Since 1956, Platteville High School’s athletic teams have been named for W.P. Hill, who taught and coached at PHS for 44 years and, between football, basketball and track, a combined 100 seasons.
It stands to reason, therefore, that speakers at PHS’ commencement Sunday would use their speeches for their thoughts on what the nickname “Hillmen” means, beginning with the word “HILLMEN” on the front of PHS football jerseys.
Comparing himself to his freshman self almost four years ago, speaker Colton Clark said, “I may still be chubby, but I did learn about what it means to be a Hillmen the last four years.”
Clark’s Hillmen lessons weren’t only on the football field, though he said football taught him “hard work ethic and perseverance” and that “I could achieve anything I set my mind to. … It was more than just a team; it was family, and they still are. … The name on the chest was who we were.”
Clark described himself as “half music nerd, half jock,” saying his motto was “do everything, and befriend everybody.”
“Hillmen have character, even when others aren’t watching,” said speaker Beth Gardiner. “It has taken courage to be a Hillmen. We don’t know how the next chapter will unfold … but we do get to choose our character.”
Class speaker Matthew Schaefer went back to the days before any of his classmates were born — the 1980s, playing a snippet of Simple Minds’ “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” from the John Hughes movie “The Breakfast Club.”
“Did Simple Minds know what they’d be remembered for 30 years later?” asked Schaefer, who added that despite the storyline of “The Breakfast Club,” “High school is not so cut and dried.”
Schaefer then segued into another ’80s movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” quoting the title character: “‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.’
“In these past four years I’ve grown to love people deeper than I ever thought possible. … Make sure you’re who you want to be when the director says ‘Cut.’”
Faculty speaker Scott Statz, a 1980s high school graduate who was the PHS varsity football coach for 14 years, said he polled seniors when chosen as the faculty speaker, and reported these priorities among students, in order:
6. Extracurricular activities.
Statz listed some of the class’ accomplishments, including Ryan Weber’s first state discus championship for PHS since 1947; National Merit Scholars Sam Iselin and Jonah Barnet; music students’ trip to Nashville, and the “true team effort” needed to graduate from students’ families: “You carried the ball, but they blocked for you many, many times.”
Statz recommended four Ps — purpose (“something meaningful for you”), passion (“That’s not liking something;
See COMMENCEMENT page 5A υ
that’s loving something”); pride (“put
ting your name on something”) and patience (“with yourself” and “with others”).
“You have things to do with your life,” he said. “Get on with them; have fun; I know you’re prepared.”
Commencement ends with a group hat throw outside the PHS gym. Before that, PHS principal Tim Engh noted that “Today might be the last day under the same roof” for graduates, asking them to “make sure you touch base with every person in your class” before the hat toss.