Sunday, August 15, 2010

Commencement summer 2010: Head 'em up, move 'em out

For the fourth or fifth time, I served as a graduation marshal, this time at the summer 2010 commencement ceremonies at Texas A&M University. The marshal's charge is to line up graduates-to-be (College of Engineering masters' graduates, in my case)  in alphabetical order in a staging area prior to their marching out to the arena floor.

The term "like herding cats" comes to mind. The excitement level is high, as to be expected, and, of course, students want to group together with their friends, not necessarily with others of different majors and whose last names are not close alphabetically. Engineers, of course, would know the difference between a line and a curve, although achieving that formation is easier in theory than practice.

Amidst the chaos of reading off names and adjusting MS hoods and tassels, I spotted a man standing arms akimbo, feet spread,  a smile on his face, standing against the wall. Where was my co-marshal, I wondered? The undergraduate marshal, seeing my quandary, stepped in to help me. About 5 minutes before the showtime, this man stepped forward. He was the other engineering masters marshal! Why wasn't he helping line up the 100-plus grads? I as much as ordered him to check the order of the master of science line, while I rechecked master of engineering. He saw what needed to be done, he saw I was struggling, but he stood back. And this man is a lecturer, a quasi-faculty member.

At 8:58 a.m., commencement ceremony was to start 9:00 a.m., a master in computer science student arrived, gown over one arm, hood over the other, and mortarboard in hand. Her major had filed down the staircase several moments earlier, and might even already be on the arena floor. And she still had to don her regalia! The staircase down to the area floor was packed with grads, so I strongly advised her to push her way down past those in formation and find her place among students of her major, and don her regalia before walking on the arena floor.

Anyhow, as usual, the filing-out of grads was the ever the bittersweet moment, but no waterworks from me this time. None of my MS advisee-graduates walked this time, and the Ph.D.s staged in a different room.  Later the sole summer Ph.D. graduate came to my office, in regalia, for photos. Okay, I might have shed a tear or three. The kids will be okay, but me? Not so much. Vaya con Dios, students.

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