Monday, May 09, 2005

Graduation Day, Lycoming College

Warm blue sky. Green walkway to the dais. Blue seats. Pale blue diploma covers. Green lawn. Pale green buds on some trees, fully green leaves on others. A cherry tree in white blossoms. An occasional bluster of wind.

Young 20s in black robes; yellow, blue and black wide stripes on their graduation hoods. Smattering of yellow, red, blue ropes on some necks, along with yellow pins and mixed medals. Black morterboards and tassles.

Red brick buildings surround the quad. Plenty of color in the audience dress. Silence, cheering, clapping. The band plays for procession through the gates, onto the quad green. Throngs stand, cameras click and blink. Quiet greetings from those in the fringe rows.

Silent prayer. A spiritual from the choir. The Star Spangled Banner (!). Greetings, retirement announcements, doctoral awards, a speech from an archeologist and educator. A graduating senior from Elmira, who read a poem she wrote four years ago for high school graduation.

I spent time away, while sitting in my folding chair: staring at the blue sky, framed by swaying green branches. The chapel bell chimed at the hour and half-hour, sending warm tones into the sun-soaked sky – enhancing, rather than interrupting, the words at the dais.

I am one of three people who stand on the dais and shake each grad's hand: the Presidents of the College, Trustees, and Alumni Board. Even while shaking 320 hands, I was still rapt by the colors, the warmth, the aura of spring in full dress. We were three men with white hair, shaking the hands of 20-year-olds. Quite the sight, I’m sure.

Four parents got to hand diplomas to their graduating children. One father walked off with the diploma, after he and his daughter got mixed up trying to rescue her morterboard in the wind.

Marco did the benediction, and we were lining up to recess back through the crowd and their folding chairs. We all disperse from there, scattered among the tents with their lemonade, iced tea and cookies. I chatted with professors Larson, Roskin, Williamson, Piper…Still nice to be part of the institution.

Better, still a wonderful place to spend a spring afternoon, gazing at the sunswept blue sky.

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