It’s May which means it’s graduation season. Since I’m back on campus, it also means I’ll be attending graduation ceremonies this week. Because we are a nursing college, we will also have pinning ceremony making a very full week to come. And a fun week filled with celebrations. Since I haven’t yet attended any of this year’s events, and I’ve been writing about my own experiences, I thought I’d tell you about my graduation experiences. I’ve had three official graduations, well four if you count high school. I don’t remember much about my high school graduation except that it was in San Antonio in late May on the district football field. It was warm and humid and since it had rained recently the chairs were sinking into the grass. In other words, we were all melting and wishing it would be over.
My doctoral hooding was fun with friends high up in the balcony of the Bass Concert Hall yelling my name. Receiving my hood for my JD was uneventful with family there to wish me well. In other words, the only one that was really interesting was receiving my bachelor’s degree from OU and I almost didn’t go.
The only reason I went was that my friend Margaret wanted someone to sit with. Her family would be there. Mine were not attending since I think I told them not to because I wasn’t planning on being there myself. I changed my mind in time to get a robe, but I think it was the last day. The way Margaret convinced me was to say, “We can get our diplomas from Rufus.”
Rufus was Rufus G. Hall, Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was a political science professor and had been on the faculty long enough to have been my mother’s faculty advisor. He was also our advisor for the Oklahoma Model United Nations (OMUN) and we adored him. We only referred to him as Rufus between ourselves. We certainly called him Dean Hall to his face. At graduation, the Dean and the Assistant Dean would be the ones handing out the scrolls. Well, getting our scroll from Rufus would be fun, so I agreed to go.
OU’s graduation then was held in the Lloyd Noble Arena (it still is.) I’ll learn what it looks like now in a few days, but in 1979, the College of Arts and Sciences was by far the largest college and we were all seated in two large sections in the middle of the floor. When it came time for the presentation of the scrolls, our Dean and Assistant Dean stood at the front of our section and the graduates began streaming by. We were in the left section. Dean Hall was handing out scrolls on the right. Now what?
When it was time for our row to move, we walked toward the center aisle where a faculty marshal was managing traffic and said, “We want to go over there” and pointed across the aisle. He looked dumbfounded. “We want Dean Hall to give us our diplomas.” He shook his head in amazement but let us step across the aisle. We tagged on to the bag of the line walked to the front and flowed past Dean Hall as if we were on a conveyer belt. He gave us our diplomas but there was no time for even a quick hug and I’d be surprised if he even knew we had gone past. Back in front of the faculty marshal, we asked where we should sit. Now, he was shaking his head at the problem we were causing, but he pointed to two seats at the end of a row and there we sat while every other college performed the same ritual. At least it was much more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
Graduation ceremonies are often long and except for short sections, they are a bit boring for the graduates. But like so many ceremonies they are for more than each individual graduate. They are for families and for the community. They are rites of passage with all of the important meanings of any such ceremony. They are worth participating in even if a bit long and dull. It’s important to celebrate when we reach a milestone. It’s important to share with our families and our friends. When you have the chance, I hope you’ll participate in any ceremony and celebration that comes your way.