Well, I jetted back to Chicago again this weekend to witness my younger brother’s graduation from Northern Illinois University. Sixty plus miles west of the city lies Husky country. So, my family and I headed for the university yesterday morning for the commencement.
Ten years ago, nearly to the day, I too hooked up the gown and donned the cap for the family to sit in what can be described as proud boredom. David’s affair was a considerably bigger affair, held in a multipurpose arena with a full band and substantial crowd of onlookers. Since we got there early, I was able to document the scene as preparations were being made.
Fortunately, as with many large universities, the ceremonies are provisioned by school. So, David’s school of business filed into the NIU’s Convocation Center, at just around a 1000 strong ready to receive their parchment. In spite of a fair amount of pomp and circumstance, the remarks were kept relatively short. The powers that be spent most of the time on reading names, which considering the number of graduate students, in addition to all the undergrads, proved a real blessing for all those in attendance. I mean it is nice to see that the officials recognize that everyone is sitting there finding various ways to kill time, poised for about a ten second celebration, when their respective family member or friend has their name spoken over the mic and reaches for the university president’s limp handshake with one hand and the empty pleather with the other. I say empty, because for all the observance of formality, no one actually gets a diploma at these things. After the registrar has vetted your transcript and no one is responsible for trying to make sure a thousand named certificates of graduation make it into the right hands, you can get it in the mail, for a nominal fee.
In the end, only the last candidate gets a truly huge ovation, as the crowd recognizes things are finally over and you can meet up with your grad for the real celebration and close-ups. Of course coordinating all of this in a large arena, means a crescendo of cacophonous cell phone calls. Everyone in the place was on the phone nearly the whole time, giving the whole event a kind of post-modern absurdity of truly comic value. Nevertheless, everyone was excited to see their capped one and congratulate them.
So, here’s to you Davey!