The sultry summer solstice didn't curb the enthusiasm of 637 Greenwich High School seniors who had to wait an extra hour to receive their diplomas at Wednesday evening's ceremony.
The school's 143rd commencement—held in Cardinal Stadium, in unrelenting heat and humidity—was delayed until 7 p.m. in an attempt to stave off the affects of the unseasonable weather that had thousands of attendees shielding themselves from the searing sun with umbrellas, and using the graduation programs as fans.
Thunderous cheers and applause greeted the students and faculty as they entered the stadium to the strains of 'Pomp and Circumstance' performed by the award-winning Cardinal Band.
As the graduates sweltered in the setting sun, Headmaster Chris Winters announced that brevity was the order of the evening. "We shortened the speeches," Winters said to applause. "Thank you and good night," he added. (For Winters' complete address, please .)
Ryota Ishizuka, one of three co-salutatorians told his classmates, "I have one minute to give this speech ... we have spent 2 million, 8 thousand minutes here. We are about to reset the clock without stage crews and a director, enjoy the moment."
Zayne Sibley, one of three co-valedictorians, and one of 16 sets of twins in the graduating class, told her fellow students, "One of the greatest things is our incredible diversity of the class. The exposure to this kind of diversity has taught us to be tolerant."
Keynote speaker Lee Woodruff offered the students "three phrases of advice: be curious, be brave and be grateful." The author and advocate for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who is co-founder of the Robert Woodruff Foundation, said, "Do something new ... life is full of twists and turns and nobody has a script ... we can try to plan but we can never predict ... but we will survive."
As the evening closed, class treasurer Jane Wissman announced the gifts the class donated to the school. In addition to a picnic table for the school and the awarding of $1,000 scholarships to two fellow students, the seniors presented Winters with a "survival kit" of items pointing various crises the class faced this year. They included Farmer's Almanac to predict weather, a flashlight to negotiate halls darkened by power outages and "a soil tester so you can discover your very own PCBs," said Wissman in an acknowledgement of the continuing saga of how the school district will remedy the discovery of contaminated soil in the school's athletic fields.
Winters gave a top 12 list of reasons why the class was special. "Number one—you gave up your parking spaces for PCBs, your fields for PCBs, your sports schedule for PCBs, but never your spirit. No PCBs can take that away. Congratulations to all in the Class of 2012." (For a complete list of graduates, please .)
Despite the throngs of attendees in the heat, only five people sought care from the Greenwich Emergency Medical Service which had three ambulances and a cooling station at the ceremony, according to Emergency Management Director Dan Warzoha.
Have pictures of your favorite graduate? Upload them by clicking the upload photo and video button.