A Commencement to Remember

Below are the prepared remarks of Headmaster Derek Tremblay and the keynote speaker, Andrew Mihaly.

Introductory Remarks (Derek Tremblay):

On behalf of the soon-to-be graduates, their parents, and the faculty of Mount Royal Academy, welcome to the 2016 commencement exercises.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. yesterday, I received a text message from one of our seniors. She asked, “How many students were there back in 2002?” And as I was looking through the archived registration, I came across some interesting names. Names to be noted include the following, some of whom are present here today: Dean Mihaly, Andrew Mihaly, Brock Coleman, Katherine Dabrowski, Peter Kalpakgian, and virtually every Bocko child except for Luke. Luke’s exact whereabouts at that time are unknown, but Fred and Susan might say he wasn’t even born yet.

And there were 2 other names: Madeline Rublee and Amanda Wallace. Now I don’t know of an Amanda Wallace, but I know of one Oliver. I trust there is a mistake in the archives. Nevertheless, this is a first in MRA history: 2 students graduating together who began together back in PreK.

We will get the privilege to hear from Andrew, Brock, Madeline, and Oliver. We will of course hear from Dr. Kalpakgian, and he assured me that his memory of Brock will be a fond recollection.

Alas, as we eagerly graduate the largest class in the history of Mount Royal Academy, we are mindful of our own story. The story of this school is quite simple: God continues to make it grow, sometimes in spite of ourselves, but this is truly a grace-filled endeavor. Perhaps my second favorite quote from Aquinas is this: grace perfects nature. The supernatural elevates the natural. Not only are we pursuing God, he is pursuing us.

Our keynote speaker today is Mr. Andrew Mihaly. Mr. Mihaly returned to Mount Royal Academy in 2013, after he graduated from Franciscan University. He is a member of the very same household founded by Mr. David Thibault, the Prodigal Sons. The son of Rick and Cheryl, he is also the teacher of Anthony.

Mr. Mihaly was named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ by the Merrimack Basketball League, a clear indicator of his commitment to the total mission of Mount Royal Academy. Mr. Mihaly is also the Moderator for National Honor Society, and under his leadership, NHS only grows in dynamism and service to not only our school, but the local community. Last summer, Mr. Mihaly led a retreat for young adults at Camp Bernadette.

His work ethic is impressive, but perhaps the most impressive attribute of Mr. Mihaly is something that goes relatively unnoticed: he is quite a balanced person. Balance is a true mark of a soul aiming towards God, steadily moving in the right direction. He gives our young people great counsel, and now we all get the privilege of listening to his credible witness.

Commencement Address (Andrew Mihaly):

Good Morning,

First of all, I’d like to thank the class of 2016 for bestowing this honor on me. I can remember receiving the news, it was May 4th, and a feeling of intense joy was quickly followed and overshadowed by a feeling of intense nausea! It goes without saying that I am extremely proud of this group of young individuals after watching them grow for the past three years here at MRA as their teacher. And I want to thank all family members, community members, and loved ones who have come out to celebrate this wonderful day. I apologize for reading off of this page, but I was afraid that my typical off the cuff approach and nerves would cause some important things to elude me.

For those of you who may not know me, my name is Andrew Mihaly. I am the jr. high and high school history teacher, athletic director, and National Honor Society advisor. Interesting fact…I was once a student here at MRA from 5th to 9th grade. Dr. Kalpakgian taught me for 6 years of my academic career, one of those years at my kitchen table. I clearly remember Mr. Thibault’s math and science classes. I think if we dug deep enough in the Saxon math textbooks and nightmare closets as I like to call them on campus, you will find my name in some of these textbooks, and probably some ridiculous doodles of an “anonymous” artist. I remember back in the days of upper school recess getting in fist fights and casual group UFC style royal rumbles over a missed call in touch football out in the back field while Dr. K was nose deep in a great literary work. Not to worry Dr. K, as you know…we were just boys being boys right? WHAT COULD GO WRONG for 5 foot 90 lb. Andrew Mihaly at the bottom of a dog pile. This is the first Dr. K is hearing of this I’m sure, but what better environment to unleash these archaic tales. While we are on the subject, I should also confess hiding in the science closet behind a few rows of beakers and microscopes for an entire class period with my best friend in middle school as the school authorities searched high and low for us in the old inn.

Believe me when I say senior class, I was once in your shoes in probably more ways than you think. I too was given a strong foundation at Mount Royal that has been paramount in my path thus far in life. Though I didn’t graduate from MRA, it left an indelible mark on me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

In my childhood and adolescence, we bounced around to different schools. No joke, this is how it progressed: Private, public, private, homeschool, public, private, homeschool, public. I then spent my four years of college majoring in history and education at Franciscan University of Steubenville. But that jumping around gave me many unique perspectives and experiences on the value of the environment in which you tread the exhausting waters of your K-12 education.

I can say with confidence after all that bouncing around that Mount Royal Academy is an anomaly, and I mean that in the most wonderful way, and the experience that you have all had here is completely unique. This school is truly a blessing, and I know that God is at work here. You’re all exhausted and exited to move on, but maybe later today, maybe tomorrow, maybe this summer, or maybe years from now it will really sink in and you will realize the blessing that this school has been in your lives as I finally did. It may take some time because I am pretty sure the thought of one more 47 minute period in that high school kitchen at this moment might give you hot flashes. The environment that you all have been given here, one of support and unconditional love. An environment where the people around you have made immense sacrifices to helping you become the best version of yourself; none of us wish for you to settle for less.

I have had some fantastic memories with this class. They have certainly grown with me. Do you guys remember my first year as your sophomore US 1 teacher…those were dark times. I have watched you all grow and mature so much, as have I. Yes, especially you back table club…the legendary BTC. Most of you were there on day 1 of my teaching career at MRA, but some of you came along later. Unfortunately for Oliver, he was there when I was 13, and his older brother and I were suspending him from his bunk bed by the elastic of his Spiderman underwear.

But in all seriousness guys, I couldn’t be more proud of the maturity that you have shown in the past three years. Sure, mistakes were certainly made, barriers were overcome, and sufferings endured. I have seen the growth day in and day out over my past three years here, and it has been beautiful to watch you all turn into fine young men and women. I was senior homeroom teacher this year. Oftentimes we had a less than packed house at the 8:00 bell, but even when you guys may have thought that my stressed out and exhausted self wasn’t listening to your conversations as I frantically hammered out emails and chugged my morning coffee, I was. Note to all students…my hearing is much better than you think. I was often impressed by the maturity of the discussions when you all would talk about your goals, work schedules, aspirations, things to consider and frustrations with college hunting and applications, talking about a Dr. K book, or how behind you were on an assignment or paper.

I’ve seen you all make leaps and bounds in your own ways, and I wanted to share some thoughts with you as you move forward. As a precursor, I must confess to the audience that I am a mere 24 years old; I have a great deal yet to experience and learn. But bear with me as I share 3 practical thoughts moving forward for you that have become pillars for me in the very challenging past 6 years since I graduated high school and have served as sort of a guiding compass for me:

  1. Seek the truth at all costs. Dr. K’s most resonant words as his student were to thirst for knowledge and truth. That thirst for truth and knowledge has been instilled here and should only become more passionate and intense as you move forward. Only through your experiences will you quickly discover the lies that this world tells us about how to truly be happy, but this school has taught you where to find the truth and how to seek it out. Be a truthful voice in our culture. I don’t mean that to be cliché. But our world needs people who embody moral principles, not moral relativism. Look at them: You guys have a duty to share the truth that you each have been given, through your words and actions, let that truth shine from you. The old saying is so applicable to MRA graduates, to whom much is given much is expected. And that may sound scary, but we have never needed this quality in young people more than we do today. Where you find truth, you find true peace and happiness.
  2. Approach your life as much as possible through the eyes of gratitude. We get so caught up in the business and negativity of our world around us that we often forget about those things that are most precious that we take for granted day in and day out. Our world is so good at telling us where we are lacking and what we might be missing in our lives that we are consumed by the constant desire to want more and feel inadequate. We often prayed in homeroom each morning in thanksgiving for all that we have been given, and all the gifts that we take for granted. You have each been given so many blessings in life. Your education has been one of those blessings. You have been given a strong foundation to move forward from. Find a way to often take a step back to observe the beauty in life that surrounds you. When you are able to see life through the eyes of gratitude, the daily drudgeries to the greatest challenges in life become much more bearable. Like my mother and father always used to tell me more often that I would’ve liked to hear…offer it up, Andrew, you don’t know how good you have it!
  3. Finally, long term plans. You may have them at the moment, be prepared for them to change. The only long term plan I had in place that survived was that I would become a teacher. Unless I guess if you count the plan that I wouldn’t gain 100 pounds in college. Our plans are not in our hands alone, but in God’s. If you truly believe that he has a plan for you, and have faith that you are doing your very best to be open to that plan, life will take its course, but you must put your trust in God alone and maintain a strong relationship with him. In those moments of intense doubt, exhaustion, and frustration which you will certainly have. Take time to quiet yourself and find peace in the only true source that is God. I told myself I would never go to Franciscan, or return to the Lake Sunapee area, and here I am a graduate of Franciscan living in Newport, teaching at my old school. God has an interesting sense of humor. You may think you have your five, ten, fifteen, or twenty year plan in place, which is fantastic and also a little scary in a way!; however, your plans may not be what God has in mind for you, and that’s fine. Goals and aspirations are essential, but do not let your plans silence God’s in your heart because you weren’t listening to him. Coming from a control freak, this is much easier said than done guys. God has wonderful plans for us all, but if we are not open and listening to his will, we are squandering his gifts, and will never find our true fulfillment and happiness.

Teacher mode: so graduates, what are my 3 guiding principles I leave with you today? SEEK TRUTH, EYES OF GRATITUDE, AND BE OPEN AND AVAILABLE FOR GOD’S PLANS EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT YOUR OWN. And I sincerely hope that you graduates will take my words to heart. Over the past years of your education at MRA, you have been given the tools you need to move forward. We have provided you with the moral and intellectual foundation to immerse yourselves as real difference makers in society. For me to expand on that any further might be beating a dead horse. It is now time to allow you all to continue your education in the great trek of life as you experience new challenges, obstacles, victories, and sufferings. Move forward, put your trust in God, seek and embrace the truth always, be authentic, and continue to challenge yourselves. To end with a nice commencement sounding quote, I had to at least add one stolen line in here, "Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else's path — unless you're in the woods…and you're completely lost…and you see a path, then by all means you should follow that path." Thank you for listening. And to the graduates, God be with you all.

Closing Remarks (Derek Tremblay): 

Just when you think you never have to hear from me again, you have to deal with my closing remarks.

I am going to take a nod from the Ignatian way, and for any church historians out there, Jesuits and Dominicans don’t always get along. I am more Dominican because of Providence College, but the Ignatian method of spiritual direction is just so simple. Our world is observing this through the example and ministry of Pope Francis.

The human condition is inherently paradoxical. We are here, but we are meant for somewhere else. This blatant paradox should never be confused as a contradiction. Nor should we simply bemoan the complexity and tragedy that seem to overwhelm our everyday existence. I think the simple life is marked by three irrefutable dynamics: restlessness, relentlessness, and resiliency. Taken together, these three simple ingredients can lead to a life that not only tastes better, but is best shared with others. And as many of your families still do, at the dinner table.

We never wake up content with where we are. This is what it means to be restless. Instead, we are always seeking something, and we should be seeking someone. This restlessness manifests itself in peculiar and sometimes self-destructive ways, but if channeled properly and aimed at the right target, our restlessness can lead to a relentless effort.

When we want something, we go get it. When we want to talk to someone, we contact them immediately. This relentless nature of the human spirit is powerfully potent: I am sure you have encountered this in your own education and experienced the fruit of the good steadfastly pursued, and the harmfulness of directing such relentlessness towards negative objectives.

And when we deal with adversity, we only grow if we intend to both be good and do good. We cannot associate resiliency with a scenario in which an individual or a society intentionally (and even unintentionally) engages in self-destructive behavior. We can envision the resilient person who is in the very presence of danger, yet never succumbs to despair.

A little confession, I think I have watched Coldplay’s Miracles music video over 60 times this week. The song is attached to scenes from the movie Unbroken, the true story of an Olympian air pilot who became a prisoner of war after his B52 bomber was shot down in the Pacific Ocean.

And I have been dealing with this question all week: How does an individual muster up the strength to never despair? I think that our restless nature moves us to relentlessly love even when it becomes difficult.

Love is the most irrational thing we do because it comes with pain. And yet, there is beauty in the pain received, but only to the extent that we don't let it affect the way we love others.

Religion is not a crutch; religion provides the reason to see through the irrational, illogical, and the real injustice to a redeemed, hope-filled existence.

And why can I make such bold and simplistic claims? Because I am convinced that a man over 2,000 years ago fell, got back up, and then willingly used the most unjust and broken situation to demonstrate that life is worth living, and it is worth living well. But he was more than just a man, he was the only man who simultaneously was God. And if I return to my introductory remarks, there is a purpose to life.

Go. Live it well. Live the faith. Live in hope. Go squander your love, just like the prodigal Father. We hear that parable, and too often we identify with either the son who squandered his inheritance, or even more so, the older son who wasn’t given the same treatment.

I think it is worth trying to identify with the Father, the Father who relentlessly loved without cost, even after loss, and was never ashamed to forgive. In doing so, you can reliantly rise above whatever challenge comes your way. We all need to become better students of the heart.

Each one of you knows how much I love you. But I think this is the final message you need to hear.

And don’t ever bring smelly fish into my wife’s minivan again.