BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD
A near capacity Memorial Gymnasium was the site of the Anaconda High School Class of 2015 graduation ceremony Sunday, June 7. It was the 123rd graduating class of AHS and one of the smallest as well, seeing only 82 students receive diplomas.
The night was full of happiness, sadness and masked emotion, especially by departing principal Paul Furthmyre. From having his voice crack when mentioning his final graduation class at AHS — whether it was about senior pranks gone wrong or to his beloved students as a whole — or speaking about the loss of educators to new positions or retirement to noting the loss of Tristan Killoy, a student who would’ve graduated but died of cancer in 2011, Furthmyre made Sunday’s ceremony one to remember.
Incumbent principal Shawn Hansen, who was the vice principal, athletic and activities director and band director during the 2014-15 school year, made sure Furthmyre received the gratitude he deserved one he took the podium.
“Before I begin (recognizing) the scholarship winners, there’s one more person that will be leaving us this year and I want to make sure he is recognized,” said Hansen about his boss and friend. “Mr. Furthmyre I wanted to tell you it’s been truly an honor and a pleasure to serve Anaconda High School with you.”
Hansen then revealed the exact and staggering dollar amount of scholarships earned by the departing seniors, a number he said was the highest he’s had since becoming an administrator five years ago.
“In the class of 2015, 34 students have been awarded scholarships totaling more than $547,181,” he said.
The Top 5 students were recognized by alphabetical order including Drew Conrady, Bobby Duhame, Ashley Maes, Dylan McPhail and JJ Zenahlik. They spoke about their time at AHS — the good and the bad — but all had wonderful things to say about their classmates, teachers, administration and community during individual speeches. Below are their individual speeches as recorded on KANA 580 AM.
Maes went above and beyond in her speech, recognizing two birthdays of classmates — Drake Kopp and the late Killoy. Along with the help of Mrs. Sonja Andrews, they led the gymnasium in songs for Kopp and then Killoy, which was met by rousing applause.
Following the graduation, every senior was given balloons colored orange, white and blue symbolizing Killoy’s love of the Denver Broncos to release on Hickory Street outside the gymnasium.
Senior president Brittany Slaughter had the pleasure of introducing the commencement speaker, none other than former AHS teacher and current Montana Lt. Gov. Angela McLean.
McLean spoke poetically about home, how even though she moved away from Anaconda in August of 2014 to be closer to her job in Helena she has never forgotten where much of her personal and professional life derived from.
“I want you to know, it is good to be home,” Lt. Gov. McLean said to lead her 18 minute commencement with. It is great to be back in Copperhead Country. You know you’re home when per capita the graduating class has to have more Eagle Scouts than any other graduating in the state.”
She talked at length about how her former students are making a difference in Montana and how it will never get old getting gas and knowing the names of almost every person at the pumps or in the parking lot.
“You know you’re home when you get a taco and Taco Dave pokes his head out the drive through window for a selfie with the LG,” she said, receiving laughter from the crowd.
She ended the speech in loving fashion, once again professing her admiration for the group of students who were her last class at AHS and her former home town she will never forget.
“Graduates, may God bless each and every one of you, and may God bless the incredible, beautiful and benevolent Anaconda, Montana,” McLean said to end her address.
McLean’s 18 minute speech led into the coronation of the seniors receiving their diplomas, the highlights of which included Furthmyre and Hansen turning the tables on the class by handing each one “For Sale” signs in retaliation for several pranks pulled throughout the year. The premise of the prank was when members of the senior class placed “For Sale” signs on the school after contentious talks of consolidation throughout the district and when Hansen’s personal vehicle was put up for sale on Craigslist.com for $2,000.
Senior Michael Monaco, who coordinated a fun-spirited petting zoo prank that led three sheep into the halls of AHS, was also a hit after receiving his diploma. With the use of a selfie stick, he took a photo of himself with McLean, Hansen, Furthmyre and Dr. Tom Darnell before returning to his seat.
All that was left was one final vocal crack from Furthmyre, sending the 123rd graduating class into the sunset.
“Superintendent Darnell, faculty, parents, relatives and friends, I give you the Anaconda High School senior class of 2015,” he said.
For the first time, KANA 580 AM broadcast and recorded the graduation in its entirety. For a digital copy of the event, please call (406) 563-7119 during regular business hours or send an E-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click below for a link to the news report (3:30) of the event currently being aired on KANA 580 AM.
Below are some other shots taken throughout the ceremony, copyright Blake Hempstead, CS PHOTO.