For a second consecutive year, stormy weather forced LHS graduation inside.
They packed the fieldhouse Sunday night.
Family, friends and educators streamed into Kansas University's Allen Fieldhouse to applaud the 582 members of the Lawrence High School Class of 1997 as they received their diplomas.
The arena was steamy. Plans to hold the graduation exercises outside were thwarted by threats of severe weather.
"I've never surrendered this early," Principal Brad Tate told the crowd, explaining his decision to move graduation inside. "There are a lot of clouds out there, I'm glad to see. I know how much all of you wanted to graduate outside."
Rain actually held off until all members of the Class of 1997 had made their way to the stage, where they were awarded their diplomas by Mary Loveland, school board vice president.
Two LHS seniors were chosen to address their classmates.
Jonathan Pearce spoke about "An LHS Tradition."
"We'll take with us the knowledge of what true excellence is," Pearce said. "That, more than a diploma, will make us the most successful graduating class at Lawrence High School yet. So take your diploma with pride knowing that it is truly a great day to be a Lion."
Senior Melanie Roberts, who talked about "A Long, Strange Trip," told the crowd that she was just one student among many who are proud to have attended Lawrence High.
"It seems like only yesterday we were sophomores, staring at the seniors with a little bit of fear, hoping that during senior week we weren't the ones that got duct-taped to a pole or soaked with water balloons," Roberts said, her voice shaking with emotion. "But we got through all that, we're here now.
"Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's been a long strange trip, but its been great, and I think all of us will miss Lawrence High in our own way."
Two awards were presented Sunday night.
Members of the senior class voted Sally Russell Outstanding Senior.
"It was such an honor," Russell said. "I was so surprised. This has been the greatest three years ever."
Patti Bailey, who has taught social studies at LHS since 1990, was the senior class's choice as Outstanding Teacher.
"This is a wonderful class," she said. "I'm going to miss this group a lot. This is a remarkable group of students, just a remarkable group."
At the request of the graduates, Tate addressed members of the senior class and their guests. Tate is leaving LHS, after 24 years as its principal, to become principal at Park Hill South High School in north Kansas City, Mo.
Tate said Sunday night was both nostalgic and exciting -- for him and the graduates.
"I never dreamed in 1973 how I would come to feel about Lawrence High School during my tenure here," he said.
He spoke about his pride and the great love he feels for the school.
"I will never regret giving as much as I could," he said. "If there are a few moments I could take back, they are the slacker ones. ... We've had many great days as Lions, but let's make what comes next greater."
It took about 40 minutes for the graduates -- from Asna Abbasi to Sarah Zylstra -- to receive their diplomas. Then the graduates flung their mortar boards into the air, hugged one another and their families, and posed for a few more photographs.
The evening had its lighter moments. A beach ball occasionally bounced among the graduates. And a number of graduates handed Mike Browning, assistant principal, a gift: red and black marbles.
"I have no idea why," Browning said after the ceremony. "One year, it was golf balls. This year, it was marbles. ... Just kind of a little gift to me. I asked them as they went by, `What, no money?'
"This is a great class, so many good kids in this one. They're all leaders in their own right.''