Alumni impart wisdom at Brandywine Class of 2022 graduation

Published 8:07 pm Monday, June 6, 2022

NILES — Brandywine co-valedictorian Billie Gibson likens the high school experience to the beginning of a long cinematic adventure.

“I like to think that our time in elementary school, middle school, and high school is the first film in a movie series about each of our lives,” Gibson said, as he and the rest of the Brandywine High School Class of 2022 prepared to graduate in the BHS gymnasium on Sunday. “The sequel is about to begin production.”

Now how did they get from the beginning to here?

“I don’t know,” said Gibson, to laughter from the packed gymnasium. “But we made it, and all the hard work we put into these last several years has paid off, and the best is yet to come.”

After performances from the BHS band and choir, Brandywine distinguished alumni Dr. Jack Owicki, Jennifer Clarke and Ambrosia Neldon spoke to the graduates.

Owicki, an accomplished scientist and graduate of the 1964 class, said he tried to put himself in the young student’s shoes, because that’s what he would have wanted when he graduated nearly 60 years ago.

“Life is complicated,” Owicki said. “Life is subtle. Be curious – don’t take things at face value. If someone offers you easy answers to big problems, there is a really good chance they are either lazy or trying to sell you something.”

Owicki then related his message to the nature of humanity within space and time.

“If you step back and view things from the zoomed-out perspective, you will see how rare and fragile our world is, and how we are all passengers on a very small boat, sailing through space and through time,” he said. “We are all in this together. Everything depends on us recognizing this and acting accordingly.”

Clarke, valedictorian of the Class of 1973 who used her career as a lawyer to advance civil, social and economic rights of citizens, urged students to act with humanity in the face of a fractured society.

“It’s easy to hate people that you don’t understand, or that you don’t see or don’t know,” Clarke said. “Once you work with somebody side-by-side – to haul water or paint a fence or teach a three-year-old how to play soccer – you are going to see that person as a human being, not a Democrat or Republican or purple person. … That is something we all need to do more of – start knitting together the fabric of our society.”

Neldon, who earned multiple journalism and community awards in her time at Leader Publications, imparted a message of humility, perseverance and high moral character during difficult times.

“Graduates, just like you have today, you will succeed,” said Neldon, Class of 2009 graduate. “Celebrate those successes, but be humble. Because just as I’m sure you will succeed, I know, just like everyone else who has walked this earth, you will face failure, defeat and disappointment. Those dark days will hurt, and all the fancy job titles and trophies won’t help a bit. But if you lead your life with your heart, those you touched will show you the same compassion, humility, and love you’ve shown them.”

“And then, fellow Bobcats, you will know you’ve succeeded.”