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2017 Commencement Address: Dr. Paul Young

May 25, 2017

Dr. Paul Young sends off the senior class of 2017 Aaron Schubach shared: “Dr. Young joined the CSS faculty 19 years ago and he is known for many things. He is the 2015 recipient of the Edward E. Ford Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award and 2017 recipient of the Mary Wicks Award, given by the Upper School students to the faculty or staff member who does the most for the student body. He is the co-leader of Kodiaks In in Community Service Club, where he inspires our students to serve our community and to understand and participate in the world of philanthropy and non-profits. He is also known for his love of birding, and his dry sense of humor. Please welcome Dr. Paul Young to the stage.”

From Dr. Paul Young: “Are you aware that on the stage today among the soon-to-be graduates is one of the nicest and highest character students, who also regularly turned in homework 2-days late.

Are you aware that the class of 2017 has a student who, when he sees a high railing and lots of concrete, says: “I think I will practice Parkour.”

How about the student on stage who, after years of practice, has the most beautiful, elegant and illegible handwriting, which looks as if it was written around the time of our Founding Fathers.

Also, there is a student on stage today seven of whose jokes I am still trying to understand. However, his wonderful sense of humor may not matter, as he will be spending the next four years hanging out with engineers.

Then there is the student nicknamed Dr. Empty Set, after answering “empty set” on three consecutive math questions to which the actual answers were 3, -8, and 5.

(The students mentioned above are Danny, Arman, Sarah, Jake and Hayden)

Today, Class of 2017, my talk will not be about your future, but about your individual differences. If I randomly selected two of you, the differences would be equal to that between a duck and a woodpecker. It is these differences that have made teaching you, traveling with you, and working with you, so enjoyable for so many.

On stage is a student who dreams about hitting insanely long jumpers, reverse layups and doing the European step to fool a defender—but actually, he is not dreaming at all, but just playing in his backyard.

There is a student who graduates today who is so peaceful, who can quietly, calmly and pleasantly make everyone around her want to be a vegetarian.

And then, that young woman with that voice. That positive spirit is three standard deviations above the mean. I’ve never taught a student with such high qualities yet so deserving of being shot with a nerf gun.

(Those three would be Joey, Kaela, and Bee)

The differences between these students on stage are both subtle and obvious. Did you know on stage there are students who were born in South Korea, Guatemala, and China? If you consider the parents of this class, then you would add Argentina, England and Iran. Consider grandparents—then birth countries now include the Philippines, Mexico, Armenia, Ireland, Germany, and British Guyana. That’s 12 countries of birth other than the United States, represented by this small group of thirty two CSS students.

One student graduating today, when he spoke in class, was either brilliant or puzzling. Often both. One of the few students whom I might scold for no homework, but inside I just smiled and enjoyed his out-of-the-box thinking.

There is a student on stage today who, after an ECS or class, would write a heartfelt thank you note to the teachers. Add her to any organization, such as a farm in New Zealand for her gap year, and watch it get better.

What student knows how to weld, will work with a carpenter all summer, loves driving any mammoth sized truck, and just might be preparing to be an investor in real estate?

(That would be Tim, Ivy and Liam)

These differences are a very good thing—differences are required to make a quality team and these differences are worth celebrating. Graduates, as you head off to college do not envy someone else, just understand that they have qualities that may be different from your own.

I have often thought a teacher needs to remind themselves of two things—first, every child, every student that walks in a classroom has hopes and dreams; second, every child, every student is different, and today’s CSS graduates are great in different ways.

On stage today is a student who will undoubtedly become a lawyer, doctor or professor. But who cares—what you really need to read is one of his wrist watch reviews.

Another soon to be CSS graduate would often arrive to class asking for candy and no homework. Teachers chose to give her homework and no candy. But she is going to do so much good in her career as a social worker or nurse.

On stage today is a future surgeon, but only after he serves two years in the military.

One student graduating today, when he hears the words statistics and statistician, gets all excited. He and I get it. Everyone else is weird.

(The above students are James, Hannah L, Dong, and Henry)

Bruce Hamilton—a favorite substitute teacher in math and science—left a note after subbing for me: “Are you kidding? I get paid to enjoy these fabulous people? That are self-motivated. Self-starters. Self non-selfish and more?” Great attributes that many CSS students share, no doubt. But these qualities come in different sizes and flavors.

Another student on stage is a real workhorse and gentleman; a doer; someone who was an absolute star on all his seminars and ECSs.

How about one of today’s graduate who is so nice, pleasant and likable in the classroom—and then after school you go to the gym and see her spike a volleyball at 55 mph into an opponent’s head.

How many students on the stage held two restaurant jobs while attending CSS? She pays for her ECSs and more. That is worthy of true admiration.

Then there is the student who refused to use a locker all year and ended up carrying 43 pounds of books and papers from class to class. For college he is considering using a wheelbarrow. One rumor on why he did this was so he would not be asked to do Parkour.

(Those students would be Jahan, Laney, Claire, and Ethan)

Graduating today is a student who has a zest for so much. Her interests may lead her to the unique double major of a hard science such as pre-med combined with African Studies.

One student graduating today visited Cornell University. Considered Cornell University. Thought long and hard about Cornell University. And came to the clear conclusion that Cornell University would be just way too easy.

What student do you think would be voted the most likely to play the clarinet in space after winning jeopardy? Who would that be?

And then this young woman—her energy, her idealism, her involvement—I think it is time for someone like her to be president. Of course, she would be tardy to the State of the Union address.

(That would be Bryn, Sarah W, John, Elena)

Two students love baseball. One used his long reach to scoop baseballs out of the dirt as a first baseman and will be a future mechanical engineer; the other is a rabid fan who loves the St. Louis Cardinals and aced the AP Psychology exam. Given their college choices, both will be able to drive home every weekend.

One member of the Class of 2017 only thinks about his guitar when he is not sleeping and when he is sleeping. I regret not requiring of him a country and western song about mathematics…I bet this guy could do it.

How about the student who uses less oxygen than the instructors while scuba diving? This exceptional calmness is combined with exceptional smarts and amiability.

(That would be Justin, Bridgette, Trent, and Han)

On stage is a future engineer. She is an unsung hero who does not need the spotlight but just gets things done. The only thing holding her back is her unfashionable Bronco sportswear.

Another student is a wonderful REACH mentor who connects to younger students with ease: a wonderful public speaker who would make a great, if she were to choose, early-childhood teacher.

Graduating today is a student who displays maturity beyond her years, has great empathy for kids with special needs, and possesses a scrappiness that results in offensive rebounds.
Then there is a student graduating today who would make a great architect or great economist. But what really is noticeable is her empathy towards others.

One student on stage has a grandma who became a math professor, spoke four languages fluently, and immediately after she learned her grandson got into Northwestern, she said to him: “Don’t you forget to study for those APs. You need to study.”

(That would be Lillian, Rachel, Jaydi, Hannah, Victor)

And that sums up, in one odd way, thirty-two very different people. And in conclusion I would like to say:

At our little pond at CSS, there are many unique birds. One is called the Belted Kingfisher. This bird hovers over the pond, then tucks its wings, and crashes perpendicularly into the water to spear a fish. Another fish-loving bird does it completely differently; the great blue heron, stands motionless on its long legs, waiting for a fish to swim by, then spears it with a sharp beak. The duck just floats, and dabbles at vegetable matter. The crow flies over the pond while communicating in code with his clan. The Cooper’s Hawk, an adept flyer with a long- rudder-like tail, catches other birds on the fly with its large, powerful talons. All these birds have a goal in mind, but different talents to achieve them.

I guess what I am saying, Class of 2017, is all of you are like the birds at the pond—unique and clever in different ways, and we like it that way. Be yourself. Thank you Class of 2017 for letting me speak today.”

Dr. Paul Young sends off the senior class of 2017