With less than three weeks of school remaining for Mount de Sales seniors, our thoughts turn to year-end celebrations, especially baccalaureate and graduation. Typically, commencement exercises are held at the Macon City Auditorium, but the pandemic forced the event to move to Cavalier Fields last year and again this year on April 29. The Class of 2021 is the 140th graduating class for the institution, and commencement exercises looked quite different 100 years ago.
In 1914, eight young ladies received their diplomas from Mount de Sales on June 5 at the recital hall on campus. The literary address was given by Rev. Father Mattern, who was president of St. Stanislaus College, which had once been described as “by far the largest Catholic college in the South.” St. Stanislaus burned in 1920 and was not rebuilt (the present-day Stanislaus neighborhood was constructed on the site instead). The young ladies read their “graduation essays,” which were recounted in the local paper. One, read by Miss Ralph Mary Huthnance of Macon, cautioned against taking the seemingly easy path in life. She described two roads in her essay: one “the present, a path that is thick with stones but as one travels it becomes smoother and at the end is ‘success;’” the other road is that of the “‘By and By.’ It is fair to look at and smooth. But gets rougher all along.” Miss Huthnance concluded that graduates should stay off the “By and By.”
Another graduate, Miss Elizabeth McMurray of Macon, “pointed out to her companions that success fails to come only to those who do not wait long enough in one place.” The valedictory address was given by Miss Katie Mock of Albany. According to the newspaper article, Miss Mock chose the topic of the “Marriage Feast of Cana” and opened with an original verse she composed. She closed with “the sadness that was brought to her classmates as they were about to depart from their alma mater and gave a parting word of thanks to teachers and schoolmates.”
Another article summed up the general tone of the event and probably most graduation exercises over the years: “With a smile of recognition for the congratulations of parents, teachers and friends, but with a sigh of regret that their school days were over” the graduates received their diplomas. “There was a note of sadness and joy in each of the essays by the young women. They realized that this was their parting day and though glad to cast aside catechism, music and books, it was a feeling of regret that could be seen written on the faces of the young women as they received their diplomas.”
Graduation from high school is both a beginning and an end. For parents, students, and teachers throughout the years, the milestone has been marked by sadness and joy. Our wish for the graduates of today is that they, like their predecessors, have the courage to walk the challenging path and are patient and persevere in their search for success.
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.