LAST HOMEWORK by Tess Vrbin, Hartford Courant

140 Northwest Catholic grads get one more assignment at commencement 


Northwest Catholic High’s 140 new graduates received one last homework assignment during the school’s 55th commencement Wednesday night at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

Molly Rees Gavin, president of Connecticut Community Care and a 1967 Northwest Catholic graduate, began her speech with a short poem by Hafiz, a fourteenth-century Sufi Muslim poet.

The verse refers to “dropping keys all night long” for those whom society has left in “cages.”

She then told the class to find an old key from a junk drawer in their houses and keep it forever.

“That’s your talisman, your symbol, your reminder every day that you are dropping keys as often as you can to empower and nurture others,” Gavin said.

She listed several possible career paths, from the medical field to military service to education, and said the graduates will always have opportunities to help others.

She also said it is not their responsibility to unlock other people’s doors, but to hand them the keys so they can do it themselves, just as the graduates’ families and other loved ones did for them.

“Each of you opened that door yourself and now stand ready to give that key to others,” Gavin said. “Many keys, many gifts, one spirit.”

The phrase from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “There are many gifts, but one spirit,” was Northwest Catholic’s theme for the 2018-2019 school year, said Christian Cashman, the president and head of school.

Valedictorian Michael Stamm and salutatorian Matthew Villani will both attend Northeastern University in the fall.

In his speech, Stamm recalled several instances of good character from his fellow students, such as holding the door open for someone several feet away and congratulating athletes on opposing teams whether they won or lost.

“All of these small acts of kindness stem from the same students, the same building, and the same caring teachers and administration,” Stamm said. “We are used to being a part of something bigger than ourselves, and I challenge each person in this room to always carry that trait with you in your future campus, workplace, or anywhere else.”

The two most important tools for the graduates to take forward with them are perseverance and the ability to ask questions, Stamm said.

Villani invoked the school’s catchphrase, “The place where you know you belong,” in his speech.

“I am convinced that I speak for every senior here when I say that over the course of our four years, Northwest truly has become that place for us,” Villani said.

“It became more than just our school, a place of stress, sweat, and tears, but a home, where we were encouraged to learn and excel, were supported to celebrate our faith, and were pushed to choose right over easy. Northwest has shaped us as people.”