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Pavia Praises Grads in Final New Canaan Speech

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — If Tony Pavia did not know he was beloved in the New Canaan community, the half-minute standing ovation Tuesday at Dunning Field conveyed the message loudly and clearly.

Although the spotlight was on the young men in red gowns and young women in white ones who were graduating from New Canaan High School, Pavia was a reluctant guest star during the commencement ceremony, his last after nine years as principal.

New Canaan staff, parents and the Class of 2011 all rose to applaud Pavia, who served as the ceremony’s guest speaker, one of his final acts before moving on to be principal at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. Many graduates took a moment to hug Pavia before receiving their diplomas. Others offered firm handshakes and smiles.

Pavia said he learned through interviews with World War II veterans several years ago that ordinary people who rise to challenges of their times make history. The students of the Class of 2011 have shown “the power of the ordinary individual to be extraordinary. You have demonstrated the power of one person to elevate all others in their midst,” he said. “You’ve demonstrated that respect, civility and consideration for others trumps pettiness and incivility every single time.”

Pavia said it was an honor and privilege to work at New Canaan High. “There hasn’t a single moment that I was not proud to be a Ram,” he said. “You have given me the very greatest of gifts: your trust, your friendship and your love.”

Pavia also recognized teachers who were leaving the school, including social studies teacher Charles Otto, science teacher Hannah Shear, art teacher Peter Kingsbury, assistant principal Dawn Bartz , who will become the principal at Pleasantville High School in Pleasantville, N.Y., next week, and retiring math teacher Attila Levai .

“If you put together Aristotle, P.T. Barnum, the Mad Hatter and Lawrence Welk, you would get Attila Levai,” Pavia said, also joking about Levai’s appreciation for bonfires.

Superintendent David Abbey said Pavia helped the district focus on the truly important things, “starting with how we treat each other, maybe the most essential lesson of all,” He also credited Pavia for doing things “with a twinkle in his eye” and for making it fun.

How much will New Canaan High School miss Tony Pavia? Start the conversation with a comment below or visit our Facebook page.

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