Fathers and Lifelong Friendships

A Graduation Weekend, And A Great Honor

Mike DeNucci was one of the first people I met as a student at Wilbraham & Monson Academy. It was September 1987, and we were 14. My oldest friend Tino Ricci – listen to him here on EP6 – introduced us, and we walked into lunch. 

Mike and Tino and the other guys in our group welcomed me. I was a nervous kid on full financial aid, a fish out of water. They’d all been at the school since 7th grade, and their easy friendship with each other and willingness to welcome me in made all the difference from day one. 

My four years at Wilbraham & Monson Academy were life changing, both academically and socially. I credit the Academy for setting me on the path for the life I’ve been able to enjoy. 

Fast-forward to this past weekend. Mike’s son graduated from Wilbraham & Monson, his daughter played the flute at the commencement ceremony, and I got to watch them both. 

Several years ago, I was asked to join Wilbraham & Monson’s board of trustees, an honor that still brings tears to my eyes if I think about it too long. Each year a trustee is asked to attend the commencement ceremony to confer the diplomas on the graduating seniors. Given my friendship with Mike, the head of school asked me to be that trustee. I said yes at once.

I felt a slew of emotions sitting there on the stage. I felt such joy that Mike’s son was graduating from the same school we had and headed off to a great college in the fall. I felt amazement listening to his daughter play the flute – and could hear exactly why she was leaving early to go to a music school. 

And casting an occasional eye away from the ceremony to my 10-year-old daughter in the audience, I felt hope that she and her two sisters would have 35-year-long friendships like I had. 

My job in the ceremony was perfunctory. Take the diploma and hand it to the head of the school. But standing there I shook the hands of 99 young adults set to head off into a world where parents weren’t the mainstays any longer – even if they were footing the bills. What mattered were friends. The good and the bad ones each had sway. It was those friends who would shape college or whatever came next.

As we walked out of the ceremony, I hoped my daughter – who told everyone she had graduated that day – and the 99 students who actually held diplomas found lifelong friends like I had.