News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 8, 2014

North: A wish for ‘astounding success’

TERRE HAUTE — As Jacklyn McClain awaited the start of the Terre Haute North Vigo High School commencement Sunday, she reflected on the importance of the day and her future plans.

“It’s awesome. It’s a huge milestone in my life,” she said.

The 2014 North Vigo graduate plans to attend Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she will play softball and study pre-med.

Graduate Jacob Peabody said it’s a day he’s anticipated for many years and “now it’s finally here.” Both excited and nervous, Peabody is preparing to study nursing at Indiana State University.

Christopher Nail, who will study construction management at ISU, said he was happy to be moving forward with his life but also sad “leaving behind the stuff I know” to begin a journey into the new and unknown.

The three were among 445 North students who graduated Sunday afternoon at Hulman Center. A highlight of the program was a valedictory address by Terre Haute native Tommy John, the legendary former major league baseball pitcher. While he was the 1961 valedictorian at Gerstmeyer High School, he was denied the opportunity to give the valedictory speech because he stuttered.

The school district wanted to right the wrong — and gave John his opportunity Sunday.

Students said John’s speech made the commencement extra special for them. “It’s so cool,” McClain said.

Peabody described it as “really exciting because he was an MLB great and the surgery he went through was one of a kind at that time.” Allowing John to finally give that commencement speech was “justice,” he said.

During the program, salutatorian Brooke Lyman told graduates they are now headed in new directions, whether the workforce, military or college.

No matter what paths they choose, she urged them not to settle into a life of security and predictability. “If we become complacent, our personal growth will begin to stagnate and we will fail to notice opportunity around us,” she said.

No matter what their futures hold, “It is important to remember to get out of your comfort zone and try new things,” she said. “I’m not saying you need to climb Mount Everest, go skydiving or take an impromptu trip to New Zealand.”

But be willing to take risks and make mistakes. “Don’t regret the things you never did,” Lyman said.

Valedictorian Grant Potts told students that no matter what their past or background, “Each and every one of you has this amazing potential to become an astounding success.”

How could he be so sure?

“Because you are the survivors of 720 days of crowded hallways, jammed lockers, late nights, seemingly impossible tests, long reading assignments and yes, the worst of all, freshman swimming,” he said.

He urged students to discover their passions and to never stop pursuing what they love.

Potts also gave examples about how life doesn’t always go according to plan. He described some initial disappointments in tennis that served to fuel his passion for the sport.  

He also talked about being rejected by Dartmouth College. “At first I was extremely upset, but it opened my eyes to the fact that the perfect school for me was the one school I had vowed I would never attend, DePauw University.”

While plans and paths may change unexpectedly, those detours in life also will bring unexpected friendships, joys and triumphs, he said.

Potts told graduates to spend time with loved ones and live without fear, and no matter what trials they face, “carry on, keep going, keep breathing, keep laughing and never, ever, ever give up.”

His final advice was to “live each day to the absolute fullest, focus on relationships, take some risks, have some fun, be yourself, don’t always listen and show genuine curiosity in others.”

Also recognized during the program were the two Carl S. Riddle Scholars, Mary Ann Etling and Richard Brookins. The winner of the Timothy M. Sullivan award was Jessi Conley.

Etling, president of the student council, gave the closing address. In part of the comments, she paid tribute to her brother, Jack, who was born with a brittle bone condition that makes him unable to walk. He faces obstacles, but overcomes them, she said.

She credited her brother with being “a steadfast inspiration my entire life.”

Principal Robin Smith recognized graduates Elizabeth Beddow and Kelsey Dickens, who had perfect attendance in grades K-12.

Also during the program, David Ray Overton, a member of the Terre Haute North Class of 1974, received an honorary diploma.

In October 1973, he enlisted with the U.S. Navy and was not able to graduate with his class. He was an ET chief petty officer on submarines and served during the Vietnam War.

After Sunday’s program, he said he did earn a GED and he did attend college, “but I never received my high school diploma from Terre Haute North and I always wanted it,” he said.

It means “the world,” Overton said. “I have my whole family here.” He lives in Putnam County but most family members live in Terre Haute.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

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