East Liverpool’s graduating class grateful for lessons learned

EAST LIVERPOOL-East Liverpool High School’s class of 2014 graduated on Sunday in a generation-spanning ceremony that recognized veterans, scholarship winners and the contributions of parents and teachers.

Commencement speaker Leon “Lee” Rubin, who shared the podium with his father and fellow alumnus, Dr. Herschel Rubin, reflected on the meaning of being voted “Most Likely to Succeed” when he graduated in 1973.

“I wasn’t really sure what that meant,” he said. “It was a little scary, too, because I thought, ‘If I don’t succeed, will I have to go back and tear that page out of the yearbook?’ “

Rubin continued: “Success really has nothing to do with what your classmates vote. In truth, every one of you is most likely to succeed. You are the ones who are going to define what success looks and feels like.”

Rubin, 59, a public relations professional who lives in Dahlonega, Ga., told the 142 graduates of the class of 2014 that they need to “be yourself, be honest, be nice, be flexible, be grateful and be generous. … We all have something that we can share with others, whether it’s financial or spiritual or inspirational.”

Rubin encouraged the students to be grateful, most of all, for their teachers, for “the things that they have taught you now will stay with you throughout your entire lives.”

Prior to Sunday’s ceremony at Potter Fieldhouse, several graduating seniors did just that:

* Sam Ferry, 19, of East Liverpool, said his favorite teacher was Neil Claypool, whom he had for biology and chemistry. “It was a really tough class, but that’s when I started getting better as a student,” he said.

Ferry plans to study business at the Community College of Allegheny County.

* Adriana Ahart, 17, of Salem, said she most appreciated English teacher Brooke Harman. “In my sophomore year, I was going through a really tough time, and she just helped me through it,” she said.

Ahart plans to attend the University of Mount Union and play in the marching band.

* India Christian, 18, of East Liverpool, said Tonyea Roberts helped her get through biology 2 and anatomy, and prepared her to continue her studies in biology at West Virginia University. She eventually wants to go to medical school.

* Joey Cilone, 18, of East Liverpool, said accounting teacher Sharon Caiazza “let us eat lunch in her room” and was instrumental in his career choice. “I am going into accounting, and it’s because of her,” he said.

Cilone will be an accounting major at West Liberty University.

* Blake Prince, 18, of East Liverpool, said his favorite teacher was Emily Six, whom he had for algebra 2. “She was a very good teacher. She was always in a good mood, always positive,” he said.

Prince is attending Cleveland State University on a golf scholarship and plans to study business.

On Sunday, Rubin shared the stage with his father, a former optometrist who graduated from ELHS in 1933 and recently turned 98.

The elder Rubin used his commencement address to impress on the graduates how much things have changed since he started school in the early 1920s.

Back then, Rubin said, the ice man came to people’s houses on a schedule with 100-pound blocks of ice. The milk man came in the morning with glass bottles full of milk that replaced the ones that had been set out the night before. The mailman came twice a day.

“If you were sick,” he said, “the doctor came to your house on a house call with a little black bag.”

Students walked to school because there were more school buildings and no buses, only trolleys and trains, he said.

People filled up at service stations, where an attendant not only pumped the gas but also cleaned the windshield, checked the oil and water levels and tested the tire pressure.

Rubin concluded his remarks with a prediction: “In some future time, when babies are born, they will plant a disk of some kind in their forehead, and you won’t have to push any buttons. You’ll only have to think, and the action will take place.”

Also Sunday, the school district gave an honorary diploma to Vietnam veteran Dave Vennum, whose military service prevented him from graduating from high school.

“He was lucky in the fact that he returned whole to his family,” said school board member Larry Walton. “There were many that returned broken, depressed and beaten. We wish to honor those men and women also by this presentation.”

Vennum sat with the class of 2014 in full cap and gown, and beamed as he came forward to receive his diploma.

In addition to presenting the diplomas, Principal Randy Taylor announced more than $80,000 in scholarships received by the graduating seniors.