I can see the large white tent outside my window, a sign that commencement is only a few days away. As we prepare for commencement, the campus comes alive with activities. I can hear the stage being erected, the sound system being tested, the lawns being mowed, and the windows on our building being washed. The soon-to-be-graduates have a number of events during this Senior Week to bring themselves together even as they prepare for leaving this phase of their lives and moving on to the next. Yesterday, the president of the Class of 2009 and I ran a race as fund-raiser. Fortunately, it was short and he was very gracious, letting me win.
This year’s ceremony is especially meaningful for me. I started at Nazareth at the same time as the seniors who will be graduating this Saturday. Four years ago, both the class of 2009 and I shared a sense of nervousness and excitement as we began our new adventure. The four years passed quickly and we all have learned a great deal and grown tremendously.
I have often said that institutions are like individuals and, just like individuals, must find time for celebration. In the life of a college, commencement is a wonderful and important time to celebrate. We, of course, recognize the achievements of the class. Equally important, the ceremony provides connections and consistency, which are very important in the rapidly-changing world around us. There is a great deal of tradition associated with these ceremonies. The processional, led by a mace carrier, is part of a long tradition. The robes and hoods are part of tradition, one that a source traces back 600 years to the commencements at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
The graduation ceremony is steeped in tradition, and for good reasons. Traditions serve the important purpose of connecting us to the past, the present, and the future. For decades, graduates of Nazareth College have practiced the very traditions we will observe at commencement. It links them to a shared past and is, I think, a very fitting way to move forward into their new future.