Haddonfield Memorial High School

Class of 2019 Valedictorian, Ethan Spellmeyer

HMHS Valedictorian Ethan Spellmeyer smiles during speech on June 20, 2019. Listening to remarks is Principal Tammy McHale, former Haddonfield mayor Tish Colombi, BOE members Susan Kutner, Maureen Eyles, & Adam Sangillo, as well as Class President Thomas Casper.  Missing from photo: Salutatorian Julia Chin.  (“Thank you, mom” photo credit: Lynne Mroz)

HMHS Class of 2019 Valedictory Address

      A wise man and graduate of Cornell University once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them.” That man was Andy Bernard in the finale of “The Office,” reflecting upon all the crazy yet fond memories he had formed throughout the show. Just like us, every day that he came to work he was surrounded by colleagues, but by the time he left he was surrounded by friends.

I know quite a few of you are eager to leave Haddonfield, to move on to bigger, better, or simply different things. Although I support that mentality, perhaps we too are moving on from “the good old days.” I encourage you to reminisce on your time here, and realize the sheer extent of the opportunities, success, and fun we’ve had along the way. We are easily one of the most athletically talented classes to ever come through this high school, helping to win various Sectional and State titles throughout the years. Our drama club’s performances this year were incredible, with sold-out shows to see our rendition of West Side Story. We have a variety of successful academic, volunteer, and fundraising clubs, who have won prizes, paved the way for change in our community, and given a certain South Sudanese man the educational opportunities he deserves. And who could forget our historic spirit week win and fourth-straight sportsmanship award, headed by the one and only Thomas Casper. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, we truly have become 2019 legends.

But what really made our experience special was the people. And so, I’d like to thank the Board of Education, Superintendent Mussoline, Principal McHale, and our high school’s esteemed administration and faculty. Thank you, Mr. DiDonato, for your advice and antics both on the stage and in the classroom. Thank you, Coach Baker and Coach Stewart, for showing me the difference between being athletic and being an athlete. And thank you, Mom, for everything, because I haven’t thanked you enough, and I never could have made it this far without you.

As we move on from high school, our “good old days” don’t have to end. And so, as you take your next steps, I offer you this sage advice: Risk, explore everything. It’s quite a simple phrase but an important one nonetheless, and I’d like to share two times where such guidance has improved my life.

Running. I started running in middle school, tolerating practices, but despising races. Why would anyone voluntarily push his body to the point of maximum exhaustion? The question was beyond me. The summer before freshman year, I was encouraged to start training with the high school cross country team, and though I was hesitant, I decided to try it. I was introduced to a welcoming group with an extremely strong sense of community and friendship. We bonded on runs full of conversation and jokes, struggled through workouts together, and socialized at team dinners and trips to Doba. I felt as though I was truly part of the team. It was then that I realized why people willingly push themselves to the brink of collapse: they don’t just race for themselves; they race for the friends who rely on them. I’d like to thank my team for being those people. Together, our small, public school’s cross-country team became the second-best in New Jersey and the third-best in the entire Northeast Region. It was a privilege and an honor to run by your side.

Madrigals. Aka wearing tights. Freshman year, I auditioned for the spring musical, and caught the attention of our choir director, Mr. Mills. He told me that I should audition for one of his singing groups, Madrigals. I was intrigued. He then told me that they sang songs in foreign languages and dressed up in traditional Renaissance costumes. I was no longer intrigued. But Mr. Mills didn’t relent, he would mention it every time he saw me, constantly pestering me. I hadn’t taken choir since elementary school, didn’t know my voice part, and had no idea how to read music, but with enough nudging, I signed up, and I haven’t looked back since. Practices weren’t just a time to work, but also a time to connect with fellow Madrigals, whether it be through our jokes, our songs, or collectively learning that Mr. Mills was going to become a father. These connections, and my resulting passion for the group, motivated me to overcome the harsh musical learning curve that had deterred me from joining in the first place, and to join other singing groups in the future. Thank you, Mr. Mills, for bothering me all those years ago.

And so, even if you are reluctant or unsure, try new experiences, it may lead to a new passion, a new community, a new lifestyle. It has for me. In the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins once said, “It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” I encourage you all to step onto that road, because I know that no matter where you end up, it will be great; and the journey there will be worth every second. Thank you.


--HMHS Graduation video, 5 minute Val speech starts @ 35:40



--HMHS 2019 Senior Awards



--Fun fact: Ethan’s maternal grandfather & uncle were also Valedictorians: John Lease, 1962, Somerset Area Senior HS, PA & Richard Lease, 2001, Hazleton Area HS, PA.  Ethan was 2 weeks old when he attended Uncle Richard's valedictory address.  Uncle Richard returned the favor, flying in from Alaska.


--Haddonfield Sun article & South Jersey.com blurb





--------------extra links

Haddonfield's 4x800 Runs 7:57.56 For US #4!  (Eisenhower, Spellmeyer, Riddell, & Gess interview @ the Armory)



HMHS West Side Story Trailer (2019)



Madrigals (Dec 2016)

Wassail @3:25, Boar’s Head @6:50; Dance @8:37, Gaudete (men’s song), 14:19 Hernando’s Hideaway @35:48, Fum Fum Fantasy @55:22



HMHS Sister Act, Long Black Dress (Tully, Eyles, Spellmeyer) & Trailer (2018)

Sister Act.LBD.HD720p.mp4