The circle was made complete when Damien Memorial School’s President, Bernard A.K.S. Ho, spoke at the school’s first co-educational Commencement Exercise held at the Neal S Blaisdell Concert Hall on May 29, 2016. Four years earlier, Mr. Ho and the Board of Directors spearheaded the decision to accept girls into the school and since then the school is thriving as its enrollment has nearly doubled along with students’ successes.
In his address to the Class of 2016, Mr. Ho said to the graduates, “You have demonstrated that Catholic Education and the Blessed Edmund Rice Essential Elements taught at Damien work for both men and women, and these values shall always remain with you.” Mr. Ho commented that the co-ed process was now complete.
Befitting the co-ed historicity of this year’s class, it has co-valedictorians, one of each gender: Melissa Gozun and George Nemeth. In her address, Ms. Gozun (pictured at right) did not refer to co-education as a new tradition, but rather stated that the Class of 2016 “has not only kept the tradition of Damien alive, but revitalized it.”
And co-education was not the only theme for the afternoon as this graduation season marks the 50th anniversary of Damien’s first commencement. Floyd Baptist, former Damien Memorial School Chairman of the Board, represented the 1966 “Pioneer Class” in his address to the 2016 graduates. Mr. Baptist, to the applause of the audience, announced that the class of 1966 was gifting Damien Memorial School $50,000 and challenged every class celebrating its 50th anniversary to also gift the school the same amount or more. Wow. And then they applauded louder. Wow! The Commencement Exercise was on a roll.
So, diplomas were conferred, as were academic and service awards and the recipients were for the first time, both men and women. Of the awards given to students, the men received eight and the women seven, which already shows parity; but as one male teacher had commented at the luncheon, “Who’s keeping score?”
The one non-student honored was Mr. Bernard Ho, whose outstanding nine-year service to the school was recognized with the Joseph Damien de Veuster Award. Mr. Ho thanked his lovely, unselfish, and conscientious wife.
Once Mr. Ho declared that the diplomas were official a controlled excitement rippled on stage. Pride, tears, smiles, surprised expressions, shakas, and hoisted diplomas erupted from the graduates.
Women and men held hands and belted out their alma mater in low and high voices before being greeted by shout-outs in the Concert Hall and a plethora of family and friends outside on the lawn.
It was the end of a process, but just the beginning of tradition revitalized.
The Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Dexter Asuncion ’00 and the Invocation delivered by Mr. Brent Limos ’94. The Damien Memorial School Band, led by Mr. Kent Sato, performed.