Alex Weissner may want to be president of the United States someday, adores Harry Potter and is described by a teacher as a "delightfully fiendish heroine." Jordan Whitacre lived in France for a year and is fluent in three languages. Travis Walker made it on the dean's list, rock climbs and has traveled to Africa and Mongolia.
In the arched wooden auditorium of Lowell Whiteman School, these were just a few of the stories heard about the 17 seniors who graduated from the school Saturday morning. Before each student received his or her diploma, a faculty member spoke for several minutes about his or her character, talents and plans -- and why each would be missed.
In her graduation address, writer and alumna Kate Krautkramer told the students to remember they are the heroes of their own tales.
"Be mindful that you're making a story, and the main character is you," Krautkramer said. "As much as possible, create that person with broad, loving brush strokes."
She gave several bits of advice on how to do that based on her experiences in life.
While vacationing in Hawaii, Krautkramer said she discovered that she was pregnant. Sick and nauseous in a grocery store parking lot, a surfer approached her and helped her through her illness. Krautkramer said she remembers the incident because it showed her how important it is "simply to be kind and observant."
Years from now, teachers will not remember you for your math skills or brilliant essay answers, she said to the students.
"They'll remember you for your behavior toward others," she said.
Krautkramer told an anecdote about watching the famous poet Allen Ginsberg clip his toenails while sitting in the audience at a public performance. As bizarre as the situation was, she said such oddities form the backdrop of life, and she urged the students to appreciate the absurd and funny events in life.
"Wherever you find yourself, even if you're surprised, enjoy yourself," she said.
Her advice was taken to heart later in the ceremony when faculty and friends showered graduate Matthew Lakin with silly string as he left the podium.
Lakin, who is from England, has lived at the Lowell Whiteman School for the past four years and received the Head of School award for leadership and academic excellence. The 17-year-old will attend the University of Richmond to study business.
"I'm going to miss most my friends here, the faculty and the foreign travel program," he said.
Through the travel program, Lakin visited China, Guadalupe, Honduras and South Africa, and while in those countries, he attended language schools, taught English, scuba dived and learned about the cultures, he said.
Kelli Gleason, 18, won a $21,000 scholarship to the University of Denver to study business. She's excited to meet new people, but she's going to miss the intimacy of Whiteman, she said.
"There's such a close connection with friends and teachers here," she said.
Liz Foster, 18, echoed that sentiment asking, "Who's lucky enough to have two families? Here, I have my real one and my one at Whiteman."
Foster plans to study biochemistry at Portland State University and received a Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship.
As the students embark on life after graduation, Krautkramer commended them on their accomplishment.
"Today, you've completed a momentous chapter," she said. But she told them not to worry too much about the future. "Very few of us get everything perfect in the first draft."