It is my favorite week of the academic year — Commencement 2009 is this weekend. It’s time to celebrate our grads, and I get the privilege of being a marshal in the ceremony on Saturday morning.
What does a marshal do, you ask? It’s not all that glamorous, actually: We are responsible for getting the grads from the robing room to the auditorium and into their seats, and then up on stage to collect their diplomas, and then back to their seats, and then out of the auditorium. It’s harder than it sounds though (ever hear the phrase “herding cats?”), but it’s true that we are important cogs in the commencement machine. Without us there would be sheer chaos. (And, in at least one year, with us there was sheer chaos, but I won’t go there. All I will say is that one should never move a podium across a stage before the ceremony without a sense of the Butterfly Effect.)
In any case, I like to be a marshal because I get to talk to the grads as they are walking in, congratulate them, and remind them to hold onto the railing and breathe when they go up on stage. It seems like an important job (to me, anyway), and I know that I have prevented at least two grads from turning blue and passing out and countless others from falling off the stage. I also have helped secure mortarboards (almost impossible to do, frankly), provided tissues for the tearful grads who can’t stop weeping, and once I even picked up a little girl near me so she could see her mom go up on stage and get her diploma. As I was holding her, she shyly whispered to herself “I love you mama.” What an unforgettable moment!
So yeah, being a marshal is JUST.THAT.COOL.
There is a lot that can be said about the significance of commencement, but more interesting people have said this stuff so I’ll refrain from commenting. A quick search of YouTube and you can find hundreds of speakers with provocative, funny, and sometimes insignificant things to say; I certainly don’t need to add my two cents.
I do want to say that I never fail to be impressed by Marylhurst students! Though I have a bazillion reasons and examples for why this is so, let me share my top 3 for today:
1) I now have 9 student blogs in my collection and they are all fascinating reads! I’ve you’ve not browsed through them, or RSS’d them, please do so. Our students have interesting things to say about themselves, their lives, and their learning. I look forward to adding more and building this collection of student voices.
2) Alex Craghead, one of my PLA students (and author of Route99West, a blog in my collection) took the pictures in this post and I love how they capture the architecture of the campus. People who can take lovely pictures like this are on my list of people I would like to be like, but because I do not possess this talent or skill, I instead rely on them to make this blog look nice.
3) The art galleries on campus are full of totally impressive student art work. Check out what’s happening:
Lots of happy stuff this week, but one sad note too: early Tuesday morning we lost a student and a friend to her long and painful battle with lymphoma. I did not know her as well as I wanted to, but I will feel her loss for a long time to come. So while I applaud our students’ accomplishments this week, I also take a moment to remember Ann Wilson. She won’t be able to walk across the stage to receive her Art Therapy diploma, and I won’t be able to adjust her tassel for her or hand her a tissue. But I am glad that her pain is over and that she is at peace.
So to you grads, and in Ann’s memory, let me remind you now:
And please hold on to the railing on your way up.