The Livingston High School Class of 2013 has officially graduated.
The annual commencement ceremony took place on the LHS football field Wednesday afternoon, hours after Principal Mark Stern decided to brave weather forecasts of thunderstorms and proceed with an outdoor rite. And in fact, as the ceremony progressed, the bright sunshine and heat were so intense, staffers distributed bottles of water to the 439 graduates, the dignitaries on stage and the friends and family members in the stands.
But the heat didn't matter to the proud parents in the stands or to their nervous and excited students sitting in chairs on the field.
"No one has to tell you that this is an important day," Stern said as he welcomed the students and praised them for their goals and their success. "Remember what you did [at Livingston High] and how you make it important."
After the procession onto the field by the LHS seniors to the strains of the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance," graduating student government officer Samantha Cetrulo thanked teachers and parents for all their support. Then she spoke to her classmates.
"Let us go into the world and let them know we're from Livingston," she said.
Salutatorian Spencer Harris Luster, who among other achievements, was named a New Jersey and Associated Press scholar and is headed to the University of Pennsylvania, talked to the Class of 2013 about acceptance and reality.
Using the the words of the 23rd Psalm, he encouraged his fellow grads to continue developing the ability to accept that which cannot be changed, to work ever harder to change what can be altered and to grow wiser when deciding the difference.
Alexander Nie, the "quintessential Renaissance man" who never earned less than an A grade, graduated at the top of the class and earned a spot in the fall freshman class at Harvard University, gave the valedictory address.
Nie urged the seniors to go into the world with kindness and compassion and to move forward into the unknown with confidence.
"Let us be unafraid," he said, likening life to the pursuit of writing. "Your great American novel begins."
Academic medallion awards were presented to 81 graduates, students who all earned a 4.0 grade-point average or higher.
As important as the academic, artistic and athletic accomplishments of Livingston's Class of '13, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brad Draeger and Board of Education President Ronnie Spring urged students to remember to live life with kindness, a spirit of adventure and generosity.
"Make college shape the person you want to be," advised Draeger, who noted that he is about to retire after 38 years in education and seven in Livingston that he called the best years of his career.
The superintendent cautioned students that as they embark on their life journey as adults, to remember that conversations via Facebook, Twitter and smartphones are not the same as talking with people voice to voice and face to face.
"The most success in personal and business relationships" comes from direct human interaction, he said.
"Success lies in how you give, distinguish yourself by what you give to parents and friends, to Livingston to the nation to the world," Draeger concluded.
Spring advised the students advice to follow a basic lesson from kindergarten.
"Be kind to your parents and your friends, and to the world," he said, encouraging random acts of kindness.
With that, the school board president proclaimed the seniors official graduates. And after the distribution of 400-plus diplomas, forest green mortarboards sailed into the humid air.