Oxbow Class Graduates With a Laugh

  • Oxbow High School graduates Kristina Morse, left, and Sonya Vance speak with english teacher Sharon Harkay before the start of their graduation ceremony in Bradford, Vt., on June 10, 2016. (Valley News- Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow High School graduate Hannah Martel gives a quick check of her mortar board before the start of the ceremony in Bradford, Vt., on June 10, 2016. (Valley News- Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bradford, Vt. — The commencement speaker strode to the microphone outside the main entrance to Oxbow High School Friday night wearing a blue blazer over a white shirt with tie, khaki pants and black dress shoes buffed to a deep shine.

And for the first few minutes, Rusty DeWees continued to play it straight.

Establishing his Bradford bona fides for the 84 members of the class of 2016, their families and their teachers, the Vermont-bred and -based actor/performance artist also known as The Logger recalled coming through town as a young teen with his father, who worked for the Stowe (Vt.) Reporter weekly newspaper, on the way to a printing errand at the Upper Valley Press in North Haverhill.

More recently, he continued, he’s enjoyed coffee at The Local Buzz in downtown Bradford, and visited South Newbury fiddler Patrick Ross, who often performs at DeWees’ shows around Vermont and New Hampshire.

Next thing the assembly knew, DeWees was removing first the blazer and then the tie and handing them to senior Skylar Emerson.

“How you doing?” DeWees crooned to the tall, raven-haired Emerson, while unbuttoning and peeling off the shirt. “Did you run away with any awards (from the class’ baccalaureate ceremony) the other day?”

Finally, he pulled off a T-shirt underneath to reveal a white homemade muscle shirt, inscribed with the words “Michael Johnson/Oxbow #1” in black magic marker.

“I was a friend of the late, great Michael Johnson,” DeWees said of the former Oxbow athlete and coach and Vermont State Police sergeant who was killed when struck by a driver fleeing police on Interstate 91 in Thetford in mid-June 2003. “No one could find the basket, 10 feet in or 30 feet away, better than Michael Johnson.”

With Johnson’s son McKendrick seated on the other end of the bleachers in purple cap and gown, DeWees was now working his way among the graduates, handing red plastic bags of Logger-related gifts first to University of Vermont-bound valedictorian Giovanna Carlson (a book and a hat), then to salutatorian Griffin Shaw.

“They’ve probably been winning awards every year since they were in nursery school,” DeWees said, before asking for the lowest achiever to stand up and be counted.

Tanner Weigel rose, to the roar of his classmates and the crowd, and waited for the bag containing his parting gifts.

“Look at that,” DeWees said, eyebrows trampolining while he pointed into the bag. “That’s for your girlfriend.”

And the camouflage onesie that Weigel pulled out next?

“You’ll probably be having a kid right off … if you don’t already,” DeWees predicted before adding, “You look like a hardworking man. All these smart people here, you do things right, they’ll all be working for you someday.”

After urging the graduates to look up from their phones and their keyboards and connect with people different from themselves — from cafeteria workers at their colleges to their own grandparents — he quizzed 10 graduates-to-be about their immediate plans.

“What are you going to study at UConn?” he asked class President Kafre Greenlaw O’Connor, who replied, “Undecided.”

“Good!” DeWees said “Who really cares? You’re going to figure it out.”

Finally, DeWees sent them off to another distribution of awards (McKendrick Johnson handed the Michael Johnson Memorial Scholarship to classmate Nick Grant) and their diploma march by asking the graduates to picture a 40-year-old man and his 4-year-old child greeting the first rays of sun on a humid Monday morning.

While the man groans, “Ohhh, another day,” DeWees said, the daughter stretches her arms and chirps, “Ahhh, another day!”

“If you do that,” DeWees said, “You cannot fail.”

They certainly won’t forget their commencement speaker, whom the seniors elected in a landslide.

“I was maybe a little bit disappointed that he didn’t ask me where I was going,” said Connor Bean, who will attend Union College on a bowling scholarship.

“He was really funny. We had no clue what he might do.”

Class of 2016

Taylor Marie Allbee; Kiersten Marie Barber; Megan Brandy Batchelder; Krista Heatheranne Baxter; Connor Adam Bean; Catlyn Ashley Beck; Tyler Turner Bennett; Cassidy Jean Bolles; Haley Marie Boyce; Felicia Anna Marie Brocar; Malik L. Butler; Giovanna Lynn Carlson; Timothy Joseph Carson; Austin Michael Cassidy; Rose Lea Chaffee; Jacob Ernest Chandler; Emily Charbono; Ashley Kendra Chase; Frederic Jonathan Clements Jr.; Nicholas Anthony Daigle; Anthony Renfrew Davidson; Heaven-Leigh Skye Dery; Andrew James Dicks; VallaRee Arlene Doucette; Cheyenne Annie Dyer; Jennifer Lauren Emerson; Skylar Jane Emerson; Sarita A Fischer; Shane Austin Flint; Alex Bradan Fogg; Telrizeon Charles French; Jared Robert Garvin; Nicholas Tyler Grant; Morgan I manai I ‘ Ameke Aloha Gray; Dylan Shannon Griffin; Brittany Lynn Gross; Rebekah Morgan Hanzas; Madison Lee Hart; Mackenzie Ann Hart; Frances Charlotte Hoag; Brittany Marie Hodges; Cassidy Hoisington; Dakota Richard Melvin Henry Hough; Dustin Ray Huntington; Jordan Clifford Huntington; Dylan Wilber Huntley; McKendrick Walter Johnson; Micayla Nora Lamberti; Joshua Walter LaPierre; Wendy Longmoore; Hannah Erin Martel; Colson Roger Thai Martin; Kyle Jameson Melby; Montana Jordan Miller; Kristina Evelyn Morse; Corrina Lee Oakley; Kafre’ Greenlaw O’Connell; Jacob Jordon Oliphant; John Edward Paye; Jadeleigh Jordyn-Cassidy Pike; Ryan James Prescott; Ashley Jean Roberts; Dominque Rowell; Eli Jackson Russ; Abigail Jordan Schramm; Jacob Noel Senecal; Griffin Aaron Shaw; Kyle Henry Shaw; Brendan Aaron Smith; Wren Margaret Smith; Angela Marie St. Martin; Jamie Catherine Stevens; Tyler Matthew Thurston; Jonathan Taylor Tkac; Hayden Alonzo Duette Tomlinson; Rebecca Catherine Towle; Tucker-John Peterbuilt Trapp; Christopher L. Underhill; Sonya Bea Vance; Trevor William Wadsworth; Tanner Oleson Weigel; Edward George Dore’ White; Bradley Ray Williams; Nichole Williams.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.