At Sports And Medical Sciences Academy’s Commencement, A Military Reunion And Principal’s Farewell – Hartford Courant
As Alexis Smith prepared to walk across the stage and collect her diploma at the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy’s commencement Friday night, a man clad in camouflage emerged from behind the curtain.
Master Sgt. Phillip Smith of the Air National Guard, who had been planning this graduation surprise since before he left for southwest Asia in April, was given a boisterous standing ovation as he walked across the stage to embrace his daughter. Chants of “USA” broke out in the audience, and both father and daughter, along with faculty, wiped tears from their eyes.
“I missed her prom, I missed her 18th birthday, I’m going to miss her going off to college,” Smith said after the ceremony. His superiors, he said, had no problem letting him return for the ceremony. “They’re family first.”
The younger Smith was still speechless after the ceremony, happy to see her father again. She asked him how he pulled it off: “Where did you sleep last night?” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied.
The reunion wasn’t the only cause for celebration at the academy’s commencement, the last for Principal John Laverty, a 38-year veteran of Hartford Public Schools. Each of the 94 graduates gave their popular principal a note as they grabbed their diplomas.
The often emotional Laverty said he was trying to avoid crying in front of the crowd.
“We love you,” a student yelled out.
“I love you guys, but if I choke up again you can call me a wimp,” he said.
Laverty told his students that he intended to retire last year, but he stayed to watch the school’s first class of entering sixth-graders culminate their SMSA experience.
“You’re my class,” he told them. “You’ve kept me sharp. You’ve kept me current … You have revitalized me.”