Yesterday was Olin’s graduation. Despite a dreary, and rainy start (thanks, New England “spring”!), by the time the ceremony was over and the faculty lined the exit from the tent to cheer on our newly minted graduates, the day was stunningly beautiful. It was my ninth graduation ceremony at Olin.
I realized about three years into being a professor how odd it is being on the other side of a graduation. This is the only undergraduate graduation ceremony each of those students will ever get, but for me it’s an annual event as normal as submitting final capstone grades or getting my car inspected. And then, it dawned on me – it’s (at least, partly) my responsibility to make sure that this celebration is special to these people who have worked so, so hard to arrive at this day — to bring the same enthusiasm and joy (but maybe not the fear and apprehension) to this day as a professor that I myself felt so many years ago as a graduating student.
Luckily for me, Olin students make this soooo easy. They’re amazing at reflecting on their time here, being thoughtful (and appropriately skeptical) about their current and future career choices, and just generally surprising and delighting me in innumerable ways. The funny thing is, even though I think of it as my responsibility to make their day special, it was my privilege to hear from them, to see them beaming with pride, and to hug some of them one more time before they sally forth into the “real” world to make their respective marks.
I could have stayed home yesterday. I don’t think anyone would have faulted me for skipping graduation. Boy, am I glad I didn’t! President Miller’s remarks about the correlation between happiness and healthy, warm relationships were born out in my lived experience of the day. I could ask for nothing more.