Originally written in May of 2013, there are very few words I would change.
As is my habit of the past 35 years, I am sitting in my office on this Sunday morning of Commencement, reflecting. I drive in early to ensure getting a parking place before the proud families start arriving. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, babies, babies-soon-to-join-the world—-the campus explodes with sounds, colors, emotions, and celebratory chaos. Often I walk around campus taking photos (or accepting an invitation to be photographed).
My emotions are mixed—not unlike that of the soon-to-be-graduates. Joy—sorrow—elation—sadness—weariness—rejuvenation. At the end of long the day sometime around 4:30 —emptiness, and some poignant, positive residual reminders. I often tease my graduating research assistants that upon their exit from campus I “exorcise” our shared office space to better allow me to adjust to the temporary emotional vacuum caused by their absence from “Dr. David’s Neighborhood.” When you graduate, you remain in my memories as I have come to know you—and you remain for me forever at that age! Forever young.
I can hear chapel bells. Soon I’ll hear the chimes of the campus hymn and that of the alma mater. At 10:00 I’ll attend the Baccalaureate ceremony marching in wearing my cap and gown. According to the “certificate of appreciation” I recently received this is my 35th year of service to the institution. I’ll immediately follow Provost Passaro and Dean Byler into the auditorium. Sitting in the front row has its liabilities as I’ll feel that I must behave in an uncharacteristically well-mannered fashion!
Each Carroll Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremony is special to me just as is each student whom I have gotten to know. I have chosen (or been called) to teach and to learn and though they (you) may not realize it, I truly do learn so much from my students and from the challenges of trying to teach them well.
Thank you, graduating seniors past, present, (and for a few ever so short more years future) for all YOU have taught me. Put to good use your many talents, energy, playfulness, empathy, resilience and creative ideas to making the world a better place. Come to appreciate (as I did upon graduating from Oberlin College in 1971) that you have been privileged to receive a good education due not only to your own sacrifices and hard work but also to the many members of the larger community whom you may never have met or whom you took for granted—Board Members, Administration, Staff, Faculty, and Alumni—who deeply care about you. The bells call me and for you.