Gorham High School graduates Sunday heard some sage advice from a winner of the TV reality show “Survivor,” but the commencement exercise this year was subdued.

It was marked by remembrance of a classmate’s tragic death, and the ceremony marked the finale for the school’s principal.

Bob Crowley, the retired Gorham High School physics teacher and million-dollar winner of “Survivor” in 2008, was the keynote speaker before 188 graduates walked across the stage in Merrill Auditorium to receive their diplomas.

Crowley urged graduates to thank veterans for their sacrifices. As a winner of the “Survivor” show, he spoke about the resulting opportunities to participate in charitable causes and fundraising.

He urged graduates to be nice, work hard and become involved in the community. Crowley, quoting former President John F. Kennedy, said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

And attributing advice to President Abraham Lincoln, Crowley said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

He advised the graduates to remember their roots.

“Represent Gorham and Maine well,” he said.

Crowley injected some humor, too, in an obvious good-natured zing to Gorham’s Dan Foley, who was a participant on the TV show last year.

“I won, sorry Dan,” Crowley said about his “Survivor” victory.

Then, a voice from the auditorium that sounded like Foley’s blurted out, “Thanks, Bob.”

Principal Christopher Record, who becomes assistant superintendent on July 1, opened graduation exercises Sunday and at times appeared to choke back his emotions before handing diplomas to graduates.

“You look tremendous today,” Record told graduates. “I’m a very, very proud principal.”

Taylor Perkins, class president, advised classmates to never rush in life but do great works.

“We are a class of fearless doers,” Perkins said.

Molly vanLuling, dalutatorian and class secretary,  advised classmates to drive to be happy and understand life.

“Let’s conquer the world,” she said.

Anna Smith, valedictorian, said there are no blueprints that ensure everything goes exactly as planned. She encouraged classmates to sow seeds and spoke of surviving the years ahead.

Smith congratulated the class of 2016.

“We made it,” Smith said.

But, there were no bouncing beach balls or graduates dancing from the stage like at some past Gorham graduations. A classmate, who had quietly inspired the school and his football teammates, was a passenger who died in a car wreck in October 2014. But Branden Denis, known as “Superman” at Gorham High School, was not forgotten Sunday.

Senior Eleanor Feinberg sang a solo in a tribute to Denis.

He was “tragically lost to us,” said Record, who presented Denis’ high school diploma to his brother, Austin Denis, a junior at the school.
After seniors turned their tassels on caps, class adviser Jessica Soule presented the class to families and friends in the audience. The graduates received a standing ovation.

In final remarks, Record congratulated the students and said, “You’ve preservered to earn a diploma, a Gorham diploma.”

Record, recalling a teacher who had helped him in his school days, asked graduates to thank people.

“They’ve given you a ton,” he said.

Record urged the graduates to make good choices, keep one another safe, and called it a great class.

“I’ll miss you very much,” Record said.

Bob Crowley, keynote speaker at Gorham High School graduation Sunday, congratuilates Anna Smith, class valedictorian.

Gorham High School’s class of 2016 sing its class song Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

Gorham High School graduates with friends and family pack the street after commencement exercises Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

Bob Crowley, former Gorham High School teacher and a winner of the TV show “Survivor,” delivers the keynote address at Gorham’s commencement exercises Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

Honoring the late Branden Denis, GHS Principal Christopher Records presents a diploma to Denis’ brother, Austin Denis, a junior at the high school. Branden Denis, known by the nickname Superman and a standout football player, was a passenger in a car that crashed in 2014 claiming his life.

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