A letter to the Castleton seniors

March 25, 2020

Dear Castleton Seniors:

The time has come for the hardest part of this job – saying good-bye. The end of any school year is hectic. Teachers and students trying to finish all their work so they can scatter for the summer. But, for seniors, the end of a school year is different. Usually, there are ceremonies and practices and parties and relatives. And, when they leave at the close of the year, there are no plans to return in the fall. Instead of returning to the familiar routine, each embarks down a new path. The events of this year have upended all our lives. So, before you head off on new adventures, I wanted to catch your attention one last time.

Bill Wiles poses with Lindsey Marcy on her graduation day


I sat down to write this letter several times and ended up erasing what I had written. I don’t want to have to say the words, but I know it is time for leave-taking. Usually, I handle this part of the job quite well. A hearty handshake, a pat on the back, and a kick in the butt . . . and it’s over until the new group comes in the fall. This time, however, it is different. I have to bid farewell to so many who have become integral parts of my life, and I (who am never at a loss for words) find it difficult to choose just the right ones.

You have afforded me the rare privilege of sharing in your growth from the unsure kids I met at orientation, in English Comp or Touchstones, in Skills and Drills, or just around campus to the poised and confident young adults you are today. There have been challenges (way too many to go into detail here), and you have faced them all with dignity and courage. You have learned something about yourselves at every turn, and I have witnessed extraordinary transformations in each and every one of you. I am so proud of this group!

In addition, many of you have given me two wonderful gifts – your friendship and your trust. These I will treasure always. I can say without hesitation that Castleton in particular, and the world in general, are better places because of you. I am honored to call you my friends.

Castleton University class of 2020 posed on the steps of Woodruff Hall on their first weekend on campus.

If I were a wealthy man, I could shower you with riches. But, alas, I am not. As a rule, I often send students out into the world with a blessing as they make they begin their post-college lives:

May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your backs.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your field.

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Because of the abrupt end to your Castleton experience, however, I thought you might need something more as you set off on new adventures:

And, you to whom adversity has dealt a mortal blow,

With disappointments strewn before you everywhere you go.

Turn to and put out all the strength of arm and heart and brain,

And, like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again! Rise again!

Though your heart it be broken and life about to end.

No matter what you’ve lost – be it a hope, a love, a friend –

Like the Mary Ellen Carter – RISE AGAIN!

All my best,

Mr. Bill

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