Richard Winn alum returns to address 2024 grads

Lippert arrived for his evening speech at RWA in his plane via the Fairfield County Airport. | Photo: Lou Ann Coleman

WINNSBORO – When Michael Lippert graduated from Richard Winn Academy in 2001, he says he never saw himself coming back to his alma mater to deliver the commencement address for the 2024 graduating class.

But there he was on stage last month, imploring his alums to ‘keep on going,’ the culminating theme of his address and echoing the words of a popular country song: “If you’re going through hell, just keep going. If you’re scared, don’t show it …”

That admonition is apparently a page out of Lippert’s own playbook.

After RWA graduation, Lippert, now 39, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, was then commissioned into the Marines and became a pilot. Throughout his operational career, Lippert deployed multiple times to the South Pacific and Middle East, taking part in a wide range of combat, disaster relief, and contingency operations – in the air, on land, and at sea.

In 2014, he was selected to attend the United States Air Force Test Pilot School, and upon completion, he reported for duty as an experimental test pilot in the F/A-18 and F-35.  He has continued to serve as a test pilot and program director on a number of test programs over the past eight years, and he’s now a Marine Corps officer and experimental test pilot stationed at the naval air station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Lippert and his wife, Navy Commander Amanda Lippert, have a six-year-old son, Adam, who wants to be a pilot when he grows up.

Lippert, his wife, Navy Commander Amanda Lippert, and their six-year-old son Adam. | Contributed

“I haven’t been back to Winnsboro much since I left for the Naval Academy,” Lippert said. “So I wasn’t prepared for the emotions when I got here, especially going back to RWA. But it meant a lot to me to see everyone and address the graduates.”

Lippert said it was hard to decide what to talk about.

“I didn’t want to just talk about all the places I’ve been in my work or about what I’d done,” he said. “I wanted to talk about something that would be more useful to the graduates, about lessons I’d learned the hard way. It was truly a humbling experience.”

In closing his address, Lippert told the graduates that he wanted them to take one thing with them if nothing else – and that one thing was, “to keep on going.”

“Through great adversity, in times of pain, loss, and sadness, keep on going so that you may feel the gut-wrenching emotion, the trying ties, and the true fragility of humanity.” he said. “Keep on going so that you can be there for others who will struggle… keep on going no matter how difficult it may seem. It will pass.”

Lippert also encouraged them, in times of great joy, success, and accomplishment, to keep on going so that they may experience unabashed happiness and satisfaction.

“Use this momentum,” he said, “to propel yourself to newer and more fantastic heights. Keep on going to bring others to new success along with you.”

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