Alumnus Brian McCarthy to Speak as Distinguished Graduate

Alumnus Brian McCarthy to Speak as Distinguished Graduate

The senior class of 2024 better get excited.

Alumni Brian McCarthy was chosen as the distinguished graduate to speak to the class on graduation.

McCarthy graduated in 1998 and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal and a Joint Services Commendation Medal, among numerous others during his distinguished Air Force career.

Flying F-15’s, he served as special assistant to the Assistant Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, traveling around the world on Air Force Two as a military adviser to John Kerry.

As a commander, he oversaw more than 800 military and civilian members of two F-15E Strike Eagle fighter squadrons and one Singaporean F-15SG fighter squadron. He retired as a Colonel and is now living in Maryland and working at Northrup Grumman.

Brian stands with his family outside his F-15EX strike eagle. Photograph by Beth Witsik 

McCarthy’s sister, alumna Beth Witsik, had tried for three years to get her brother to be a distinguished graduate.

“I nominated him to be the distinguished graduate because I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more,” Witsik said. “Not only is he my hero, he is a national hero. I was working in New York City on 911 and remember being on the tarmac watching him land his plane after Operation Enduring Freedom.  He has done amazing things in his career keeping our country safe, and through it all, he has remained one of the most humble people I know.” 

McCarthy was taken back by the honor.

“ I never expected to be recognized like this,” McCarthy said. “I was unaware of the program and was completely surprised when they informed me that I was selected. There were a lot of very talented people in the class of 1989, so to be selected was very humbling.”

McCarthy is not the only one excited about this event; Assistant Superintendent Len Reppert is as well.

“I was not part of the selection, but the foundation chose him,” Reppert said. “…what they look at is any distinguished alumni that they feel would be able to send an awesome message to our graduating seniors, so when I saw him and that he was selected, looked through all of the information, his history not only when he was in Susky, …when he was in college, but more importantly the service that he did…for our country and what he has done, and now what he is currently doing, we could not have selected a better person to speak at the graduation.”

Witsik has always dreamed of her brother getting this opportunity.

“Unbeknownst to Brian, I did submit a letter to the alumni association asking them to consider him for the distinguished graduation,” Witsik said.

McCarthy was not only surprised, but it brought back memories  of high school when McCarthy participated in the track team and was on the national honor roll.

“ Some of my fondest memories of my time in high school are related to my friends, and our experiences on the track and cross country team,” Witsik said. “We were always laughing. I also really enjoyed my science courses. I think being a kid in the 80s had some advantages as we had more freedom than kids do today with no way for our parents to track or call us.”

To different people, a distinguished graduate can be seen in many different ways.

“It is certainly an honor, and it has allowed me to reflect on my time at high school,” McCarthy said. “I’m very grateful the school takes the time to recognize its alumni. and I consider myself very lucky to have been considered and selected for this honor,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy sits in the cockpit at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho when he came home from a tour of duty from Operation Enduring Freedom after 9/11. PPhotograph by Beth Witsik

Reppert stressed why being asked to speak is such an honor.

“To be recognized by thousands of students… and there’s only one distinguished graduate a year,” Reppert said. “If you think about it, over the last 24 years, there has been a speaker, but over the last 24 years, we have had over 6,000 students graduate, and that shows how much a person stands out.”

McCarthy will speak to the Class of 2024 on May 23 at 7 p.m.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • L

    Lorelei ZubackMay 8, 2024 at 9:08 am

    What a wonderful tribute to Brian.