I couldn’t sleep the night before commencement. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was excited, proud, eager and, at the same time, nervous and ready for it to be over with.
The sun woke me up about 6 am even though I had the alarm set for 7. I would have let Morgan sleep in longer but she was up, too. Every 20 minutes or so, Morgan would ask if it was time to leave yet. I think she was as excited as I was.
The day started muggy and hot. I knew it would get hotter as it got later. The heat was the main reason commencement was scheduled to start at 9:45. We had bottles of water and snacks packed and she had a bag with coloring books and toys to keep her busy during the ceremony. I knew we would be there about 3 hours and I knew she wouldn’t be able to sit still that long. My mom met us there and kept Morgan while I went up to the staging area.
There were hundreds of graduates milling around. No one seemed to know where to go or what to do. We were told to show up by 8:45 for the Marshalls to explain what would happen but there were no Marshalls until about 9:30. At that point, it became chaos as they tried to line us up into some semblance of order so we could march in. I was surprised to hear Pomp and Circumstance start playing at exactly 9:45. I thought there was no way we would actually start on time.
It took 20 minutes for all the graduates to march in. The girl in front of me had on 3 or 4 inch heels. She held onto the guy in front of her the whole way down the stairs. Oh yes, down the stairs. I should have counted them but it was probably 40 or 50 stairs. We were in the University of Dayton Arena. (If anyone has been there, we were walking from the “Flight Deck” down to the floor of the arena.)
After we all marched in, the bagpipes played as the President of Sinclair and the Deans and Trustees marched up to the stage. I’m incredibly proud of my Scottish and Irish heritage and could not stand still while the bagpipes were playing. Sinclair was founded by a Scot and as such we are the Sinclair Tartans. Our mascot is a lion but I have no clue why!
I don’t remember much of the ceremony itself. The class gift was a scholarship donation of $5,000. The guest speaker was a lady and fortunately her speech was short. They awarded two professors Emeritus status. And then we received our diplomas (well diploma covers!).
It took almost an hour and a half for all 1025 us of to walk across the stage. 1,025! We were the largest graduating class in Sinclair history. I have a feeling next year’s class will break our record. Sinclair breaks the degrees up into four divisions: Division of Liberal Arts, Communication and Social Sciences; Division of Science, Mathematics and Engineering; Division of Business and Public Service (Holler!); and Division of Life and Health Sciences.
Out of the 1025 graduates, I knew 3. I barely remember the 3 seconds it took for the Dean of Business and Public Services to say my name. I know she said it (Rachel M. White, with Honors) but it happened so fast. Our President, Dr. Johnson, handed me my diploma cover, 2 of the Trustees were there to offer congratulations, then over to the photographer to have a 2 second photo taken, and then back to my seat. After that, I have to admit, I pretty much zoned out. I don’t remember much again until we stood up to move our tassels from right to left. I almost cried.
After we had officially graduated, Dr. Johnson did something they do at every graduation. He asked a series of questions and had us stand up if the answer was yes. When he got to the question “Who here is the first person in their immediate family to graduate?,” I was in tears then because I am the first person in my family to graduate from college.
In some ways, it still doesn’t feel like I’ve really graduated. I know that final grades from Spring quarter won’t be submitted until tomorrow. I know that it will probably take a couple of weeks before they verify my records and print and mail actual diplomas. I also know that I don’t have any classes to go to but it still feels like I do. I still think I need to wake up in the morning and get ready for Management 250 (probably the most informative and useful class I’ve taken so far). Three years of classes is a hard habit to break.
I also know it’s time for the next adventure. Time for more changes and time to make a difference. Be change and make a difference in your world!