St. Bernard Prep School in Cullman graduated thirty-three seniors on Sunday, May 24 in an impressive ceremony conducted in the Abbey Church and under the direction of Fr. Joel Martin, Headmaster of the School. After welcoming members of the Board of Directors, the faculty, the staff and the invited guests, Fr. Joel noted that this year’s graduating seniors had the distinction of earning over $3.3 million dollars in scholarships to colleges and universities.
As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of St. Bernard Preparatory School, the St. Bernard Board of Directors established the “Distinguished Alumnus Award” to be given annually to an alumnus chosen for the honor. Fr. Marcus Voss, President of St. Bernard Prep School, presented over this portion of the graduation ceremonies. After reading the citation, he concluded by saying, “St. Bernard takes pride today in presenting its inaugural ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’ to a family man, an entrepreneur and a friend – Roy H. Drinkard.”
In the citation, Fr. Marcus noted that Mr. Drinkard was “a distinguished American citizen, an accomplished business and community leader, a dedicated family man and a committed seeker of God’s eternal Truth. Reared and educated in Cullman County, he graduated from St. Bernard High School in 1938 having been trained by a stalwart Benedictine faculty. He proudly served his country during World War II as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific theater. He currently holds the office of President of Drinkard Development, a company with commercial interests that extend across the southeast and beyond. This man, whose business acumen has led his industrial colleagues to select him to represent their common interests, has served as President of the Cullman County Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Cullman Planning Commission, as well as Chairman, President and Director of the Industrial Development Board of the City of Cullman. He currently serves on the Boards of Wallace State Community College, Troy State University and the Helen Keller Foundation Board. Blessed with a variety of interests and the stamina to pursue them, this remarkable man is especially devoted to his family and his faith. In a public recognition, his family was named by Cullman County Farm-City as the Outstanding City Family for 2007. A life-long member of the First Baptist Church, he calls himself a Benedictine-Baptist in recognition of the religious values and training that were instilled in him during the formative years of his youth.”
Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham, the Most Rev. David E. Foley gave the commencement address. “You have had an experience that will last a lifetime,” he said to the graduates. “You will be remembered for your goodness and all the hilarious happenings between yourselves and your teachers. You will be remembered by the monks here.”
Bishop Foley encouraged the students to live their faith and live the values they have been taught. “We live in two worlds – the visible and the invisible. Catholic Education and particularly St. Bernard Prep School takes into account the fact that you have acquired not just truths about things you can see, but that you have been formed in mind, body, and spirit. To hold these elements securely in your grasp, will ensure a future destiny full of hope, happiness and joy forever.”
After the commencement address, Fr. Joel announced this year’s graduation awards. Nino Christorpher Cumba YuTiamco received the valedictorian award while Kristen Nichole Meyer was named salutatorian. In giving the general excellence medal, the highest award given to a graduating senior, Fr. Joel stated that “the criteria for this award requires that a student must be enrolled at St. Bernard Prep for the last two full years, be dedicated to academic excellence, exercise leadership and represent the values of the school.” The 2009 general excellence medal was presented to Maria Teresa Mueller.
Diplomas were presented to the seniors by Abbot Cletus Meagher with Fr. Marcus Voss assisting him. After the awarding of the diplomas, Nino YuTiamco gave the valedictory address. “It is such a great honor to stand before this crowd,” he said. After recognizing his follow graduates, he thanked all the parents for their support and encouragement. He paid special tribute to the parents and grandparents who flew from Korea and the Philippines. To all the parents he said, “You are the ones who held our hands through it all.”
YuTiamco congratulated his fellow graduates for their accomplishments. “Our class is one of a kind,” he said. “We were the largest freshman class when we arrived here four years ago and we have excelled in the scholarship money we have received.” He concluded his remarks by encouraging his classmates “to be the best in whatever you can.”Fr. Joel Martin ended the ceremony by issuing a challenge to the students. “We need challenges because we come alive in struggles,” he said. “We have high expectations for your future. You’re made for greatness. Go and take St. Bernard with you.”
Music for the graduation exercises was provided by Dr. Rebecca Whited, organist, as well as the Alabama Pipes and Drums Corps. The Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Honor Guard of the Fr. Leo Carter Assembly 2624 also participated in the ceremonies.
Following the prayer and dismissal by Abbot Cletus Meagher, a reception was held in the St. Bernard Dining Hall.