When Dr. Mitchell Sutterfield attended Fairfax High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was the oldest school in the county. He helped carry over books from what is now Paul VI High School into the new facility on Old Lee Highway and was a member of the first class to graduate there in 1972.
Sutterfield, an English teacher at Fairfax High and the guest speaker at the school’s commencement ceremony, Wednesday, June 13, paralleled the transition between old and new facilities throughout his and the 2007 graduates’ high school careers, during his speech. The building that Sutterfield once thought of as new, was "bursting at the seams" when the class of 2007 entered its freshmen year, he said. The 2007 class faced a transition phase from old to new, much like the life transition the graduates face today.
"To live is to adapt, to change, to renew and improve," he said.
The students did just that during their time in high school, said Principal Scott Brabrand. They managed to ignore the construction by finding "excellence inside and outside of the classroom." The seniors left their mark on the new facilities too, by making a $2,500 contribution to improve the field house scoreboard as their senior class gift to the school.
Brabrand thanked the outgoing superintendent of schools, George E. Stepp, for his 39 years of service to the city and county schools, and especially for his vision to get the city behind the bond referendum that funded the renovation project.
Brabrand told students not to forget the role of the teachers, administrators, parents and others who helped each of them obtain a quality education. "It can be just one [person] that can make a difference in your lives."
As he introduced the senior class president, Brabrand echoed Gen. Colin Powell’s speech to the Fairfax High School class of 2006 at last year’s commencement: "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing."
THE FAIRFAX HIGH seniors have come to define themselves as individuals, said Anna Pfeiffer, one of the senior class’ 18 valedictorians. Each student’s view of the world has changed during his or her journeys through high school, she said. Individualism is what’s important now, and Pfeiffer said the Fairfax 2007 graduates have already found it.
"We have come to define ourselves as true individuals," said Pfieffer. "Let us not be afraid to be ourselves and follow our hearts."
Thomas J. "T.J." Loeffler, senior class president, related to his classmates with an analogy everyone could relate to: food. Everyone sits down and eats dinner, he said, and in high school, the teachers are the ones who set the table.
He told his classmates that the Fairfax High School teachers prepared meals for them throughout the years, and only some students chose to sit down and eat. It’s that hunger for knowledge that separates the students who chose to eat, from those who didn’t, he said. Members of the 2007 class owe their success in school to their teachers, he said.
"When our time comes, we will cater to the next generation and set the table for them," said Loeffler.
It’s the words of wisdom from those teachers that the student speakers gave thanks for, and Sutterfield didn’t disappoint in his speech. He compared the graduation and the life phase that follows to a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Lord Chamberlain Polonius is told to let his son, Laertes, "play his music," after becoming increasingly meddlesome in his son’s life.
"That casual line is what opened up the scene for me, and now I pass it along to you," said Sutterfield. "You can give back with your music, whatever tune it may be."