedictory speeches at the beginning of her senior year. She asked, “What is a valedictory speech?” While there were many different ways to address her senior class, the faculty, students, and families, Tess delighted the crowd with memorable stories that reflected her messages of community and compassion. A Senior Capstone project is the culmination of both your philosophical and theological courses at Montrose, focusing on a complex social issue that you investigate using both Catholic social teaching and the questions of “So What?” and “Now What?” When Tess illustrated the real life application of the “Now What?” question, she remarked that this question was defined by compassion and conviction. She reminded us of the importance for all Montrosians to cherish the unobtrusive, little daily things that help to remind us of “the others, the others, the others,” a phrase used by our beloved Father Dick. Tess emphasized how memories like getting locked out of the tunnel door and the sophomore vs. senior dodgeball match (which the sophomore class did in fact win!) help “drive us to make our ‘Now What?’ a reality.” Finishing with one of Mrs. Monica Baker’s favorite Grateful Dead songs, Tess’s final dose of inspiration was, “try to keep a little grace… and try to keep a little love… we will get by, we will survive.” 

Concluding with the receiving line of teachers and the hat toss in front of the Montrose M on Miracle Field, the Class of 2022 officially graduated. While every commencement has meaningful speakers and tributes for graduates, I particularly enjoyed how this year’s graduation focused on the themes of community, compassion, and living out the emblem emblazoned on every quarter zip, street sign, and pamphlet you read: “Where girls are called to greatness.” To the Class of 2022, thank you for your practical and witty pieces of advice and wisdom that you have given to each and every one that you have encountered. The student body, to whom you bid fond farewell, looks forward to the day when we will join you as alumnae in the ranks of the Montrose sisterhood, living out the values of our founders with a knowledge of how our school has helped to shape and form us into the wonderful women that we will be. 


by Kate Novack ’24, Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief