By Julie Huss
---- — MANCHESTER — It wasn’t the real clock tower bell tolling, but a recording of the famous Pinkerton Academy bell rang as 741 graduates from the Class of 2013 marched into the Verizon Wireless Arena Monday afternoon.
Since Pinkerton moved its commencement ceremony off campus three years ago, the school’s traditions continue, just in a different format. Graduates were led into the arena by junior class marshal Natalie Fabrizio, carrying the cane that once belonged to Pinkerton founder Maj. John Pinkerton.
This was the 195th annual commencement for the Derry high school.
Faculty and students made their ceremonial speeches and farewells to the Class of 2013 while the occasional beach ball and paper airplane made appearances.
Fourth-ranked senior Kelsey Kresge led off the afternoon with words of wisdom for her fellow graduates.
“These four years have been stressful,” she said, “but graduates should take pride (and thank) everyone who has supported the Class of 2013.”
Salutatorian Patrick Doolittle of Hampstead followed, telling classmates not to fear the future, but to always believe they can succeed.
“We only truly fail when we stop believing that we can succeed,” he said. “Failure is settling for less than what you originally defined as success.”
Patrick’s good friend, valedictorian Dylan Mahalingham told classmates their four years at Pinkerton were like a web full of intricate connections between teachers, students and friends.
He said there were many in his own class he didn’t know, his circle of friends was intimate. He urged graduates to always be aware of the many networks and connections that lie ahead.
“There are all the relationships we haven’t made yet,” he said, “with all the people we haven’t gotten the chance to meet. There are so many of those strings in the web that are yet to be tied, and there are so many that will be eventually cut.”
Headmaster Mary Anderson told graduates to always be brave, keep the faith and follow their dreams.
“All of your dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them,” she said, quoting Walt Disney.
She told graduates to always remember where they came from, remember their years at Pinkerton, and never forget to come back and visit.
“You will always have a home at Pinkerton,” she said.
Student scholarships and other awards were announced including NH State Scholars, National Merit finalists and Honors Diploma recipients.
Other college and university scholarships and awards, along with community awards and honors ,totaled more than $9.5 million this year, the highest in Pinkerton history.
In addition to awarding diplomas, Pinkerton announced longtime trustee Harry Burnham Jr. as the recipient of the annual Trustees’ Meritorious Service Award for his many years serving Pinkerton.
There was no hint of any controversy stemming from a situation last week that had many in the community fuming. School officials told senior Brandon Paquette, 18, a cancer survivor, he couldn’t walk with his class because he was one credit short, having failed geometry.
Paquette was told last week he would not be able to take part in the commencement ceremony after administrators stood by their policy.
Brandon blamed his academic trouble, in part, on absences as doctors tested for a possible cancer relapse. He said he missed instructional days and fell behind in his studies.
Brandon and his family said they understood school officials refusing him a diploma, but not barring him from participating in the ceremony. He intends to take a summer class in geometry to fulfill his requirements and get his diploma in hopes of serving in the U.S. Air Force.
His name appeared in the list of members of the Class of 2013 in the graduation program.
In addition to handing out diplomas, Pinkerton also announced its next installment of Hall of Fame inductees including William Cofrin, Maureen Burns Boak, Brian Thacker, John Almy Rider, Brendan James Ernst, and Glenn Ahrens.
They will be inducted in a special ceremony on Sept. 27.