Sunday, May 17, 2009

Commencing


I confess, I love pomp and circumstance--especially when it's not taken entirely seriously.

So I found the graduation ceremonies at the University of Minnesota Morris this weekend as close to perfection as you can get. It was elegant to a point and respectful of the young crowd's need for a bit of irreverence.

The weather caught most of us off guard. So even though we brought our dress up clothes, most of us had to improvise to stay warm in  the gusty winds and near-freezing temps. I ended up wearing my graduate's blaze yellow fleece, a pair of light blue cords, a magenta scarf, and black knit cap emblazoned with the logo of Willie's, the local SuperValu grocery store where Erik earned extra cash as a bagger. Classy, eh?

The faculty, on the other hand, led the procession in full academic regalia, which of course led someone in the crowd to mention Harry Potter. The profs were decked out in robes, hoods, medieval-looking caps, and other insignia representing their hierarchy and disciplines, except for one gent, who wore a robe and a baseball cap. He was commencement speaker: Minnesota author Will Weaver, son of a farmer who chose to major in English. (Later, we were to learn that when he got up the nerve to tell his father of this decision, he was met with the following: "You already know how to speak English.")

So we sat outside on this sunny Saturday, as Chancellor Jacqueline R. Johnson quipped, because several students the night before (when the winds were howling and the temps were in the 30s) told her that she could move the ceremonies inside, but the students would be staying outside. She didn't even bother to ask the audience to hold their applause till all the graduates had received their degrees. Instead, she acknowledged there would likely be plenty of hooting and hollering, and invited the cheering to begin.

Will Weaver quoted Charles Dickens, E.M. Forster, and Blaise Pascal, and told the new graduates that "being out of their element is the best thing you can do." (I found out later, by visiting Weaver's blog, that was his first commencement address, which just added to his credibility in my humble opinion!) He ended his speech with a few lines from a song by Bob Dylan (another Minnesota native):

"May you build a ladder to the stars 
And climb on every rung
and may you stay forever young."

And when the graduates had all walked the stage, and the representative from the alumni association had made her pitch, the band could not have played a more perfect recessional:



All and all, a delightful weekend.

Except for the two hours Saturday evening, when my "girls" (Charlotte and Cora) decided to embark on a walkabout, which was more like a runabout, and a party of graduates and parents turned into a search party and combed the tiny town of Morris for two poorly behaved renegade dogs. I'm happy to report that my eldest son found the two romping near a cemetery, apparently on their way back and tangled paws to tails to ears in nettles and burs, which required another hour to remove.

Definitely not a one of their finer moments or any semblance of pomp and circumstance, but they did provide relief (though not exactly comic) from the bittersweet emotions that accompany commencement . . .

Image from capsandgowns.com 






5 comments:

Gaston Studio said...

Love all the pomp and circumstance with graduations; wish the high school variety would return to this!

Pyzahn said...

This sounds like a fun weekend. Really. I loved the fashion recap. Glad to know that Cora and Charlotte's Big Adventure ended with a safe return.

But I really love that Mr. Weaver included that wonderful quote from Bob Dylan. I think I may have to check out his work.

Erin Davis said...

I just participated in graduation at work (North Idaho College). The faculty entered to Native American chanting and handdrumming done by members of the Coeur d'Alene tribe. I had chills! I know I will be crying my eyes out when my son graduates in a few weeks.

Kathleen said...

Pyzahn: Mr. Weaver was quite a treat. And the Curious Incident of the Dogs in the Night was quite an adventure! They won't be let offleash in a long, long time. I am SO glad they stayed together, though!

Jane: I love that image of pomp and circumstance in high school!

Erin: UMM was once a boarding school for Native children. As part of restitution for the damage, all Native students can attend free. There's quite a tradition of Native culture there as well, and we listened to an honor chant and drumming by an Ojibway group from Canada. What an incredible experience to ahve the faculty led by the chanting and drumming at North Idaho College. I would have loved to have seen/heard/experienced that!

Rudee said...

It sounds like it was a perfect weekend. I'm sure you're very proud-and you should be. Glad all turned out well for the pooches.

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