At the Baccalaureate Mass July 24, SI conferred the extraordinary awards that are normally announced at graduation. During that Mass, Owen Veit also delivered his valedictory remarks, which are included in this story.
Read about the recipients of those awards below. We congratulate them and all the seniors for their many accomplishments during an extraordinary time.
Isabelle Goodrow Receives Ignatian Award
This is the highest award our school can offer. It is conferred upon a graduating senior who has consistently put the welfare of students above his or her own interests. This award winner is chosen from among his or her fellow classmates for generous service on their behalf, dedication to the Gospel message, and outstanding devotion to the Christian ideals enunciated by the patron of our school, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
This year’s winner is Isabelle Goodrow. Graduating with high honors. Izzy has served on Student Council for over three years and has dedicated herself to ensuring SI students have the best opportunities and experiences at SI. She demonstrated great leadership and led by example in all her years here. She was Editor-In-Chief for the school newspaper and completed over 550 service hours, led Kairos, and was part of the SF Tenderloin immersion. She was active with InSIgnis, served as a morning prayer captain, helped plan and lead prayer services and was senior class president and in student government in each of her four years.
In the winter edition of Genesis magazine, Goodrow was featured for attending Boston College’s Ever to Excel leadership program for high school students. She was co-president of the Arab and Middle Eastern Affinity Group and part of the Ambassador Club and the Block Club, and she sang as part of Music Ministry. She played field hockey, soccer and lacrosse in each of her four years. She also led a Kairos retreat, was part of InSIgnis and was a morning prayer captain, helping to plan and lead prayer services.
In the summer of 2019, she lived in San Francisco’s Tenderloin for two weeks on an SI immersion trip, staying at Faithful Fools and working at The Healing Well. She also worked with SI’s Youth Policy Initiative, which teaches younger students about issues surrounding government and politics, volunteered at a homeless shelter in San Mateo and earned more than 550 hours of community service. She will attend Cornell University in the fall.
Loyalty Award Goes to Tom Quach
This award honors extraordinary dedication to the entire school, conspicuous service, and dedication to the stated values and goals of St. Ignatius.
Quach served as editor-in-chief of both Inside SI and The Quill. He was also a member of Music Ministry, the Arrupe Council, the Service Club and the Senior Class Council. He rowed crew each of his four years and was a Boys State delegate last summer. He was also selected as one of 1,928 semifinalists for the Coca-Cola Scholars Program out of 93,000 seniors nationwide.
He was featured in the winter edition of Genesis magazine for launching Pet Nation, the annual Day of Sacrifice (and an accompanying app), Student-Linx and the SOUL Food Initiative. In the spring edition of Genesis, he was praised for founding Operation Kare-ola to raise money to help wildlife affected by the firestorms that raged through Australia.. Tom completed over 950 service hours. He will attend Stanford in the fall.
Darya Clark Receives Fr. Sauer General Excellence Award
This special award is conferred upon a senior who is distinguished by scholarship, excellence in conduct, and outstanding devotion to the school through participation in both curricular and co-curricular student affairs.
Darya Clark ’20, the recipient of the Fr. Sauer General Excellence Award, shines in everything she does. She was captain of her lacrosse team, a teacher’s assistant in the Engineering class, student body treasurer, co-president of the Arrupe Council, a trombone player in the SI Orchestra, a Kairos senior retreat leader and a volunteer on SI’s Youth Policy Initiative, which teaches middle school students about public policy issues and the U.S. government. On the Arrupe Council, she worked with others on the Solidarity Week devoted to the rights of immigrants and migrant farmworkers. She also contributed to Inside SI and SITV and went on our immersion trip to Camden (the Romero Center), was active with InSIgnis, helped plan and lead prayer services and was a member of the executive council. She is headed to Tufts University in the fall, where she will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and wed her passion for service to her love of learning after she joins the school’s Engineers Without Borders Club. Read more on Darya here.
Valedictorian - Owen Veit
The Valedictorian is chosen from among those seniors who have distinguished themselves by genuine academic achievements as well as by participation in the co-curricular and campus ministry activities of both school and community. He or she must have a distinguished academic record of at least a 3.8 GPA, be able to speak clearly to a large audience, and have the support and respect of the graduating class.
This year’s winner is Owen Veit. Completing his time at SI with an unweighted GPA of 4.0, Owen will be attending Stanford University. Owen embodies what it means to be an Ignatian. He excels in anything he puts his mind to. He has received recognition by the English department, was Editor in Chief of the school newspaper, a Student Council member and wrote and acted in SI Live. He has many gifts and shared them generously with the SI community.
Owen completed over 200 service hours, led Kairos and played the piano for music ministry at nearly every FML for the last four years. Owen was a member of the cross country and crew teams each of the last four years.
Class of 2020! This has to be the most disastrous FML attendance in years. This silence reminds me of the Wednesday afternoon SI Live teacher preview. Actually, a more fitting SI Live metaphor would be the show interrupted by a fire alarm during our final song. As the audience and cast abandoned their posts to exit outside to the foyer steps and cold night air, I had the same “Is this really happening?” feeling. Much as that show’s climactic finale was cut short by a shrill fire alarm, our senior spring was cut short by Covid-19, leaving us standing outside Bannan Theater wishing we could go back. However, (cliché alert!) even when all seems out of control, there is still hope. That night, it took the form of the cast finishing their show on the steps with the audience using their phones to provide light. It went down as one of the greatest shows of all time. In the same way, our graduation should be loud, bold, and joyous, not quiet and uncertain. My only goal in this speech is to convince you not to let this graduation be anticlimactic. As the poet Dylan Thomas puts it, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
When we walked out of the school building on March 10th, our exit was gentle, a mere fizzle even. None of us knew it would be our last time in those halls, even when we received Ms. Levine’s email two hours later. We watched with a sinking feeling in our stomachs as the return date was gradually pushed further back, until we were finally left with no chance to say goodbye, no chance to naturally move through the stages of parting. We don’t even know the exact moment we truly left: Is it today? Or was it earlier: the drive-by parade? The last day of classes? The day Brian Vicente started The Petition? I know that for me at least, and for many of you, this situation has at times felt uncertain, overwhelming, and extremely lonely. That was not a proper exit.
You need look no further than Zoom for examples of poor departures. We went through many of our final Zoom classes without a word, without a single Unmute, except for maybe a quick thank you at the end as everyone scrambled to click the Leave Meeting button. Afterwards, students were left alone, contemplating their blank screens and missing the human connection of physical classes. My greatest fear is that departing seniors will leave SI the same way they left Zoom classes—quietly, passively, with all hope resigned. That is what a gentle exit looks like. While it’s unfortunate we are celebrating over Zoom rather than in person tonight, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Our time at SI, our relationships, our achievements, are worth more than that. So please, let’s not rush madly for the exit button without pausing to say thank you. Thank you to the amazing faculty and administration, the loving campus ministers, the teachers who inspired us to be truly curious, the coaches and mentors who taught us as many lessons applicable outside the classroom as within.
We owe those teachers a huge debt, and of course, we owe ourselves credit as well. We owe ourselves a proper exit. I’d rather we left under our own terms, not those dictated to us by Zoom nor those dictated to us by Covid 19. Do not let these circumstances ruin your graduation or cast a shadow over your four years of hard work. Remember that every exit is also an entrance, whether you are exiting a Zoom and entering your bedroom or leaving St. Ignatius and entering the next period of your life. Fr. Stiegeler has a classic story, which many of you have probably heard, about a sophomore who was asked what the most sacred part of Orradre Chapel was. In response, he pointed at the exit sign. Not because he just wanted to leave, but because that’s where we take what we’ve learned and put it to use. So yes, exits are important, even when they are overshadowed by such trying times.
How, then, should we treat this passage? For an example of a graceful transition in the face of such uncertainty, we can turn to our very own Ignatian history. These circumstances are unique, but there have been unique graduations in the past. For example, when the St. Ignatius campus was destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906, SI students didn’t graduate until June 25th during a joint ceremony with Santa Clara. During the Spanish Flu of 1918, SI was shut down as San Francisco suffered under the pandemic. When World War II broke out, SI students graduated as early as December to enlist straight into the Army, and some grads, such as Bill Bruce, sacrificed far more than any of us can comprehend. Although the courage of past Ignatians may seem distantly enshrined, their actions came down to the same moments of truth and tests of integrity that all of us will face.
That all of us have faced. When the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery sparked a national outpour of grief, rage, and reckoning, many SI seniors committed to challenging systemic racism. They amplified the voices of Black leaders, they marched and protested with the rest of America, they examined their own privilege and biases. It was not gentle, nor will it be, nor should it be. Martin Luther King cited the creation of constructive, nonviolent tension as necessary for growth. Growth cannot occur gently, as we learned throughout our time here, whether it was doing pull-ups in frosh P.E. or walking out of class to protest gun violence.
In the midst of great change and national upheaval, we have an opportunity to take the lead now and choose the values that matter to us. When you face such a moment of truth, do not be gentle with the things you truly believe in. Fr. Greg Boyle did not promote gentle kinship, he argued for radical kinship. Richard Gula didn’t say poke holes in the darkness, he said punch. Fr. Stiegeler didn’t say stay in the harbor, because, of course, that’s not what ships are built for.
And no one is better built than our class to leave harbor, the final exit. Over my time at St. Ignatius, I have made so many amazing friends: Giles Corey, Maya Angelou, Mary Shelley. And all of you: musicians, poets, athletes, actors, comedians, even blacksmiths, all people who genuinely give themselves and their talents in service of others. The fabric of our class is woven from these individuals, from their interactions, from their experiences and ideas, all coming together to make some beautiful ships. We know that we will continue to be called to share with the world the gifts we received here. To meet our challenges head on. To not go gentle into that good night. To not make a passive exit, in whatever form of silence or apathy that takes.
I don’t know what further achievements lie ahead for this class, but this I do know — when the historians, the Mr. Vergaras and Ms. Kodros’s of the distant future, write about our class in 50 years, they will write that the Class of 2020 was marked by our unbreakable bonds of love and kinship. They will write that our genuine affection and passion permeated everything we did. They will write that we demonstrated courage, tenacity, and deep loyalty to everything it means to be an Ignatian. They will write that we did not go gently. And as for that daunting future hurtling towards us, I turn to the wise words of the great Natasha Bedingfield: “The rest is still unwritten.” So, when you push that Leave Meeting button later tonight, don’t do so gently.