Monday, May 12, 2008

Pomp & Circumstance

It's pretty quiet on the Vanderbilt campus this week.

Commencement was last Friday, May 9.

3,215 degrees were conferred, including 1,541 to the undergraduate Class of 2008.

These young men and women are the 35th class to walk across the stage to shake the Chancellor's hand and receive diplomas since we did it back in 1973.

Obviously, many things have changed, but some things haven't.

Here are some examples.

Graduation exercises are still held on a Friday (like they were when we did it) but it occurs much earlier now. In fact, it was Friday, May 25 when we got our official degrees. That's over two full weeks later than when commencement was held this year.

I also remember our graduation being held in the afternoon. Graduation now is in the morning ( before it get too hot or starts raining and they move the activities to Memorial Gym, where it is usually very hot and it is very hard to find a seat!) Fortunately, there was no rain this year.

Graduation is also held in a slightly different part of campus than in our day. We went through the exercise on Currey Field, down near the Law School and Kissam Quad (where we all met to line up in alphabetical order before we marched in).

Now commencement is held on Neely or Alumni Lawn (which I guess is a more fitting location). But I suspect the construction of Wilson Hall next to Currey Field also meant staying at that location would be a real tight squeeze.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that the featured speaker at every Vanderbilt graduation is the Chancellor. This was new Chancellor Nick Zeppos' first opportunity to address a group of graduates. He advised them (according to a university alumni e-mail I received) to "lead lives filled with joy. Start that immediately."

After 35 years in the work force, I'd say that's good advice. Does anyone remember what Chancellor Heard told our class when we graduated? I haven't got a clue.

What are your memories of our final event together on campus before we each went our separate ways? Was it a big family event for you? What were your graduation presents? Was it cash? A car (lucky you)?

Just leave your thoughts and memories below. What I remember is the day after graduation trying to get out of the dorms, especially Carmichael Towers. Elevator space was hard to come by and if you (or my future wife, Betty Lee Love, in my case) lived on an upper floor getting out was really hard, especially since she had so much stuff to move, accumulated over four years, including text books, riding saddles, you name it) :)

Speaking of getting through congestion, I can tell you driving by campus last Thursday afternoon, the traffic was pretty backed up on West End as everyone seemed to be getting ready to go out and celebrate.

In that regard, there are clearly many more nice places to eat close to campus than there were in our day. So where did you celebrate? Viscaya? Mario's? I remember going with my family, my future wife and her folks and Pam Zinga and her family somewhere way out Gallatin Road. The Omni Hut? I can't remember.

But here's the most important question for any graduate (and this hasn't changed in 35 years): Did you have a job or some post-graduate studies lined up when you walked across that stage? Or were you truly going solo? Again leave your thoughts and memories below?

I know not everyone in our group made it to graduation. I will leave it to my friend and WRVU Station Manager Steve Womack to tell his stories about being in Starkville, MS with the Vanderbilt baseball team at the NCAA tournament while the rest of us were getting our sheepskins.

But hopefully almost all of us can be back together again soon. Our 35th Class Reunion is October 24-25. The weather should be cooler and maybe the football team better (well, maybe, and hey, we are playing Duke so we ought to have a chance).

Just come back to campus and see...and find that old Vanderbilt diploma you have. Dust it off and you will find something no other Vanderbilt class has. Written on the diploma is our official designation as "The Centennial Class."

So feel special...and we hope to see you in October!

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