Thursday, December 21, 2006

So, would you like to sit through 7 graduations?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The end of the semester is a magical time for most people who teach college, largely because there will be no more term papers to read, no more lectures to prepare and no more campus politics to get your blood boiling.

But it also means graduation for many universities, even in December.

And at California State University, Sacramento, it means seven graduations: one for each college.

As chair of our faculty senate, I'm the designated chief marshal, which means I get to attend all seven and at each lead in the procession of faculty and students and say important things like: Please stand for the national anthem.

I'll probably be able to say that quite well by the fifth or sixth time I utter in front of several thousand people.
(I wonder how many times you can listen to Pomp & Circumstance before you go completely mad?)

I remember our high school graduation only faintly. We were all lined up and had to walk across the stage in the auditorium to get the little folder that would eventually house our diploma. I don't think we actually were given the diploma that afternoon/evening. I think that arrived later, but I could be wrong.

What I do remember is a wild night of carousing afterwards and driving home at dawn from Lake Erie with the sun rising and the song "Red Rubber Ball" playing on the radio.

More than 40 years ago and I can still hear that song and still see how red the sun was coming up that morning as I came down West Summit Avenue, hoping to make it home before my mother, grandmother and sister rolled out, at which time they would have realized I hadn't been home.

Not that I didn't stay out all night many, many evenings long before graduation - they just never knew. Thank God for that downstairs window.

College graduation is different, of course, because for most of the grads it means going to work at whatever they have studied. I shake a lot of hands at graduation. Parents are usually so proud they are bursting. It could also be relief over not paying tuition and room and board any more.

So, I'll do my duty, starting tonight with one college, then four on Friday and then two on Saturday.

Please stand for the national anthem.

There, I've got my lines down cold.

Graduation elation