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My Favorite Day

May 26, 2010

Commencement is my favorite day of the academic year – I love that it is truly a celebration of hard-won success. It is the happy ending, the feel-good time, the winner beating the odds. I enjoy the pageantry: at Saint Joseph College the procession of graduates, faculty, and dignitaries garbed in an array of colorful academic attire, is led by kilt-clad bagpipers. Once the group starts to enter the tent, the bagpipers fall still as a brass quintet plays Pomp and Circumstance. Young children play on the lawn while adult family members and friends sit and listen to speeches and ceremonial pronouncements; everyone cheers wildly when the names of their loved ones are called. This year, Saint Joseph College had more than 400 master’s and baccalaureate graduates. It was my privilege to shake their hands and to see up close the joy, the relief, the ebullience they exhibited.

I must say, however, that I find it unfortunate that commencement has to come with all of the attendant end-of-the-year angst: the stress of final exams, the strain of awaiting word from potential employers and graduate schools, and the general concern about what happens next. For administrators it is also a time when there are many year-end tasks to address and final decisions to make. Now, after more than 30 years in academia, I have finally moved through denial, anger, and the other stages of grief and reached the stage of acceptance: I realize that both the joys and the stressors are very normal and cannot be avoided. So I try to take it all in, both the excitement and the long hours – congratulating the graduates and giving counsel to those who need advice…

And, I look forward to the opportunity to repeat this cycle again next year.

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