Pat McHargue

For the 11th year, as senior sponsor, Pat McHargue has kept the Cleburne High School Class of 2021 focused in preparation for the biggest moment of their high school career — graduation.

Pre-Calculus and AP Statistics teacher, math department chairman, head golf coach and event planner are among Pat McHargue’s duties as a member of the Cleburne High School faculty.

For the 11th year, as senior sponsor, McHargue has kept the CHS Class of 2021 focused and on-schedule in preparation for the biggest moment of their high school career — graduation. The 389 members of the senior class will participate in commencement exercises at 8 p.m. Thursday at Globe Life Field.

McHargue first took on the duties of senior sponsor in 2011, the year his daughter, Kaitlin, was graduating from CHS as salutatorian.

“I actually took on the job at mid-semester,” McHargue said. “They needed someone to take on the duties, to make sure graduation would be pulled-off. I offered to take over the job if no one else volunteered — and they didn’t. I knew it had the potential to be an overwhelming proposition, but I came in after longtime senior sponsor Linda Williams, who was a legend in that role — she had it down to a science. She left multiple binders of information, which was a great help, as were the senior teachers, who helped keep me on track. 

In stepping up to the plate to help with commencement exercises, McHargue believed it would be “a one-time thing.”

That “one-time thing” has expanded beyond a decade, with McHargue continuing to serve as the school’s graduation guru. Social studies teacher Matt Moulden has since come on board to share the responsibilities as senior class co-sponsor.

“Matt had started helping me,” McHargue said. “I went to the principal and said he need to be formally recognized as senior class co-sponsor. Matt and I have such a great relationship. When I bounce an idea or a concern off him, he uses his skills as a deep, critical thinker, finds any holes, then helps engineer a solution.

“He’s found solutions to little things, that made a big difference. Addressing those fine details often makes those big details take care of themselves.”

And there are lots of details to consider for every graduation. With a decade of experience behind him, McHargue feels he almost has it down to a science himself—from coordinating an indoor ceremony when the weather refused to cooperate, to creating multiple plans in 2020 when COVID threatened an in-person graduation.

“We had a notebook full of plans just for the 2020 graduation ceremony, from various locations to how the ceremony would be conducted at that location,” McHargue said. “We know now that (Assistant Principal) Michael Williams is a planning magician. Another thing we have learned, through the years, and especially in 2020, is don’t plan in too great of detail—because things can change. I didn’t sleep a whole lot the night before the 2020 graduation — I kept wondering if there was anything we’d missed.”

The best ceremony possible for the senior class reflects McHargue’s dedication to the job and the Jackets, Moulden said.

“Pat does everything from the heart, and does everything with the best for others in mind,” Moulden said. “Graduation is no different — he pours himself into the event, making sure that the ceremony is the best for every senior class.”

Principal Ben Renner echoed Moulden’s sentiments.

“Coach McHargue is like a graduation magician,” Renner said. “He is perfect at making our graduations ‘formal’ to fit the significance of the event, while maintaining the closeness we have in our community. He says planning graduation is one of his favorite duties, which makes me very happy. He would be very hard to replace—in that role or any of those he provides at Cleburne High School.”

Once the graduation ceremony begins, don’t look for McHargue to sit back and enjoy the show. He is the man behind the microphone announcing every student’s name before they are presented with their diploma. It is a task he takes very personally.

“That’s a very important part of the ceremony,” he said. “You never know how hurt someone might be that you didn’t take the time to learn how to correctly say their name. Normally I know at least 40 percent of the graduating class, having had them in my classes.

“As a rule, I try to sit down with every senior. I also have their names written down phonetically. In 2018 we had a graduate with 42 letters in his middle name — and I got it right. It’s the only time I’ve gotten applause from the senior class.”

With the 2021 commencement ceremony only two days away, McHargue is ready for the high school’s biggest event of the year. 

“I only intended to help with graduation that one time,” he said. “But I fell in love with graduation—the challenge, the satisfaction of calling that last name on the list, then seeing those hats going into the air. It’s a labor of love and a true team effort. I want to do this as long as I can.”

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