All-School Blog

Graduation address to Class of 2018 by President Dr. Paul Barker

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – May 24, 2018

Present with us today are members of the Class of 1968, our newest Golden Falcons, still bonded to Good Counsel fifty years after their graduation. Graduates, before you try to imagine being a Golden Falcon yourself in 2068, reflect a moment on the year these men graduated. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gunned down on the balcony of a Memphis motel. Days of riots in DC ensue, as close as two miles from here. Robert Kennedy shot in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel. Student protests about an unpopular war in Vietnam. Extraordinary times. Today, these men see you, in all your promise, and dream of five decades ago when they were just like you. Thank you, Class of '68. We are honored by your presence.

Back in November, I was visiting alumni in Tampa, Florida. Between appointments, I had a couple of hours to kill. I love second-hand bookstores and found one in a strip mall. It did not look promising, but I asked. Any New Zealand fiction? No. Any horse racing? No. Any South Polar exploration? Well, yes, we have a 1914 first edition of Scott's Final Expedition.

I know, I know, a bit of a nerd. So, who is Captain Scott? Only one of the bravest explorers of the 20th Century. In 1912, Scott and four companions sought to be the first men to reach the South Pole. They did so on foot, man-hauling everything they needed. They reached the Pole only to find their Norwegian rivals had beaten them by a few weeks. Then, on the return journey, Scott's team perished one by one. After a trek of more than 1,500 miles and only 11 miles from safety, marooned in their tent by a days-long blizzard, Scott was the last of his party to succumb. I read about this story when I was in middle school. I have been inspired ever since by its example of heroism, hardihood and endurance.

So, back to the book. I opened it and noticed it was inscribed: This work is presented to my son Julius F. Stone Jr. in the confident hope that he, if ever placed in the difficult and responsible position of leadership, will meet that requirement as nobly and as completely as did Captain Scott. Julius F. Stone. June 20th, 1914.

Go to Google. I learned that Julius Stone was an Ohio industrialist. The book was inscribed to his 13-year-old son. Stone wanted him to be inspired. We can relate. We look at you today filled with "confident hope" about who you are and what you can become and pray that you, too, with open hearts and minds, may be inspired.

Back to that book again. On its own, the inscription would have been a lovely touch, sweet, but otherwise unmemorable. But there was a second entry in the same cursive script, dated April 18th, 1933. Julius F. Stone wrote again, to his now 32-year-old son: After hugging this fond delusion for almost twenty years I here regretfully record the fact that he has made a complete failure of all his opportunities.

Whoa! What had Julius Jr. done to merit getting crushed like this 19 years after Dad's expression of "confident hope"? Go to Google. At 32, Julius Jr., this "complete failure," had earned a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Harvard. He had made a fortune in the stock market. In 1933, the country was still in the grips of the Great Depression. Julius had indeed been in the "difficult and responsible position of leadership" as federal relief administrator for Florida. He is credited with almost single-handedly turning Key West from a poverty-stricken outpost into the lively tourist magnet it is today. Oh, and four years later, he was back at Harvard completing a law degree. We'll never know why Julius judged Julius Jr. so harshly.

My takeaway is simple. We – your parents, your teachers – will always share what has inspired us, because we cherish the hope it will inspire you, too. It's what we do. We want you to be inspired. Experience tells us it is ultimately not ours to determine what is going to light your fire. Today, rather than dictate your inspiration, we look forward in the "confident hope" that your Good Counsel education has you well-prepared in the truest sense, as loving good persons, who, even alone, can make a difference. We believe you can be inspiring.

Your day to be inspiring to the world might be years away. I note from the yearbook that TJ and Keelin were voted Most Likely to Become President, and that could take a while. Some of you are inspiring today. We have just heard the extraordinary Rhiannan. We have just honored Frank who came from the other side of the world to excel, serve and love as a Falcon. We have seen how Kyle raised huge dollars for the fight against cancer. We have been shown by Caterina and Quincy how to mobilize on issues facing our society. And we have watched so many of you on the stage, the field, the court and just know there are 5th and 6th graders out there who want to be you. Be inspiring.

In what "difficult and responsible position of leadership" will you be placed? We have no idea. We end this Mass and Commencement four days after the feast of Pentecost – the commemoration of the divine moment that inspired the Church into existence – with a prayer that expresses our "confident hope": Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Be inspired. Be inspiring. God speed, Class of 2018.

Read more about All-School Blog: Dr. Paul Barker's Graduation Address

By Dr. Paul Barker

A photo from February 2013 made me smile this weekend. The picture is of three seniors and me, all lookin' swell in our bow ties.

The occasion was a National Letter of Intent signing breakfast, something we celebrate a few times each year. We recognize athletic gifts, years of preparation and dedication, and the support of family, coaches, teachers, and peers that have resulted in a college athletic opportunity. Moms and Dads can't get enough of the picture taking on such a proud day. Honor, prestige, and, mercifully, financial relief.

What athletic potential will yield in four or five years is, of course, unknowable at the time of signing. Student-athletes head to college wondering: Did I pick the right school? Will my skills measure up? Will I stay injury-free? Will the coach and I get along? Will our team be a winner? Will I get a chance to lead? Will I be able to manage the workload?

We are now at the time of year when each senior is asking similar questions. Days remaining at Good Counsel are few; students know the tally. Many things vie for attention. Prom is in the rear-view mirror. IB exams started last Friday, and AP exams are just around the corner. Senior Retreat is at the end of this week. Playoffs draw near for spring athletes. Maybe there's even been a family conversation about where to go for lunch after graduation.

And by tomorrow, students pondering multiple acceptances must decide which college it's going to be. It's time for movin' on. And, no matter how well we prepare, none of us knows just how it's all going to turn out.

The NFL draft was held this past weekend. That's what made me smile. For three Falcons, five years on from graduation, things have turned out very well.

In the photo, Kendall Fuller is on the left. Kendall went to Virginia Tech, was drafted two years ago by the Redskins, and was recently traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Next is Andre Levrone who played at Virginia and was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens. And, on the right is Dorian O'Daniel, winner of a College Football National Championship while at Clemson, and drafted with Pick #100 by the Chiefs.

Back in 2013, these young men were undeniably full of promise. Still, knowing how many things have to go right if you're going to make it to the top, you would have gotten long odds on all three of this bow tie brigade making it to the pros. They made it!

As we bring this year to a close, I pray for the unknowable futures of the Class of 2018. And I hope that some years down the road I will look at photos from their GC days that make me smile in recognition of dreams fulfilled.

Read more about All-School Blog: On A Photo from 2013

On being a safe place

I am tremendously encouraged by the coming together of student voices across the country to provide a powerful spur for meaningful action from government.

Here at Good Counsel, students Helton Rodriguez and Caterina Ieronimo were quick to step forward with ideas about how our community could respond to this latest national tragedy. Teach-ins have already taken place. Talon journalist Alexia Ayuk secured an interview with Senator Van Hollen to ask tough questions about legislative action. In solidarity, we will participate in next Wednesday's National Walk Out in a way that reflects our most deeply held values and our Catholic identity. Unless the weather interferes, we plan to walk out to our recently completed grotto. There, we will spend 17 minutes in a prayer service for peace.

In the aftermath of Parkland, I suspect every school is taking a hard look at its security procedures. We are. Our students felt Parkland keenly. Their seriousness was evident when we held a lockdown drill last week. I walked much of the building; you could have heard a pin drop. Our practices have been analyzed by a senior Montgomery County Police officer and he has made a number of suggestions that reflect the latest police thinking about school security. There's more to come on that.

Yet for all the adjustments to align with best practices for a safe school environment, those of us who are in schools every day realize the near impossibility of making our schools impregnable. We are a school, not a fortress.

Our reaction to school violence is visceral. There are other less visible threats to maintaining a safe and secure school. We live in a state where it seems legal recreational use of marijuana is not far away from becoming a reality. The old stereotype of students smoking in the bathroom seems like an almost quaint throwback. Today, there are multiple threats that exist below the radar – opioid painkillers, small and odorless vaping devices, edibles that are indistinguishable from any other cookie or brownie.

And, earlier this week, the National Association of Independent Schools published Prevention and Response: Recommendations for Independent School Leaders from the Independent School Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct. The document, developed over the past 18 months, is a powerful call for every school to be vigilant and have clear expectations, sound policy and procedure, and consistent training in the effort to protect students from harassment, abuse and other forms of misconduct.

Year in and year out, surveys of parents come up with the same three reasons why families choose Catholic schools: rigorous academics, values, and safety. Our families trust us to deliver on all three.

My colleague, Principal Tom Campbell wrote a letter to the community recently in which he addressed some of these same issues and provided valuable resources.

I write this letter to reiterate the commitment we make at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School to meet your fundamental expectation that we will do our utmost every day to maintain a safe, secure and healthy environment for all our students. Only in such a context can we carry out our mission: to inspire our students to excel, serve, and love.

Read more about Blog: On Being a Safe Place

My first year at Good Counsel was 2011. I was co-moderator of an 11th grade Community with my colleague from the Business Office, Bill Mooney. Back then, there was no advisory curriculum to cover. The ten minutes of Community was an informal combo of message delivery and time to relax, a time where growth and formation took place in what Theodore James Ryken called the "common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life."

Over the 2011-12 year, Bill and I figured out we had a talented group of juniors – scholars, artists, athletes. We went on a memorable Junior Retreat together. After they graduated in May 2013, two went to Ivy League schools: Harvard and Brown. Others to schools like Georgetown, Maryland and Florida. Four were D1 football players.

Today, the majority of those 25 men and women have graduated from college. Whether by LinkedIn, Facebook, word-of-mouth, or visits to campus, I try to keep up with what these young alumni are up to. It's clear that they have parlayed their Good Counsel experience into accomplishment in college. They are nurses, educational entrepreneurs, communications specialists, cognitive therapy researchers, digital media producers, graduate students in women's studies and physical therapy, wealth management trainees.

Before you say "Enough with the nostalgia," I want to share about one student whose talents have kept him connected to Good Counsel.

Jimmy Stubbs came to GC in 2009 with an interest in visual art. A large format self-portrait he completed his senior year and still hanging in Mr. Clulow's classroom points to Jimmy's talent. The brightness of the background matches the brightness of the personality.

Jimmy did not perform in plays or musicals during his middle school years. That changed at GC. We often talk about our school as a place where students are encouraged to find their "best fit." Jimmy found his. He was in all eight shows in his four years, establishing a reputation for scene-stealing comedic timing. It was no surprise when Jimmy headed to the University of Maryland to major in Theatre.

At College Park, Jimmy's focus shifted to scenic design. He stayed in touch with his teachers and mentors: Kristina Friedgen, Rosemary Slocum, Rich Slocum, David Petrocci. Knowing his talent, the Good Counsel Theatre Company invited Jimmy to design the set for the fall production. And they didn't make it easy, tossing in the additional challenge of designing a set that would have to be movable to work with two plays as we are presenting a double feature. Undergraduate students seldom design sets that get to be constructed at full scale. Jimmy was not going to pass on an opportunity to go big! I am told that the set he designed has had to be scaled back a bit. Even so, it covers the entire width of the PAC stage. It is Jimmy's largest realized set and he plans to use it in his application for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Scenic Design program at Yale.

Not every student's path will lead back to Good Counsel in such a conspicuous way. Nor can we so directly propel every alumnus to a prestigious graduate program. Rather, Jimmy's story is one of a talent identified and nurtured by caring faculty and staff during a student's years at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. It's mission delivery at its most fundamental: We inspire our students to excel, serve, and love.

Kudos, Jimmy. You make the moderators of Community 9307 very proud.


If you want to see Jimmy's set in the hands of extraordinarily talented students, the curtain rises on our fall double-bill later this week, The Real Inspector Hound and And Then There Were None.

Read more about Blog Post: On Setting the Stage

For six years, Our Lady of Good Counsel has offered adults the opportunity to continue their education through the Adult Enrichment Program. The program offers classes taught by members of the community, and span a range of topics and skills.

GC is offering an impressive variety of classes this fall. Sessions vary in length from 1-night to 5-week courses, and topics include:

• Eastern Shore Seafood and Beer Tasting
• Hearty Winter Soups
• Healthy and Tasty Cooking for Kids

• The Great Gatsby

• Barre Fitness Class
• Essential Oils 101
• Introduction to Acupuncture

• World Religions

• Calligraphy for Beginners

For more information and to register online go to Questions? Contact Lauren Costello, Director of Auxiliary Programs

Read more about Fall Adult Enrichment Classes Begin at Good Counsel