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Loyola Academy Celebrates 114th Commencement Exercises

On Saturday, May 25, Loyola Academy celebrated its 114th Commencement Exercises with thousands of loved ones present to commemorate the occasion. A time-honored tradition, the Class of 2024 was dressed in black or white dresses and white tuxedo jackets as they proudly processed through Northwestern University's Welsh-Ryan Arena. Accompanied by Sir Edward Elgar’s renowned score, they gathered to celebrate one another for the final time as classmates.
The ceremony began with the national anthem beautifully delivered by the Loyola Academy choir and band, followed by the invocation offered by Rev. Stan Czarnecki, SJ, a member of the Society of Jesus and Loyola’s Campus Ministry department. 

Loyola Academy Principal Tim Devine '88 directed his welcoming remarks to the Class of 2024: "Following a busy semester… and an eventful four years as Ramblers…it is important for us to pause and focus our hearts and minds on what is to come." He shared that while our graduates are celebrating all they accomplished, this day is about more than receiving a diploma. 

"We are celebrating your commencement. Commencement is a beginning, not an ending. Today is when you begin something new. Today is when you turn a blank page in the story of your life—a moment of rebirth for you." And while there are likely many open questions such as, Will I succeed? Will I have the courage and character to live my values? What really matters in life? Who will I be? Principal Devine continues by driving home encouraging words, "Have great confidence that you have the talents of heart and mind to create meaningful, quality answers to these questions." 

He reminds the Class of 2024 that their confidence should only grow with the knowledge that they are deeply and unconditionally loved by so many, including those present today. While beginning again may feel daunting, Principal Devine reassures 2024 graduates, "You can never be born enough. By finding informed, rich, Ignatian-driven answers to the grand questions of life, you will continually be reborn, reignited, and renewed. And the humanity around you will be better because of your courage and excitement to continue to seek excellence in all things."

Principal Devine then introduced the Valedictorian Zeb O’Hara '24, who will continue studying at Grinnell College in Iowa later this summer. 

Zeb reminded classmates that "we all came to Loyola from different backgrounds. Loyola took us from our different zip codes and gave us a single Jesuit education." Acknowledging a bit of skepticism as a first-year student, following homeschooling and the challenges that resulted from the global COVID-19 pandemic, Zeb shared, "I really appreciate that Loyola encouraged us to think in a serious and sustained way about our ethics and values before we are thrust out into the world. As Loyola graduates, we have the opportunity to become our best selves and to be productive members of society. Loyola has taught us to think and to keep thinking, rather than being satisfied with the first or easiest answer. My four years here have guided not only my career goals but also my values. Loyola has taken all of our different backgrounds and formed us for the world—it's up to us what we do next."

Following the Valedictorian's address, Principal Devine explained the significance of the Graduate at Graduation Award, given annually to two well-rounded and dynamic seniors. The Grad at Grad award recognizes those who best resemble the ideal Jesuit high school graduate—someone who is religious, intellectual, physically and socially emotionally fit, loving, open to growth, and committed to doing justice. Principal Devine emphasizes that "developing these [RIPLOC] traits is integral to our mission. The traits were rooted in the first Jesuit high school founded in Messina, Italy in 1548. These traits continue to be the cornerstone of all Jesuit schools worldwide. When developed well, these six traits significantly aid Jesuit-trained persons to activate their love and to be women and men for others."  

Principal Devine recognized two Riplocian Ramblers with the 2024 Graduate at Graduation Award. Esther Debrah '24, an omnipresent Rambler, and growth-minded and empathetic leader, and Harrison Kriston '24, a Rambler who epitomizes servant leadership with his contributions both within and outside Loyola Academy, received their respective Grad at Grad awards on stage.

Next, Principal Devine announced, "To honor four graduates entering college who are also on a pathway to be in service to our country, as well as future graduates that may be on the same trajectory, we are inaugurating this year, the Loyola Academy St. Michael’s Medal." The medal features St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of soldiers, slaying the dragon on one side, with Loyola Academy inscribed on the other. The medals are offered to these graduates to keep them safe in their forthcoming pursuits, and serve as a reminder of the gratitude the Loyola Academy community has for their service. To bestow these medals, United States Navy Veteran and Loyola Academy President Rev. Gregory J. Ostdiek, SJ, bestowed the first Loyola Academy St. Michael’s Medals to Ethan Fernando '24, entering the United States Naval Academy; Brendan Dombrowski '24, entering the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (AROTC) at Wake Forest University; Kyle Baltazar '24, entering the United States Military Academy Westpoint; and Devion Johnson '24, entering the United States Military Academy Westpoint.

Following the presentation, Principal Devine introduced the 2024 Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes a teacher for his or her outstanding contribution to the formation of students as voted by the senior class. This year's award was presented to Counseling Department Chair Tyler Vradenburg, a stellar member of the Loyola Academy faculty for nearly two decades. Mr. Vradenburg was recognized by both students and faculty alike as someone who truly cares for the whole person.

Before diplomas were conferred, Principal Devine invited Father Greg to address the Class of 2024 with his final remarks. Father Greg reinforced the three things he expects from the graduating Ramblers as they go forth from Loyola Academy: "Follow Christ by feeding his lambs; remember those teachers and coaches who have, until now, in turn fed you; and that whatever you do, do well and do good. Quodcumque agis, age bene et bonum!"

He reminded these graduates how much they have accomplished despite the challenges and adversity they faced. Unprecedented circumstances impacted their freshman year; from fully online learning to meeting only half their classmates, and working hard to catch up from a semester without sporting events. At times, it seemed impossible, but the Class of 2024 did not waiver, they rose. With enthusiasm, he said, "Look at you now. You are state champions (several times over!), award winners, and achievers. Keep it up!  Whatever you do, do well."

Father Greg concluded with a familiar ancient blessing from the Book of Numbers:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you kindly, and grant you peace.

The Class of 2024 diplomas were presented by Fr. Greg and James P. Walsh '79, chair of Loyola's Board of Trustees. In keeping with a cherished tradition, sons and daughters and grandchildren of Loyola and Marillac alumni—and those of trustees, faculty, and staff—received their diplomas from their beloved family members, handed down from one generation to another. Associate Principal for Academics Susie McGovern and Tim Kane '86 of the English department read the names of graduates.
After the last diploma was conferred, the congregation united to recognize the accomplishments of the entire class with a "Rambler round of applause." The Rambler spirit filled the arena with immense joy, and the echo of music, laughter, tears, heartfelt congratulations, and parting words lingered long after the crowds thinned.

Congratulations and fare well, Class of 2024. 
We are proud to share that on May 25, 2024, 474 Ramblers officially joined the Loyola Academy alumni community. Once a Rambler, Always a Rambler.

To watch the recording of the 2024 Graduation Ceremony, click here.
View the 2024 Graduation program booklet, featuring other senior awards, honors, and distinctions here.
View the 2024 Commencement Ceremony photo gallery here
    • Graduation 2024

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