Commencement Address from Greg Angilly

Director of Student Life and Student-Selected Faculty Speaker for CHC Graduation 2019


Two claps for an awesome speaker! Greg Angilly will be a hard act to follow for any future student-selected speakers.

Thank you – Dr. Garran – Mr. Horgan, Mrs. Hummel, Mrs. Scherrer – Mr. Atherton, CHC Board of Directors, Families, faculty, and friends of our graduates and most importantly – Class of 2019 – thank you – I’m truly honored and humbled with the opportunity that stands before me this afternoon. It is rare that I get nervous speaking in public — good thing I’m wearing this gown — cuz my knees are knocking!

In the last 2 years, we’ve heard from Jim Kerbin and Tom Rodgers. Think about that……

Jim Kerbin – at the time 83 years young offering insight and advice to our graduates — heck to all of us! Jim Kerbin- the most interesting man in the world –  – I can honestly think of only one person I’d rather hear from in this community and that’s Carol Kerbin— am I right Jim! In all seriousness – Jim is an incredible educator and human being whose passion for our students will never be bested. Incredible choice by the Class of 2017.

Tom Rodgers –  Providing thought-provoking metaphors and pushing our graduates to be their absolute best. This is exactly what he asks for and holds you all accountable for in his classroom- the absolute best.  Another incredible scholar and human being and a man whose wisdom and passion are relentless. Great choice by the Class of 2018.

And to be honest – the Class of 2019 also selected an amazing scholar – a brilliant man, wise in a plethora of topics and an innovative educator who inspires his students and pushes them to and beyond their academic comfort level – oh it’s not me — no far from it — It’s – Mr. Scott McGraw.  He was unable to address this year’s class – so we went to the 2nd choice – and here I am!

In future years we will hear from brilliant educators – the Cabreros, Perkins, Fluhartys (Stephanie, Willy — don’t get too excited), Moore’s of the world. Today, you will hear from someone who has spent more hours with our grads outside of the classroom — Let’s all Think of this as a sorbet of sorts – a palate cleanser before we return to the world of high academia!

To be honest with you –  I feel quite similar today to how I’ve felt each time I’ve been asked to write advisor notes home to Fiona -I’m trying hard to sound intelligent to the most intelligent folks I know – and that includes all of you – – All of you. With that said – opportunity knocked for me in this unpredictable world-and in the immortal words of Joe Thompson -I have the ticket so let’s take the ride!

When this opportunity presented itself – I immediately turned to Google – and I asked the wise one: “Great commencement speeches – how to?”

Step 1 –

# 1- Infuse humor & don’t be afraid to be self-deprecating – CHECK – well on my way.

Step 2

# 2 – Speak from the heart & speak about what you know.  

I know sports and love music – hip hop to be specific. Not exactly commencement-worthy topics — or are they? The beauty of the speeches this class has heard – the power and grace of Madison Patrick, the wit, sarcasm and intelligence of Aedan Somers, the kindness of Jamie and Konrad, the heart of Caroline Beaulieu, and the brilliance of Fiona and Nicole – all incredible speeches as they are all incredibly authentic – so with that in mind – parents, faculty, esteemed guests – the following few minutes are for the 92 sitting to my left and right.  I love this group and the individuals that comprise this amazing class, and I have a few things to share with them.

On June 24th, 1991 – I stood before my senior class – The senior class of Boonton High School – as their student-selected speaker.  I was essentially raised in the halls of Boonton High School. My mother was a middle school teacher – my father was the Director of Student Life, an Assistant Lacrosse coach and a passionate educator who rarely missed a sporting event, play, production or meaningful Boonton High event. Where he went – I went — and I stood before my class on that sunny June afternoon and recapped our 4 years together – the good times, the bad times – the wins, the losses, the triumphs, and the tragedies.  I knew in my heart with every fiber of my being that June 24th, 1991 would be the last time I had anything to do with a high school. I knew I would go to Wake Forest University – major in Political Science and eventually be a Congressman or run the office for a Congressman. And I quote – “take it to the bank, Class of 1991 – my days in a high school are finally over.”

Now 28 years later – I’m the Director of Student Life, an Assistant Lacrosse coach, and I find that I spend the majority of my time in a high school — and I can’t imagine life any other way.  And if you don’t know, now you know……

You see – Life is incredibly unpredictable — and that is the beauty of it.

To date – our Seniors essentially have had their lives scripted.  Yes, you’ve had choices with regards to which math class to take, which club to form, which sport to play, which charity to assist, and I commend each and every one of you on the choices you’ve made and on the Award Tour we just completed.  With that said – you’ve been part of a very intentional community and to some extent put on a predetermined path. Guess what — that ends today!

Many of you are certain about your major – certain you are set to be the next great doctor, lawyer, businesswoman, politician, and CEO — set to be the next great actor – or singer — or in the case of Aidan Kale — set to do all of the above presumably while also writing his own theme music! While I have no doubt you can all accomplish what you set your mind to, I also want to caution each of you to stop, pause and enjoy the ride. A wise group of men known as the Beastie Boys once said – “Life ain’t nothing but a good groove, a good mixed tape to put you in the right mood.” Simple – but I think they are onto something.

Life is incredibly unpredictable. EMBRACE it.


For the past 48 months, I’ve asked you to lead with kindness and have an open mindset — and I’m going to take this last opportunity to do so one final time.

In my humble opinion, we’ve become a society that is deeply entrenched in our own views – quick to defend and quick to attack, and while I am a man of convictions and feel strongly in my beliefs – I’m also quite aware that there is so much more to learn in this world and an open mindset is imperative to my continued success.  

You will encounter many people in your next phase of life that share your views – be it political, economical, social, cultural — but guess what – you are going to encounter an equal number who do not share your views — and that is GREAT! Do not run from these encounters — lean into them – learn from them – embrace them.  What you may find out along this wonderful path called life — you may find out you don’t know yourself as well as you thought you did — and that is OK –in fact, it’s great!

I stand before you at 46 years old and I truly learn something new every day I come to work at Cape. This kid from Boonton, New Jersey who never wanted to step foot in a high school — he belongs in a high school and in order to get here – I had to learn to be honest with myself — (It doesn’t hurt if you meet your dream girl along the way and she pushes you to be your best and do what you love– but I’m going to let you figure that one out on your own!)

Please continue to be open to new experiences, new people, new concepts.  Please be open to the fact that there is so much more to learn — about yourself for starters.  Be open to the idea that those who do not agree with you may not be wrong – they may just see things from a different perspective — and what is truly American – is to embrace that and to learn from it.  You don’t need to acquiesce – to change your beliefs – not at all – but you should be open to respecting that someone else – equally as intelligent – may have a deeply convicted view that is different. Embrace that – learn from that & grow from that! I know in my time with you – Class of 2019 – I’ve done just that and have become a better human being because of it. And if you don’t know, now you know…..

While you travel on this great journey – and you do so with an open mind – please also recognize this path you are on is truly your own path.  Do what is right for you and OWN each of your decisions. Here at Cape, you are asked to put your name on your paper — show ownership of your work.  I advise you to do that with everything that you do.  Take OWNERSHIP of your experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly. Embrace that you will make mistakes –if you are like me – lots of them — but if you own your mistakes – if you learn from those mistakes – you will be a better person for them — that I can guarantee.

Lastly – and since you asked me to speak today – I feel just fine telling all of you incredibly high achieving scholars who have parents that have invested quite a deal of money in your education — to follow your heart.

Follow it where it takes you. Be true to it – let it fall in love and let it get broken – then let it repair with the aid of your good friends and follow it some more.  You can fool your brain – you can’t fool your heart — and in your collective hearts – you know what is right – you know who you really are and you know if you are truly honoring and respecting yourself.  On this great and unpredictable journey – my only wish for each of you is that you honor yourself — you be true to yourself — you follow your heart and be the man or woman you want to become. I was certain I was supposed to become a wealthy and successful politician — someone others would look up to or even fear given the power I would possess.  I wanted to show my parents – my father – that I would do something he could only dream of — when in reality — my heart knew exactly where it needed to go — and the greatest decision I’ve made is allowing myself to follow my heart.

And as I look at each of you – for one final time as students at CHC – as I wipe the tears from eyes knowing our relationship – which I hope will endure and I’ll see you succeed in life and become husbands and fathers – wives and mothers – I know my heart has led me down the right path – and I thank you from the bottom of that heart for helping me figure out how to be the man I want to be – the father I want to be. Thank you.

Just know – when you follow your heart – you must be open to all emotions. This ride called life is so unpredictable – and you’ve experienced some of this already. You’ve experienced the incredible joy of accomplishing your academic goals and getting into your dream college —  you’ve been down 2 goals with 4 minutes left and achieved your athletic goals – holding that TCIS plaque above your head while we all cheer. You’ve also dealt with not getting the perfect SAT score – not getting the admission to the place you so desperately wanted to go, and some of us have watched our arch rival hold that same TCIS trophy over their collective heads – year after year– and we’ve cried. Both of those emotions and experiences are things I want you to all remember.  They are real – they are part of who you are. Experiences – good and bad will define who you become – embrace them – own them.

Today marks the last day you are surrounded by the CHC Community — so it’s the last time I can show you the power of what a community can truly do.  You’ll have the rest of your lives to try to replicate this incredible – yet intentional community – but I promise you – this is truly the last time you’ll have this type of community in your life.

Relish this moment please –  – look out at this faculty – this incredible group of men and women who have attempted for 13, for 7 – for 4 years to help you on a path to this exact moment –look in their eyes, and you will see the pride they have in your accomplishments.   Look at the audience – recognize that you are in a room filled with love and with hope for each of you. Look at each other – truly pause for a second and look at each other – you will never be part of another commencement where you actually know something about each and every member of your class.  Whether you are headed to Davidson, Stanford, Harvard or UVA – you won’t ever be able to look left and right and truly know you are known by everyone.  Embrace this moment — and know that no matter where life takes you – this special place – this little Camelot in southeast Virginia that we call Cape Henry – will ALWAYS be home and “you should realize – you are all champions in our eyes.”

Now if this is going to end in an authentic “Angilly” way – I’m going to need some help from everyone in the audience. We’re going to show this class – one final time – the power and love of our community.  Class of 2019 – when you’re down – when you are struggling – when you need a little pick me up – – please pull this video up and watch it!

Faculty, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends – let’s send this class off with LOVE – and a little rhythm!

2 claps if you have taught a member of the class of 2019.

CLAP CLAP (repeat)

2 claps if you have a friend on the stage today

CLAP CLAP (repeat)

2 claps if you have a child graduating today 

CLAP CLAP (repeat)

Impressive – but when this community does it together – there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

2 claps from this audience for the class of 2019.  (Repeat)

And now one last time – Class of 2019 – 2 claps!

Much Love to each and every one of you. Go do great things and please come back and tell me all about them!

Love ya guys!