Blaisdell to grads: ‘Find your passion’


CARRABASSETT VALLLEY – After graduating from Carrabassett Valley Academy in 1999, Gregory Blaisdell originally thought he wanted a business degree from University of New Hampshire. That changed with his freshman year.

“Although I had done well in economics, I couldn’t stand it,” he said.

It was a summer job with the Augusta Water District that convinced him he should be a doctor. One day during lunch, Blaisdell struck up a conversation with an older gentleman named Ron who ran the backhoe. Ron’s education had ended with the third grade when he had to help support the family.

“He reminded me that a good education would allow me to do something that was less rigorous on my body for better pay,” Blaisdell said. Ron should know. The years of physical labor had taken their toll on his knees, and had required surgery to correct it.

“You should be a doctor. You’re good with people,” he told Blaisdell, who at first laughed it off.

“That afternoon I started to put together some ideas,” he said. “I liked my science courses, and I liked the idea that I could help people.”

Blaisdell is currently finishing his third year of medical school at Pennsylvania State University and hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“It’s important that you realize that if you set out to do something, it may not end up being what you think, and that’s OK,” he told the CVA graduating class Saturday at the Richard Bell Chapel where he was the commencement speaker. “Search for what you are passionate about.”

No matter what direction they take in life, Blaisdell told they graduates not to forget what got them there.

“Give thanks to the people who helped you succeed over the years, but most of all, don’t forget to thank your parents,” he said.

Takuya Yoshida gave thanks to his parents Saturday.

“Three years ago in Japan, I dreamed of speaking English fluently and skiing everyday,” he said. “My parents gave me the opportunity to come to CVA.”

Yoshida’s English was good enough to keep graduation guests in stitches with his speech about his 23 classmates. It was easy to see why the senior class chose him to speak at graduation.

But he also was serious when he thanked the coaches and teachers who “have done an amazing job of supporting me behind the scenes,” and his friends’ parents who “gave me a place to stay when the dorms were closed.”

He also gave thanks to nature – “the trees, mountains and tough winters” – that surround Sugarloaf for teaching him important lessons. And he encouraged his peers to take a lesson with them as they look to the future.

“Learn from the trees that patiently await their new beginning,” he said.

Several CVA graduates and underclassmen received awards Saturday. Jaime Bisson was given the Carrabassett Valley Town Award, and she and Benjamin Wansker-Kirsh received the Headmaster Award. Daniel Hitchcock was the recipient of the David Holmes Award, and Jacob Payson was given the Ben Weisbein Award in memory of a former student who was killed in a car accident in 1992. Junior Katharine von Herrmann earned the CVA Alumni award and the Barbara Trafton award. Junior Matt Garand was given the J. Keith Penniger Award in memory of a 1996 grad.