As St. John Vianney High School Principal Ian Mulligan delivered his introduction of the Griffin of the Year at the Senior Honors Convocation on April 30, Sam Biffignani and everyone else in the Fieldhouse listened carefully for clues about the 2018 winner.
“As soon as he said ‘captain of his team,’” I started to kind of well up inside,” Biffignani said. “I had a smile that was twitching on my face and was a bit tough to control. But I was so excited as soon as I heard ‘captain of the team.’ I thought, oh, it could be me. I had no idea I was even being considered for it.”
Biffignani, the captain of the swimming team and a celebrated member of the Griffin Band, was the recipient of the 2018 Griffin of the Year award, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Dominic, who was Griffin of the Year four years earlier.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it,” Biffignani said. “There were tons of other great guys that I thought were qualified to get it, far beyond me. My class was just blessed to have so many guys. It was truly an honor to receive the award.”
And it was truly a surprise for Biffignani when his older brother appeared on stage and gave him a big hug.
Biffignani knew his mother, father and grandparents were in the crowd at the Honors Convocation. He did not know his brother was.
“That moment on the stage was really big,” Biffignani said. “It started to make me tear up, but I was trying to control it. It was a very special moment and I’m glad he could make it.”
Dominic Biffignani '14 was a senior at Vianney when Sam arrived as a freshman. The younger Biffignani credits his older brother for showing him what it was like to navigate through the school, showing him the ropes, how to make friends, how to be a leader in his class.
“I always looked up to him,” Biffignani said. “He was such a big role model for me. I still remember when he was getting that award, all the freshmen in the row looked over to me and said, ‘You’re screwed.’ One of them still owes me 10 bucks because he didn’t think I could do it.”
The younger Biffignani forged his own path as a Griffin.
The Griffin of the Year award is first voted on by the members of the senior class. Faculty and staff then vote on the finalists.
Biffignani left his own mark at the school during his time with the swim team — his two favorite events were the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard backstroke — as well as the band and various leadership roles, including Ambassadors, Griffin Guides, Athletic Apostles and as one of the high school night speakers.
Next up for Biffignani is continuing his education at Maryville University, where he plans to study cyber security.
“One of their big majors and up-and-coming majors over there,” Biffignani said. “They’ve got a lot of students in that program. I just thought it was an interesting field to go into. I spend a little bit of time with computers, so I thought it was interesting.”
“I think it’s one of those jobs that is up and coming in the future and I think it’s important that I should get into that. It just seems interesting to me working for a company and potentially protecting company assets. I’m excited to go learn all about it and hopefully get my Bachelor’s and maybe even my Master’s in it.”
As his time at Vianney officially comes to a close with graduation on May 12, Biffignani has had plenty of time to reflect on his four years as a Griffin.
What will he take away from his experience at Vianney? Leadership.
“Leadership is definitely one of the things that I’m going to take away from here,” Biffignani said. “Right out of the gate they start you with freshman leadership. Ironically, I didn’t take that because I had band. I think that they have so many opportunities for you to grow as a leader and develop skills like selflessness, perseverance, support. I think those are just some of the many qualities that leaders possess and what I think this school does well is I think they nurture those really well.”
Biffignani said his experience as a high school night speaker — where he worked with Director of Admissions Tom Mulvihill '04 — traveling to schools to talk about his experience at Vianney was one of the more important aspects of him developing as a leader.
“It was definitely a little more pressure,” Biffignani said. “You’re definitely going out of your comfort zone and going to other places and representing the school to parents and prospective students and sharing your experiences with them. I think that can be a bit tough.”
That experience, Biffignani explained, combined public speaking, portraying a positive image of the school and forcing him to find his style of leadership.
“I think everyone leads differently and I think that’s one of the things that is special about the school, you kind of find your stride if you will with leadership,” Biffignani said. “There are definitely guys who are gung ho and there are guys that will take a lot of things into consideration. Both are good and bad, in most cases, but that’s the beauty of it — they find what’s special to them. I think that’s why high school night speaking was important for me, especially with the public speaking it helped out significantly.”