Here’s how someone close to me who Shall Not Be Named but might hold several degrees and academic rank describes graduation: processional march march march hot robes funky hat blah blah blah prayers blah blah blah long boring speech citing Voltaire or CS Lewis blah blah blah presentation of medal to rich man who gives another long boring speech blah blah blah reading of names blah blah blah flip the tassels blah blah blah applause for parents applause for students recessional march march march.
Friends, family, fellow Open Saloners …. we are gathered here today to celebrate one of the most important rituals in American life. Blah. Blah. Blah.
I’m getting off to a bad start here, because I really don’t have a contrarian view of one of the oldest ceremonies in society, the sacred sheepskin, the academic tam, the colorful robes, the awarding of a degree.
All of these symbolize something that is important to me, but I’ve been to a lot of the ceremonies and sometimes funny things happen. (A disclaimer: this is why today instead of attending the ceremony for two wonderful nephews graduating from college near Cincinnati, Professor Hermann Galileo Spitzsnogel Senior and I attended the after-party.
In our defense, the ceremony for the two brothers began at 8 a.m. Central Standard Time and was three hours from our home. We managed to arrive early for the party at 1 p.m., having driven past the place three times after getting ritualistically lost (for more information, see almost every previous post since 2009.)
Editor’s Note: Apart from the joy of celebrating the graduations of these two wonderful young men (whom we love dearly), there was also the joy that came with the Shared DNA response that both of Hermann’s brother’s also got lost on the way to the party. Elder brother Lawrence Spitzsnogel ended up in the same liquor store that we did to ask directions.
Now, all fine, all good, toasts to the young men. Driving back from Cincinnati I recalled several anecdotes from graduations past.
Unfortunate Incident # 1
Hermann did not go through graduation as an undergraduate. He was editor of the yearbook which took huge amounts of time, and didn’t finish bicycling (the college required six 1-hour physical education classes.) He finished bicycling by correspondence. No, I am not making this up. He lived in one of those tacky co-ed college houses with my BFF from college.
I lived three blocks away, and walked down to the house (which we called Calvert House because it wason Calvert Street). At 22, I wasn’t overweight. I wore a cute little white dress with green buttons up the side and heels. To get to Calvert House, I had to walk past a frat house or coop of some sort.
Almost every day of the semester, guys sat in front of this house drinking beer or Hairy Buffalo or that day’s imbibe of choice. When I, or any co-ed, walked past they whistled. (If I walked past today, one would rush out and offer me a cane or a cold compress.)
On that day, the whistling and the catcalls were particularly obnoxious. I needed to get to my friend’s house to walk with other friends and family to graduation.
I walked in the door and nearly everyone in the room fell on the floor laughing.
Remember panty hose? Back before the Boer Wars, women wore something on their legs called “panty hose,” nylon hose with panties attached. I had used the bathroom just before leaving my apartment, and tucked the back of my cute little dress up into my panty of my panty hose, thus exposing my body and soul (mostly body).
Editor’s Second Note: Upon hearing about my “reveal” later, my future husband said, “If you had any class at all, you would have tucked the front of your dress in the front panty, and walked back UP the street.”
Unfortunate Incident # 2
Because Hermann didn’t go through undergraduate graduation, when he got his master’s both he and his mother wanted him to march. His mother traveled from Indiana to Florida for the ceremony, and it was a wonderful day. She was so proud of him. We were all glad he participated.
He stayed at the large state university for another degree. As ridiculous as it sounds, we decided he would participate in that ceremony even though — with family five states away — I would be his only witness. Graduation for this large public university is held in a basketball stadium and thousands of graduates receive diplomas.
Because there are so many schools, with so many programs, with so many graduates, names aren’t read.
The dean says, “Will the candidates for bachelor of arts in philosophy please stand to be recognized?” The candidates stand, everyone applauds, and the dean moves on to his next victims.
Hermann was the only candidate for the Educational Specialist degree in Library Administration that day. I had my binoculars on him and I was watching him closely, because I didn’t want to miss his five seconds in the sun.
But he wasn’t paying attention, and the dean said something like, “Will the candidates for the doctor of philosophy degree in Russo-Sino-Germanic Art Therapy please stand and be recognized” and he stood up along with the other candidates. Realizing his mistake, he quickly sat down.
Guess what degree was next?
Yup. Candidates for the degree of Educational Specialist in Library Administration.
And guess how many there were.
One. He stood up again, the audience wildly impressed with the man so smart he could obtain two such opposite degrees at the same ceremony.
To quote Horace from many graduation speeches: sedit qui timuit ne non succederet.
You don’t have to look it up, the translation from Latin is Blah Blah Blah.