Rice University’s graduation in the quad

Graduation! It is a milestone. Next, you’ll have to be a real adult, at least in ten or so years, according to our commencement speaker. I had a lovely high school graduation, outside in the Greek Theatre at Ecolint. My college graduation had Gerald Ford as the speaker, and I walked out of the huge arena where Michigan then held its graduations, in protest. I climbed atop the Natural Sciences sign outside the building where I learned so much, and my roommate took my photo, my favorite one of that graduation. I didn’t go to a Ph.D. graduation of my own, but soon you can read about the UT ceremony my daughter attended!

On May 14th I went to my last Rice graduation in the quad. It was a perfect day, cool, and breezy. We marched out from the library, to music. In the library we find our station, and the numbers get ever lower, moving us closer to the front of the stage. I’m always a number ahead of Dave, since I have been at Rice longer, but I slip back and he slips forward so we can spend the two and a half hours sitting together. We’re not the only dual faculty couple to do this. I don’t mind sitting through the ceremony, waiting for my students from all colleges, and Wiess in particular. But the MBAs seem to take longer every year. I just watch the flags blowing in the wind. I listen to the mockingbirds whose territory we have invaded, calling to each other. No doubt they are worrying about the kids. I hope the fledglings are ensconced deep in the trees.

My favorite part is in the library beforehand, when we can chat with busy colleagues and friends. For once they are not busy. For once, they are not rushing off somewhere else. And yes, we all look ridiculous in these gowns. Some people use the black gowns Rice rents for us every year. Others buy theirs, and stand out in red, blue, gray. The best was a hat that looked like a gondola from an Italian university. There are new people I don’t know, and old ones I miss.

Rice is small enough to have great graduations, where people walk across the stage and actually receive their diploma, or so I believe. Well it has always been that way, but no telling if it has changed recently. I joked with my daughter that at UT the piece of paper they were handed says that they may receive their diploma as soon as they pay their library fines. Could be true, since she didn’t actually look at it!

Rice is home, a pair of comfortable old shoes, leaky enough for the occasional spine to stick through. I’ll be excited to see what else is out there!

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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