Getting started

My colleagues and I at MTSU aren’t typically enthused about commencement exercises at our school. We take turns and consider it a necessary chore, to crowd into the overheated Murphy Center basketball arena and sit in our absurd medieval robes for the perfunctory “go get ’em” address by some invited minor luminary, followed by the monotonous, interminable roll-call of names A to Zed. It takes hours that seem like days.

Vandy does it better. They sit outdoors on nice days, there’s a spirit of festivity in the air that’s been building all week, and they get on with it. Their faculty probably don’t regard their ritual  much more highly than we do ours, but I’ll swap spots with them any time.

Anyway, we all need to remember that this is a day for the students and their families.  We’re bit players, part of the stage setting. We shouldn’t complain.

I ambled purposively into the throng yesterday morning before Vandy’s commencement exercises, recalling my own walk for the PhD on this campus years ago. It was the only such ceremony I’ve ever submitted to, discounting Humpty Dumpty nursery school. The look on my Dad’s face, and I guess on mine when he snapped the photo of me exiting the stage, was worth the price of admission.

Anyway, there will need to be a section in my book (working title : Philosophy Walks) for all the formal walks down aisles and across stages that accrue to a nomal life. I’ve come at last to appreciate them. As I made my way through the crowd yesterday I thought about how, for a habitual morning walker, “commencement” comes daily.  Sometimes, it’s pro forma. But sometimes it really is a new beginning.

I also appreciated Physics & Astronomy staffer Pickert’s gesture against undue solemnity on these occasions.


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