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Saint Ignatius High School

Pasko Delivers Inaugural Senior Lecture

Veteran English teacher Tom Pasko, Hon. '96 was voted by seniors to deliver the inaugural “Michael F. Pennock ‘64 Memorial Lecture,” which he presented to the Class of 2019 on Sunday, May 5, following a class Mass and dinner. Story by Tommy Rochester '19.

Story reported and written by Tommy Rochester '19

The inaugural Michael F. Pennock ‘64 Memorial Lecture took place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, in Saint Mary’s Chapel and Rade Dining Hall. More than 200 seniors gathered in Rade Dining Hall to receive one final lecture from Mr. Pasko--the first so-called “last lecture” in the history of Saint Ignatius High School..

“I was overwhelmed. I thought I was out of the circuit,” Pasko said. “I was kind of pleased they were still willing to invite me.” 

The idea started when Theology teacher Father Paul Shelton, S.J., wanted to make second semester more meaningful to the seniors. Eventually, Shelton went to colleague Mr. Tom Healey ’77 to see if he had any ideas.

Healey knew that Villanova University does a last lecture for their seniors and thought that it would be a nice addition.

“What a cool thing that is. Wouldn’t it be nice if we did something like that here at Ignatius?” Healey said.  “My hope is that there would be a desire, an understanding that this is the last time that you guys will be together, by yourselves, just you guys.”

In April, student body president Dillion Gallagher ’19 emailed all seniors soliciting nominations for a faculty member who they would like to hear speak at the event. The faculty member with the most nominations would receive the honor to be the keynote speaker. More than 60 teachers were nominated and Pasko received almost twice as many votes as the next candidate. At the end of the lecture, Healey presented Pasko with a plaque and a spot in the senior lounge designating and honoring him as this year’s speaker.

The evening began promptly at 4 p.m. with Mass held by Father Shelton, S.J. and Father Ray Guiao, S.J. ’82. After Mass, the seniors walked over to Rade Dining Hall to enjoy a nice chicken parmesan dinner, followed by the main event.

Because the graduation ceremony is so long, the seniors are not given a keynote speaker, so by having The Michael F. Pennock ‘64 Memorial Lecture, the seniors are provided with a graduation speaker before the actual ceremony.

The lecture is named after Saint Ignatius legend Doc Pennock ’64, who taught Theology for many years and was a national speaker at teacher conventions around the country. Healey said, “We thought, ‘What a great way to honor him and what he stood for and what he brought to this school.’”

Senior Brian Best said, “It was a good wrap-up and class bonding experience.”

Nate Soria ’19 said, “I thought since Pasko taught English it was only natural for him to bring poems into his speech. Overall, I think all the students really enjoyed his presence and his speech.”

Junior Jack Kander said, “I think it’s a good idea because it’s one final thing to do with the class. Having a teacher talk to the class outside of a classroom setting is a good idea because it might give you information that you’ll need while heading off to college.”

The lecture is a unique event because there are no other high schools in the greater Cleveland area who do this. Colleges such as Northwestern University, The University of Missouri, The University of Alabama, Villanova University, and Carnegie Mellon University have a similar event, with Carnegie Mellon holding the first ever Last Lecture in 2007.

A mini service project called Kits for Kids was involved. Seniors Tommy Kastelic and Chris Velotta were put in charge of organizing and collecting items that Americans take for granted such as toothbrushes, Band-Aids, antibiotics, toiletries, and similar items, and then donating them to children in developing countries that desperately need them. If students were unable to bring in items, it was requested that they donate nominal funds to the cause.

Although there are many service opportunities at Saint Ignatius High School, helping developing countries is among the least common. Kits for Kids at this year’s lecture collected $450.

The hope is that the Michael F. Pennock 64 Memorial Lecture will be something that will stick at Saint Ignatius High School, as it is already being planned for next year with the current junior class presidents John Cugel and Will Sullivan. 

Healey said, “Once you do something once at Ignatius, it’s a tradition forever.”