Ryan Vesler, founder of vintage-style apparel company Homage, will address the graduating seniors in the class of 2014 at Bexley High School's commencement on Sunday, May 25.
Vesler, a 2001 graduate of the Columbus Academy, started his T-shirt and apparel company as a way of communicating with people, and as a means of telling a story.
From Bruce Lee to Larry Bird, Homage's clothing aims to focus on both the triumphs and tribulations of society, old and new.
Vesler, who normally shies away from public speaking, will bring some of that story-telling to students at the graduation ceremony, set for 4 p.m. in Carlton Smith Stadium.
Each year, the leaders of Bexley High School's senior class nominate and choose their own commencement speaker. Vesler is one of the youngest to address the tassel-turning crowd.
Vesler, who also is a graduate of Ohio University, started Homage in 2007 in his parents' basement. He built the apparel startup driven by online commerce, but also has two retail locations in the Columbus area -- with another slated to open in Cincinnati soon.
"Philosophically, clothing is a reflection of our attitudes and our beliefs," he said. "Homage is something I take great pride in. It's a conversation; it's not just a transaction."
Vesler studied Spanish in college and chuckles about where his interests have landed him today. At 31, he's doing exactly what he wants to do, but admits he still has a lot to learn, he said.
"Homage is a personal labor of love. I don't design the clothing, but I'm the storyteller," he said.
He said he was humbled to be selected to give Sunday's address.
Keeping with tradition, each graduating senior has selected a faculty member who will present his or her diploma.
Two students have earned the honor of speaking at the ceremony by winning a competition held this spring. They are Aldon Knolls, a member of the Speech and Debate team, and Carly Berndt.
Also at Sunday's ceremony, the Bexley High School band will perform the compositions Fanfare and Processional and Fanfare and Recessional, both by American composer James Ployhar.
Harley Williams, principal of secondary schools in Bexley, said he's looking forward to the graduation.
"I think this is a special class," he said. "Although every year is special in some way, this group truly embodies the mission here in Bexley schools."
Williams said the class of 2014 is well-rounded, caring and influential. As a whole, they have excelled academically, athletically and in the arts.
"I wish them nothing but the best and I look forward to seeing all of the great things they are going to accomplish," said Williams.
"And they will accomplish great things."
As of Friday, May 16, 142 grads, plus two foreign exchange students, were set to cross the stage this Sunday.
In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the high school gymnasium.
The ceremony was moved to Memorial Day weekend two years ago as the result of the district's adjustment to a revised school calendar.