This past weekend was graduation weekend for Seattle University. Thousands gathered on Sunday, June 12th, to celebrate our degree recipients. It always is a great occasion for our students and their family and friends. It is a bitter-sweet moment for our faculty and staff, though. We know these students need to move on to the next stage in their lives, but we hate to see them go!
Graduation really begins the day before on Saturday, first with the Graduation Brunch and then the Baccalaureate Mass. The former is now becoming a “What will Fr. Steve dream up this time?” event, as in the last few years he has come up with some very creative PowerPoint slide presentations. The latter takes place at St. James Cathedral, and is always very crowded with students and their families, as it should be. What was especially noteworthy this year was that it was the first time that Archbishop Peter Sartain presided at the mass. As one would expect, he has a different style than his predecessor.
Now that Arthur Fisher is no longer Dean of Mateo Ricci, I have the honor of getting Dean Sue Schmitt over to St. James. Taking on the Columbia St. hill by the Broadway Garage is quite a workout, and not really a problem, except I keep tripping over my graduation gown. I am going to have to do something about that. And going downhill backwards is just as much work as going up!
The Albers Graduation Reception takes place in the Paccar Atrium immediately following the Baccalaureate Mass. At this occasion, students are invited to bring their family and friends to meet faculty and staff. It is a very well attended event – over 400 this year – and most of our faculty and staff make sure they are there because everyone looks forward to it. We have a brief program, at which I know if I talk long enough Fr. Steve will eventually show up and extend his congratulations to the graduates! This year Nadeje Alexandre and Suzanne Jayne-Jensen took the lead in organizing and did another great job with the event.
In the evening, there is a dinner honoring newly appointed emeriti faculty and honorary degree recipients. Barb Yates is one of the new emeriti faculty, so I had the opportunity to speak to her many accomplishments in her 41 years at SU. You can check the previous blog on Barb for more details! Tun Channareth, the Nobel Prize winning honorary degree recipient, nominated by our faculty members Peter Raven and Quan Le, was also recognized at the dinner. Reth visited my Econ 271 class two weeks ago and the students found him to be quite inspirational.
Graduation takes place at Key Arena, which is a great facility since it is big enough and we don’t have to worry about the weather. However, on this particular Sunday, the weather was very accommodating, so there was some good picture taking going on. The undergraduate ceremony took place in the morning and included awarding honorary degrees to Japanese-American students who were forced to leave SU due to the internment camps. Their resilience in the face of this injustice is impressive, for it seems they all went on to do important things in their careers and in raising their families. Many family members participated in the ceremony. Unfortunately, the one surviving student who had planned to attend the graduation was unable to attend due to a recent illness, but her daughter delivered a very inspiring message in her stead. The undergraduate ceremony tends to run long and each year we wonder what to do about. Fewer graduates (and thus fewer names to read) is NOT an option!
After a two hour break, it is back at it with the graduate ceremony. Fewer graduate students mean a shorter event, of course. Tun Channareth received his honorary degree at this ceremony. He gave a very inspiring and vigorous speech, as I knew he would based on his visit to my class. He urged the audience to sign the petitions to end land mines and cluster bombs. He also had some very nice things to say about SU based upon his two week visit to our campus. That is correct, he has been here from his home in Cambodia for two weeks. I doubt we will see that again from any of our honorary degree recipients!
Also of keen interest to me as the business school dean was that MBA student Dejan Mitkovski gave the student graduation speech. Dejan did a fine job with his remarks, and I could not help noticing that his parents, who flew out from Detroit, were in the first row of the balcony right by the podium and right in my line of sight. They were closer to him than I was, and justifiably proud of his performance.
At both graduations, after the students receive their degree from the President, they are to walk across the stage to shake the hand of their dean. However, most of them don’t know that. They are most likely to be scanning the crowd for their family or staring down at the stage to make sure they don’t trip over their graduation gown. One has to work very hard to intercept them to bestow the deanly handshake. This year there was a new twist – some seemed to think I was there to take back their diploma and they were ready to hand it over! Of course, they don’t actually receive their diploma, just a note saying the diploma will be in the mail assuming they have settled their accounts and successfully completed their requirements for graduation!
We had 330 undergraduates receiving business degrees this year and 315 graduate students. At the graduate ceremony, the business students were last in line, so I shook the hand of the last student graduating that day. I learned the next day from Megan Spaulding that it was her brother! I did not even know her brother was in our program! I am not keeping up with what is going on in the Albers School! :}