NFA Class of 2015 arrived in hurricane, departs in rare rainy graduation

Norwich – The Class of 2015 became part of a historic event Monday as the first class in 21 years to need a roof for its graduation ceremony.

With 506 graduates in the class, plus 64 guests from the Class of 1965, the ceremony needed four roofs to accommodate attendees with an estimated 2,000 seats.

“This class came in with Hurricane Irene, and they’re leaving in a rain storm,” Director of Student Affairs John Iovino said. “So it’s appropriate.”

The heavy rain lightened to a steady drizzle as immediate family filled the Alumni Gym for the ceremony and others filtered into Slater Auditorium, Norton Gymnasium and the Sydney Frank Center to watch it on a live broadcast.

The Class of 1965 relaxed in the air conditioned Edwin Land Library for a 50th class reunion reception and to watch graduation.

“Man, this is weird!” one female graduate shouted as she entered the gym to screaming cheers usually reserved for a thrilling basketball victory.

The NFA operations staff hopes to add air conditioning to the gym this summer.

“It should have been done yesterday,” said Tom Thompson of Canterbury sitting in the top row of bleachers for his son Ben's graduation.

The 500 graduates filled the gym floor in what Ivy Orator speaker Sarah Gates-Williams called “a sea of red.”

Gates-Williams admitted she cried on the bus last week “because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye," but now urged her classmates to laugh.

She recalled her friend, Brandon Jozile – who drowned July 4, 2013 at Hopeville Pond State Park in Griswold.

“He taught me that laughter is a great symbol of joy,” Gates-Williams said. “Life is complicated, but I believe that living is the best form of comedy, and if I could spend the majority of my life laughing, I know I will be fine, and so will you.”

The post-graduate reunion of family members with their graduates looked more like a typical NFA graduation, with bright balloons, flowers and one person carrying a huge fruit basket. Cellphones caught photos and videos.

Grandmother Carol Bojarski St. Germain of Hanover, a member of the Class of 1965, met up with graduate grandson Sam Maskell, 18, of Preston outside the gym. Maskell plans to study environmental engineering at Three Rivers Community College.

“I was disappointed I couldn’t be in there with him,” she said.

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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