The Nissan Pavilion was almost packed Tuesday night with friends, family and guests cheering on 450 Stonewall Jackson High School graduating seniors as they marched through the aisles wearing either maroon or white gowns.
The message carried throughout the evening was the definition of success.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, success is “outcome, result.”
Dr. Robert Shaler, New York City’s chief forensic biologist, made reference to the definition of success in his address to the Class of 2003.
Shaler, 60, lead the World Trade Center DNA identification project following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was invited to speak by Sarah Moss, senior class president.
Shaler’s most important success has been his profession, he told the class.
“See, the truth is, I barely made it at out of high school,” Shaler said. Shaler recalled his high school years when his father said he needed a “C” average in order to drive a car. Shaler graduated with a 2.00, he told the class.
“So what defines success?” Shaler asked.
Shaler has two children, he said.
“Does that make me a successful parent?” he questioned.
Shaler pointed out Stonewall Jackson’s national recognitions.
His list included the school being named No. 1 in the nation by TIME magazine in 2001. In May 2003, Stonewall Jackson was named No. 81 among America’s top high schools in Newsweek magazine.
To him, success is objective. Success is something each person defines themselves, he said.
“Your career decision must fit your personal goals and definition of success,” Shaler told the class.
Shaler encouraged the class to do their own thing and not what someone else wants them to do.
Stonewall Jackson opened in September 1972 and houses 2,548 students.
Dillon Lunn was valedictorian. The salutatorian title was shared by both Emily Robinson and Samita Singh.
Robinson listed a variety of tips for her classmates: “Never forget but always forgive,” she said. She encouraged the class to remember everyone in their lives.
“Don’t let someone else destroy your dreams,” she said. “Remember to dream big,” she added.
Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.