Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inspiring Graduation Experience

I actually wrote this entry three weeks ago, right after Summer Graduation at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. I was inspired then and remain so. This never got posted because I left town the next morning for a vacation in Oregon, about which I write in my previous entry. So I am posting in a bit late, but that has no bearing on the story or its message:

Thirty graduations. That is how many I have attended since beginning my time as a professor of library science at SHSU. The first one was a thrill. I got to don my beautiful green and gold robe for the 2nd time (first being my own graduation) and walk in as a faculty member. I expected that ceremony attendance would get old after a while but that has not happened. I still enjoy the event, even if it does curtail my revered Saturday afternoon nap time. This year, as I left our building and headed over to the area where everyone assembles for lining up, I encountered something wonderful. Pulled up next to the curb was a big, shiny, chartered bus with people disembarking. Everybody was dressed to the nines and cameras were pointing. These folks were taking pictures of themselves taking pictures of themselves. I walked up to one young lady who was documenting the events with a video camera. “This is a wonderful group you have here," I said, "are you honoring one graduate or a group of people?” “We are all here for one person,” she replied. “She is getting a degree in education!” The people milling about ranged in age from babies in arms to grandparent types. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Well, most of us are from Houston but we also have people from as far away as California.” She replied. After my exclamations of praise for the grad and this family, we parted ways with me feeling better about the world. These folks realized that a college graduation was important enough to bring out a whole family to commemorate the event.

I have no doubt that buses get charted when young athletes reach exalted levels such as state playoffs. Buses of SHSU Bearkat fans come up from Houston on game days. But this was different. All these people were gathering to celebrate the academic achievement of one of their own. What a powerful message to the boys and girls who were part of the group! What a thrill for the grandparents who may not have attained such a goal. What a send-off for the new grad! I believe that the world is a better place because of this family, and others like it, who realize and applaud the hard work and sacrifice of everyone who made this particular grad a success.

Speaking of success, our SHSU Department of Library Science graduated 34 new school librarians on Saturday. Many were from San Antonio, a point of pride for me because I had wished we could offer instruction in SA for several years before plans became reality. We were treated to an exceptional graduation speaker, Dr. James Gaertner, outgoing President of SHSU. This ceremony was his last as university president. Dr. Gaertner is an accomplished speaker, known for his light touch while delivering serious messages. Two of his quotations really stood out for me:
• “Adversity introduces you to yourself.” I can certainly vouch for the reality that adversity shapes a person, but this was a bit of a different slant. As a youngster growing up, I often wondered how I would perform in the face of pain, loss, fear, hard times, or other trying circumstances. I knew my growing-up years were remarkably free of such tests. Looking back from my present perspective I realize that I am like most people: One way or another you get through those things.
• The other thing he said that I noted had to do with momentous life events, both positive and negative: “How a person responds to good or bad things that happen in life shows how big a person you are.” Celebrities behaving badly show the world their small stature by behaving badly in the face of great success and wealth. But we do not have to look that far for examples. I know associates who have shown true colors when confronted with both good and bad news.

As a new academic year begins, and many students enter the final stretch to degree completion, I wish all the best to both students and to the dedicated faculties that work so hard to help them succeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment