Several thousand supporters gather at UCI’s Bren Center for graduation of class of 2019

By Amanda Coronado     6/25/2019

Santa Margarita Catholic High School celebrated the Class of 2019 on May 31 as the 418 members of the class received diplomas during the school’s 29th annual commencement ceremony. The Most Rev. Timothy Freyer, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, presided over the ceremony, held at the UCI Bren Center with over 3,600 in attendance. Bishop Freyer was joined by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Erin Barisano of the Diocese of Orange as well as members of Santa Margarita’s administration.

Barisano imparted a heartfelt message to parents, “Thank you for believing in our mission and investing in your child’s formation as women and men of faith, leadership and knowledge,” she said. “We are able to continue our good work because of your commitment to our mission.”

Chapman-bound Kennedy Kemmerer sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to begin the ceremony, and ASB President and USC-bound John Grayson led the closing ceremony by leading his classmates in the ceremonious tassel ceremony. Representing the graduates on the dais were top scholars, Dartmouth-bound Valedictorian Ashkaan Mahjoob and UC Berkeley-bound Salutatorian Macy Lustig, as well as Notre Dame-bound Benjamin Erhardt, the recipient of the school’s coveted Caritas award. Selected by faculty and staff, the award honors the student that best exemplifies the school charism of Caritas Christi, the love of Christ, embodying Santa Margarita’s core principles of compassion, humility, justice and goodness.

“Life will throw unexpected obstacles your way that are beyond your control,” Mahjoob reminded his class. “Stay grounded, stay humble, but most importantly, never lose sight of your values and treat each and every person with love and respect, just as we’ve learned here through our school’s charism, Caritas Christi.”

In his final commencement address before retiring, Principal Ray Dunne recounted the graduates’ responses to his survey, “What teacher has had a profound impact on their lives?” Unbeknownst to the students, Dunne reached out to those teachers, many of them dating back to kindergarten, and recited some of their endearing comments about their former students. Dunne concluded with a rendition of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You Will Go” where he captured an impressive number of student names throughout the final verse.

“Class of 2019 it has been a great honor to be your principal for these past 720 days,” Dunne said. “As I leave my position, I could not have asked for a better senior class to be my last class. . . . Don’t forget to thank those who had faith in you and supported you, most importantly your parents and teachers . . . helping you make all of your tomorrows better than before.”

The Bren Center then filled with Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic rock hit, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

SMCHS President Sulick thanked Dunne for his 48 years in education including 27 years as a Catholic high school principal and 12 years of service as principal of Santa Margarita. Dunne’s vital and lasting legacy was ensuring the school’s charism of Caritas was instilled in all areas of school life, Sulick said. This past school year, he led a committee to adopt the core principles of Caritas Christi – compassion, humility, justice and goodness.

“Mr. Dunne, your love of Santa Margarita Catholic High School is forever forged in the fabric of this school,” Sulick said. “Godspeed, Mr. Dunne – you have left your mark, your legacy is secured, and you will be missed.”