2019 Graduation Address

Chris Gunnin's Address to the Class of 2019

Bishop Doyle, Father Fitzgerald, Ms. Ozmun and members of the Board of Trustees students, parents, friends, faculty and staff, alumni, and especially Members of the Class of 2019, it is an honor and privilege to welcome you to the sixty-ninth Commencement Exercises of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.

Graduates, this morning we gather in the chapel to honor the ways you have grown in your time as Spartans. We salute your efforts, we celebrate your achievements, and we are proud to present you with your diplomas. This morning, before your friends and loved ones who have joined us, we are confidently and boldly declaring that each of you has the full faith and confidence of this faculty. We have seen you develop a love of learning that we believe will be lifelong. We have seen you demonstrate integrity, scholarship and commitment to task, and we have seen you develop your God-given talents. And most remarkably, we have seen you already begin to put those talents and your energy to the service of a greater good.

As I’ve imagined this day together over the last few weeks, I have reflected often on our School prayer. You know it well. And in those 68 words that you have committed to memory, you know what we value, you know what we believe, and you know much of what we hope for you.

I often think first about or celebrate the phrase “empower us to make a difference in the world,” and point out to people new to our community, that this school’s reason for being is the belief that our students are capable of and clearly called to make a worthy and noble impact on the world. That we are not just dedicated to getting good grades or getting into great colleges, but that we are dedicated to the recovery of humans. That we aspire to lives of impact and meaning beyond ourselves. That is part of what defines us. That is part of what distinguishes us. And that is something you have come to know, believe, and fulfill.

But in the last few weeks, in the context of this moment in which your relationship with the school changes,” I have thought more about the first part of that sentence, “Seeing our lives as a journey together.” I’ve noticed that the prayer is not “seeing your middle school and high school days as a journey together.” We have claimed time and again that our lives are a journey together. The prayer that we have offered shoulder-to-shoulder together hundreds of time in this space has always defined our relationships, our connections, our experiences and our work as lifelong endeavors. Yes, you are graduating. Yes, the last assignments are submitted and graded. Yes, at the start of a new academic year next August you will step on to a different campus. But the work of being a Spartan is not done. The core values are timeless. The lessons will endure and perhaps you will only know their true impact and depth of meaning decades from now. The skills and mindsets are foundational. You’ve mastered them, and in doing so, perhaps you have outgrown the programs here. But my hope is that even as your lives take your further away from this place, you still “See our lives as a journey together…”

Certainly you have left your mark on us. And, in turn, when you head out into the broader world, you will take our love, our prayers, our deepest wishes for your success with you. And in that way, though we may be in different zip codes, different states, and even different countries, we can still see our lives as a journey together.

The world needs St. Stephen’s graduates. Our local, national and global communities need leaders with sharp minds, strong spirits, and great and humble hearts. While we hate to see our daily time together on campus come to a close, you give us great hope that the challenges of today and tomorrow will be squarely faced, thoughtfully and compassionately considered and creatively solved.

Seniors, we wish you all the best. Thank you for your energy and industry. Thank you for your courage and commitment to a greater good. And congratulations for what you’ve learned, what you’ve proven capable of doing, and who you have become.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213