PHOTOS: Todd Ingersoll Makes a Surprise Announcement at Bethel High School Graduation 2017

Report by Paula Antolini
June 24, 2017 11:31AM EDT


Photo: The Top Ten students of 2017 graduating class are (top row, left to right) Ryan Joseph Polistena, Caroline Patricia Crouse, Amelia Elizabeth Wootton, Brian David Carraturo, Danielle Elizabeth Canfield, Rachel Elizabeth Salvador, Ajitha Chivukula. (Front row, left to right) Jessica Marie MacIntyre, Ekam Singh Rai (Valedictorian), and Emily Elizabeth Johnson.


PHOTOS: Todd Ingersoll Makes a Surprise Announcement at Bethel High School Graduation 2017

The Bethel High School (BHS) Graduation 2017  took place on June 20, at 6:00 p.m., in the William A. O’ Neill Center of Western Connecticut State University (WCSU). The procession was lead by Dr. Christine Carver, Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools and Christopher Troetti, Principal of Bethel High School, as the BHS Orchestra and Band played Pomp and Circumstance, with 206 graduating students in attendance.

Guest Speaker Todd Ingersoll, CEO and President of Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, delivered a commencement speech for his alma mater Bethel High School, at the graduation event.  He made a surprise announcement at the end of his 16 minute speech, that three annual scholarships would be given to students, a grant will be given to the teachers, and keys to a new car to one of the graduating students at the 2017 Commencement.  This was, of course, met with cheers and applause and later many thank you’s from the administration.


Photo: Todd Ingersoll, CEO and President of Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, giving a commencement speech during the BHS graduation 2017.


Ingersoll said:

“To my hometown, to my school, to the people of this community, I would ask if you would please accept on behalf of my wife and myself a new scholarship fund for Bethel High School tonight. The scholarship would be funded annually for three awards. First, a scholarship for the continued study in music or the arts.  Another for furthering a student’s education in technical skills.  And lastly, an award for a deserving member of our armed forces.

“Secondly, I am announcing a gift to the teachers of Bethel High School, a grant to be used in the 2017-2018 school year to offset the costs of preparing your classrooms.

“… There must be something greater for the awesome class of 2017.  How about I do something to provide one of you with a chance to enhance your success at life? Are you all game for that? Alright,” Ingersoll said.  “I would like for you to send me a two-page, hand written front and back, letter, if you want to, to be delivered to Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, by June 30th.  You should consider the lessons you’ve all learned throughout your schooling but pay particular attention to Ms. Salem’s life lessons of, “Choose your words carefully”or Mrs. G’s “Choose to participate don’t just spectate. You never know what criteria might be the deciding one. 

Ingersoll continued, “The letter should make a case for yourself clearly explaining why you are uniquely deserving of this gift. It should include your name, address and contact numbers.”

“On Friday, July 7th, seventeen days from now, in honor of the class of seventeen, just to show you that old folks know about technology, my team and I will go live on Facebook.  We will drive through Bethel with the selected letter in hand, you can all watch online, pay attention to which neighborhood we drive through until we arrive at our destination. We’ll then walk up your walkway, knock on your door,and present the selected winner with the gift.  The gift will be the keys to a brand new car,” Ingersoll said.

“… In conclusion, the sun’s out, the top’s down, the tank’s full, and the road is clear. Drive onto your future of good, smooth road, paved by your parents and teachers and your town. Create what defines your success, and remember to always, always give back.  Simply choose to love and be loved.  Thank you very much and from one Wildcat to another, congratulations,” Ingersoll said.



Photo: The Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) present colors.


The graduation ceremony began earlier with the presentation of the colors by the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) and the National Anthem performed by the BHS Orchestra and Band, conducted by BHS music teacher Damon Coachman. The Pledge of Allegiance was lead by Class President Madysen Byrnes.


Photo: The BHS Orchestra and Band, conducted by Damon Coachman.


Conducted by BHS music teacher Karen Neville, the Bethel High School Chamber Singers performed “In My Life”by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and “We’re All In This Together” from the 2006 American television film High School Musical.


Photo: The Bethel High School Chamber Singers conducted by Karen Neville.




Photo: Christopher Troetti, Principal of Bethel High School.


BHS Principal Christopher Troetti provided the Welcome Address. In it he concentrated on several themes, one being challenge, and the other, passing from one place to another, as through a doorway.

He said, “You’ve worked hard, had to overcome challenges, and hopefully had some fun along the way. You gained recognition and admiration from your teachers, piers and community. You earned the diploma you are about to receive, so, bask in today, enjoy tomorrow, and relish in some well deserved rest, then challenge yourself. Work, school, fitness, relationships, attitude, whatever. Challenge yourself to try new things and improve on what already exists.”

Troetti said, “What adds value to your life and what detracts? How will you take what you have experienced to challenge yourself? Reflecting on your yearbook theme, how will you light the way to a rewarding successful path? There will most definitely be obstacles along the way. Your resilience and willingness to succeed will guide you.”

And on the second theme of doors, Troetti said, “As quoted in our new mural at the high school, John C. Maxwell said, ‘Change is inevitable, growth is optional.’  It is our goal, that as you graduate from the halls of Bethel High School, that you choose to open doors that will lead you to a most fulfilling life.”

He then added, “At this time I would like to share excerpts from a poem by Marge Pierson entitled, ‘Doors Opening, Closing On Us.’

“Maybe there is more of the magical in the idea of a door than in the door itself. It’s always a matter of going through into something else. But while some doors lead to cathedrals 
searching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
 and some to caves of nuclear monsters most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
  Still, the image of a door is liminal,
 passing from one place into another 
one state to the other, boundaries and promises and threats. … We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase.  We see ourselves progressing from room 
to room perhaps dragging our toys
 along until the last door opens.”

Troetti said, “As you wait tentatively at this next threshold we hope that you challenge yourself to be the best version of you, so that as you progress from room to room you are proud of where you’ve been and are prepared for where you are going.  And if this was not the message you were hoping to hear this evening maybe, just maybe, the fortune cookies you receive at the end of the evening will be more useful you.”

Troetti did give out fortune cookies at the commencement end.




Photo: First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker on stage.


First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker’s message to the graduates, in part, was, “You, Class 2017, are reaching a milestone with your graduation from high school today, but you might not have really noticed it, but you have either passed another milestone, or soon will in the next few months. And that is, you will become full fledged citizens in the greatest experiment in self rule in human history.  And of course I am talking about your responsibilities and rights as citizens, as voters. I welcome you to that community of citizens that protects this great democracy.”



Photo: Board of Education member Scott Clayton.


Board of Education member Scott Clayton spoke next. He noted that it was 25 years since he had graduated BHS.  Clayton said, “Tonight and over the next few weeks you’ll hear the word Congratulations many times. However I would offer you the words Bon Voyage or Arrivederci. Today is a beginning not an end.”

Clayton said, “Film maker Robert Compton states, regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes eight grade there are two million minutes to form the basis of an intellectual background. Two million minutes to prepare for college and a career. And two million minutes to go from being a teen to an adult. How you have spent those years will affect more than just you. We live in a society that requires results, attention to detail, and most importantly, the fact that your parents don’t take the place of good old fashioned alarm clock.”

“I leave you with seven rules from life’s little instruction,” Clayton said. “Make peace with your past so it doesn’t obstruct your future. What other people think of you is not your business. Time heals everything. No one is in charge of your happiness except you. Don’t compare your life with others and don’t judge them, you have no idea what their journey is like. Stop thinking so much, it’s okay not to have the answers, it will come to you when the time is right.  Smile, you don’t want the world’s problems.”  




Photo: Ms. Mari Lerz, BHS Assistant Principal and Senior Class Administrator.


Ms. Mari Lerz, BHS Assistant Principal and Senior Class Administrator, highlighted the “achievements of those seniors who went above and beyond the standard requirements.”  She pointed out that the seniors wearing the yellow stoles (sashes) are members of the National Honor Society.  “These students must maintain an average of 3.4 and demonstrate service, leadership, and character,” she said.

“The seniors who are wearing the colorful honor chords have been selected by the various BHS departments to signify their extraordinary achievement in Art, Applied Studies, English, Math, NJROTC, Music, Science, Social Studies, Special Education, World Language and the EMT Program,” Lerz said.  “These students have been selected for a variety of reasons.  For some it is overall excellence in the classroom and academic performance.  For others, it’s for creativity, innovation, and classroom participation.  Or in the case of the EMT Program, for completing one of the most difficult courses we offer and taking the Connecticut Standard Practical Exam.” 

Lerz continued, “And finally for the first time we have fourteen students who earned a Career Pathway Certificate with their diploma.  These students have completed an extensive course of study in the fields of Education or Global Studies.  By focusing on a specific pathway, students are prepared for the demands of college and career in this area of personal interest. Bethel High School is very proud of these accomplished seniors.” (All recipients were asked to stand.)



Photo: Class President Madysen Byrnes.


Class President Madysen Byrnes took the Class of 2017 down Memory Lane, using “Chapter 1 and 2” to describe it, reminding the students of various events such as the “Berry Rockwell Split,” but said, “At the end of the day both schools are great.  Regardless of where we are, our foundation was A-1.”   Remembering events such as The Rockwell Multi-Cultural Show and The Berry Patriotic Celebration in June, Byrnes said, “What once began as a rivalry would eventually end in unity.”

“Chapter 2 is the Closing of the Gap,” Byrnes said.  “Coming together for the first time as the Class of 2017.



(Todd Ingersoll was the Graduation Speaker after the Class President spoke. See story above.)




The Top Ten students of 2017 Graduating Class were introduced by Principal Troetti and were asked to walk up to the stage.  Shown in photo above (left to right) they are: Jessica Marie MacIntyre, Ekam Singh Rai, Ryan Joseph Polistena, Caroline Patricia Crouse, Amelia Elizabeth Wootton, Brian David Carraturo, Danielle Elizabeth Canfield, Rachel Elizabeth Salvador, Ajitha Chivukula, and Emily Elizabeth Johnson.




Photo: BHS Valedictorian 2017, Ekam Rai.


Valedictorian Ekam Rai said, in part, “We started off high school a little bit like this.” (Holds up Rubix Cube, colors not matching.)  “This Rubix Cube is a mess. Colors all jumbled up, not even close to being solved.  It describes us all, in a sense, of how we started this journey. Confused.  Anxious.  And just plain scared.  We were curious as to what was to come in this four year adventure, but at the same time, we were kind of intimidated.”

Rai talked about the trials and tribulations of each year of high school, and mentioned Senior year, “Finally Senior year came around.  With our final year began seasons of college applications, senior-itis, Capstone Projects, clever yearbook quotes, and pictures to describe us, going to prom, going to class trip, more senior-itis, and many more unforgettable moments.”

“This year was by far the most hectic time in our high school career,” Rai said.  “We did a lot of things for the very last time, reflecting on who we’ve become and looking forward as to who we’d like to be.  We came in four years ago anxious and excited for what’s to come.”

”Now back to the Rubix Cube,” Rai said.  “After four long years, piece and corner to edge, making sure everything lined up just perfectly, we’ve completed our journey at last.”  (Holds up completed Rubix Cube, all sides with matching colors.)   “It took some very hard work and many sleepless nights to get here (Holds up Rubix Cube.) but this hard work paid off in full.  This journey has been such a rewarding experience for us all.”

Rai continued, “Now, whether you’re going off to college or going in the service, or entering the workforce, life will only get harder from here.  It’s almost like this.” (Holds up Rubix Cube with smaller cubes, 25 cubes per side, no matching colors.) “A five by five by five cube, meaning, there are more square faces, even more challenges that we will have to overcome.”

Rai said, “So graduates, I leave you with this. Go out and strive for wonderful things and endeavors to pursue.  Persist in the face of diversity.  Continue to work hard in a world where it’s all too easy to quit.  Remember your failures, accept them, and use them to guide your future behavior.”

“Lastly, remember to exhibit great character. You won’t be remembered for how many likes you got on Instagram, or the number of retweets on Twitter, or by your longest Snap history, but by who you are as a person.  It’s your character that allows you to construct relationships that last a lifetime.  Make sure to be the best person you can be.”

“Our high school journey is complete.  We’ve reached our destination.  It’s not about how you start, but how you finish is much more important.  Always remember your purpose, remember your struggle, remember your triumph, and let that drive you. Life is just a big puzzle, go out and solve it.” 


Photo: Dr. Christine Carver, Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools.

The official Introduction of the Graduating Class 2017 to the Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, Dr. Christine Carver, was by Christopher Troetti. The official Presentation of the Graduating Class 2017 to the Board of Education and Chairman Lawrence Craybas, was by Dr. Christine Carver.

Dr. Christine Carver said to the Graduating Class of 2017, “It’s my sincere hope that we not only prepared you with the skills and knowledge to be career ready, but along with your parents, have developed your character in a way that makes this world a better place. Martin Luther King Jr. said, and I quote, ‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively, and think critically.  Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of a true education.”

“As you look forward to your next phase in life, I would ask you … who do you want to be? “ Carver said.  “What are the life lessons we hope that you learned traveling through the Bethel Public Schools?”

Carver said, “In the early 90’s before you were born there was a famous poem entitled, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’   “… I’d like to quickly read the poem which can and has been applied to how we should strive to live.  The wisdom is in the simplicity of the message.”

“Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

“I would only add to this poem, don’t give up,” Carver said.  “Look at the glass half full not half empty.  It’s okay to fail, you will fail, learn from your failures.  Life is not fair, get used to it.  Listen more than you speak.  Don’t let your social media feed define you.  Never make any big decisions when you’re angry or sad.  And always remember the golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.”

“We live in a complex world.  Remember who you are, and that will be a key to your success,” Carver said.




Click on each photo to view larger.


Photo above: Bethel High School Principal Christopher Troetti gives fortune cookies to the 2017 Graduates as they exit the facility.






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