Covering the Land of Lincoln

Famed TV writer urges Rockford students to embrace, respect diversity

ROCKFORD — Nearly 40 years after graduating from Keith Country Day School, critically acclaimed television writer Shawn Ryan still remembers the disappointment he felt when English teacher Marie Johnson gave him a B-minus on an essay during Ryan’s junior year.

“When I talked to her about the grade, she told me she thought I was capable of doing much better than what I had delivered on the page,” Ryan said. “I will always be eternally grateful to her because she taught me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of.”

Ryan, the Los Angeles-based writer of such shows including “The Shield,” “SWAT,” and “Timeless,” served as keynote speaker at Keith’s 49th Annual Commencement ceremony Friday at Rockford University.

He urged the graduating seniors to engage with people with differing political and philosophical viewpoints.

“I personally can’t think of anything more boring than being in a room with 10 people who think exactly as I do,” Ryan said. “Don’t allow yourself to exist in a silo of ignorance and conformity of thought. Assert your point of view and challenge those things that you vehemently disagree with, but always remember the other person’s humanity.”

More:TV writer, producer and former Keith student creates Ryan Family Scholarship

Ryan and his family support the school through the Ryan Family Theater, which allows students to showcase their talents, and the Ryan Family Scholarships, which annually provide free tuition to six middle and high school students for the duration of their time at Keith.

“I’m not here to tell you that the next stage of your life will be easy” Ryan told Keith’s graduating seniors. “There will be times when you are tempted to give up on your dreams. Believe it or not, these moments are a gift because they provide an opportunity to learn what you are truly made of. At these times, if you look really deep, you will find courage and conviction that you did not know you were capable of.”

Keith County Day School’s enrollment is about 200 students in kindergarten-through-grade 12.

This year’s class of seven graduates have earned $2.8 million in merit-based scholarships to support their continued education.

Daniel Garcia Laya is an exchange student from Madrid, Spain, and spent his senior year studying at Keith.

“It was the best year of my life,” Garcia Laya said. “I enjoyed the time with my friends and my teachers. It was completely different from where I came from.”

Garcia Laya plans to study international business and finance at International University in Madrid.

More:Keith celebrates 50 years with foreign language department chair Sherrilyn Martin

Friday’s graduation was especially meaningful for Keith’s teachers and administrators, including Head of School Co-Lead Charo Chaney.

“What gives me hope during these challenging times is you, the Class of 2022,” Chaney told the seniors assembled on stage. “You are the most persistent, focused (and) tenacious group of individuals that I have encountered, and then I am reminded of the possibilities of what our future holds.”

Ken DeCoster: [email protected]; @DeCosterKen

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More