Graduates tackled a number of subjects at Dover Area High School's 2012 commencement ceremony Saturday, but a current of anxiety ran through each speech.
Before a standing-room-only crowd at the Toyota Arena, salutatorian Carrie Pfleiger congratulated her classmates for conquering the "nervousness" and "excitement" that come with grade school, but she begged them to avoid getting too comfortable in the Dover area. Though the class of 2012 should take a moment to "be proud of our accomplishments," graduation is the time to think about moving on, she said.
Quoting actor Alan Alda, Pfleiger advised graduates "to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition."
"We must believe in the words of Alan Alda," she said.
Valedictorian Paige Neidig took a different tack, urging classmates and supporters to "take things slow," "enjoy what life has to offer" and, when in doubt, to choose the scenic route.
She compared the years after graduation to a theme park where adults must decide between rollercoasters and Ferris wheels. Neidig said she's never seen the point in rollercoasters, which offer quick thrills but end abruptly.
Ferris wheels, she said, offer long opportunities to admire, ponder and cherish.
"I refuse to feel badly the next time I pass right by (Hersheypark's) Super Duper Looper," she said.
Faculty speaker and math teacher Jeffrey Stover's advice split the difference. There's no universal secret to contentment, he said, but he gave graduates his personal recipe -- "live well, laugh often, love much," from Bessie Anderson Stanley's 1904 poem "Success."
To live well, graduates should approach their lives the way they might approach a math problem, in which "the process can be as important or more important than the solution."
To laugh often, graduates must acknowledge that their best moments lie ahead of them, he said.
And to love much, graduates need only to show others the sort of thoughtfulness they showed Stover and his family when Kathy Stover, a special education teacher at Dover, passed away last year.
Students sent sympathy cards and personal notes, prepared a yearbook funeral page and left thoughtful Facebook messages as the Stovers grieved.
"It was my wife, it was the love of my life, who believed in those six simple words," Stover said. "And it is those words I'd like to leave you with - live well, laugh often and love much."
Dover Area High School Class of 2012
Number of graduates: 231
Graduation ceremony held June 9 inside the Toyota Arena at the York Expo Center
Valedictorian: Paige Neidig
Salutatorians: Carrie Pfleiger
Other speakers: Ean Julius, National Honor Society president; Sarah Musser, class vice president; Erin Wetzel, class historian; Bradley Jacobs, 1962 class president; Jeffrey Stover, faculty speaker