On Friday, May 31, 2019 the UCI Bren Events Center was filled with 3,600 friends and family of the Santa Margarita Catholic High School Eagles’ 418-member Class of 2019 as they received their diplomas during the school’s 29th commencement ceremony. Presiding over the ceremony was The Most Reverend Timothy E. Freyer, D.D., auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange. Bishop Freyer was joined by Superintendent Dr. Erin Barisano, President J. Andrew Sulick ’91, Principal Raymond Dunne and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Lencioni. Assistant Principals Tom Smith and John Hayek joined Bishop Freyer in conferring the diplomas.
Dr. Erin Barisano delivered an inspiring message that referenced Les Miserables’ Victor Hugo, “To love another person is to see the face of God.“ Barisano reminded the graduates to “take with you today the knowledge that you have seen the face of God during your journey at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, and when you leave this special place, you are called to continue to be the face of God to others.”
Barisano also imparted a heartfelt message to parents, “Thank you for believing in our mission and investing in your child’s formation as women and men of faith, leadership and knowledge. We are able to continue our good work because of your commitment to our mission.”
Representing the graduates on the dais were top scholars, Dartmouth-bound Valedictorian Ashkaan Mahjoob and UC Berkeley-bound Salutatorian Macy Lustig. In addition, was Notre Dame-bound Benjamin Erhardt, recipient of the school’s coveted Caritas award. Chapman-bound Kennedy Kemmerer sang a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to begin the ceremony, and ASB President and USC-bound John Grayson led his classmates in the ceremonious tassel ceremony by which they rotate their tassels from the right side to the left side of their mortarboards.
President Sulick recognized the nominees and winner of the Caritas Award, one of the richest traditions at the school that celebrates the school’s charism, Caritas Christi, the love of Christ. Sulick offered that these nominees represent a glimpse of God’s love that transcends throughout the school, and congratulated them for embodying the school’s core principles of compassion, humility, justice and goodness. In closing, he proudly recognized Ben Erhardt as the winner of this coveted award who was selected by the school’s faculty and staff at the school.
Caritas Award Nominees:
Valedictorian Ashkaan Mahjoob reminded his classmates to always rely on the love of Christ that was instilled throughout their journey at Santa Margarita Catholic High School:
“Life will throw unexpected obstacles your way that are beyond your control. Stay grounded, stay humble, but most importantly, never lose sight of your values and treat each and every person with love and respect, just as we’ve learned here through our school’s charism, Caritas Christi.”
Choosing a sentimental approach for his final commencement address before retiring as the school’s fourth principal, Principal Dunne recounted the graduates’ responses to his survey, “What teacher has had a profound impact on their lives?” Without their knowledge, Principal Dunne reached out to those teachers, many of them dating back to kindergarten, and recited some of their endearing comments about their former students. Dunne offered a touching rendition of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You Will Go” where he captured an impressive number of their names throughout the final verse. Dunne concluded by offering his heartfelt wishes to the class: “Class of 2019 it has been a great honor to be your principal for these past 720 days. As I leave my position, I could not have asked for a better senior class to be my last class. As I told you when I visited your English classes back in April, this speech is my gift to you. Please be mindful of the words of this song, ‘Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow’ and don’t forget to thank those who had faith in you and supported you, most importantly your parents and teachers . . . helping you make all of your tomorrows better than before! The Bren Center then filled with the tunes from Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow!”
President Sulick thanked Principal Dunne for his 48 years of service in education, the final twelve years as the school’s principal, and for his signature pronouncement, “It’s a Great Day to be an Eagle.” Sulick said Dunne’s vital and lasting legacy was to ensure that the school’s charism, Caritas Christi, was instilled in all areas of the school life which serves as the model for our community, while also creating the core principles of Caritas Christi – Compassion, Humility, Justice and Goodness. Sulick concluded by offering his sincere thanks, “Mr. Dunne, your love of Santa Margarita Catholic High School is forever forged in the fabric of this school. Godspeed, Mr. Dunne – you have left your mark, your legacy is secured, and you will be missed.”
Sulick then surprised Dunne with a parting gift, a travel voucher enabling him to travel to his destination of choice – of which Sulick guessed he would choose “old country” of Ireland, homeland of his ancestors.
Class of 2019 By the Numbers
418 total students
$41.9 million combined merit and athletic scholarship offers
1,991 college acceptances
$100,000 average combined scholarship offers per grad
146 colleges that graduates will attend (represents 41 states and five countries)
100% acceptance rate at 184 colleges
50% of graduates accepted at every college to which they applied
99% of graduates to attend college
41 schools accepted to of U.S. News and World Report's Top 50 National Universities
47 collegiate athletes
14 team championships (2016-2019)
48 individual and relay championships (2016-19)
37 graduates will study the arts in college
Click here to read more about the class.
Click here to download Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation photos.
*Photos courtesy of Steve Wylie and Mark Baje, Eyemark Photo