Graduation day

Today was Graduation Day at the university.

It was my fourth since moving here last winter -- that's two spring commencements, a summer and a winter -- and, for me, these days are fast becoming the most anticipated of each term.

The buildup to them can be as exhausting for me -- with writing the news releases and speeches and making arrangements with the media -- as it is for the students trying to study and pass their final exams.

But the exhilaration of the ceremonies is a whole different experience. With each ceremony, I feel the chills run down my spine at the sight of the graduates processing into the arena, and during the singing of my alma mater. All of it reminds me of the significant history and utter pride I have for the institution.

There's the president's address, part of which I'm responsible for researching and writing. There's another feeling of pride and exhilaration hearing my words being read at the podium. But I also develop a unique attachment to the successful students he calls out, having interviewed and learned about their college journeys in the weeks leading up to their graduation. And when his or her story is told in front of that jammed arena, and I catch the student's loved ones beaming with enormous pride -- my eyes almost always well up with happy tears for them.

Then there's the students themselves. ... I love being able to mentor and have an impact on young people; that was another big reason for wanting to make this move. I get to interact with them by speaking in their classes, interviewing them about and publicizing their accomplishments, or working with them on projects in our office -- now some of them are caring for Phoebe at preschool and church, too. As I invest more time at the university and get to know more of the students, I'm finding that each ceremony holds a bit more meaning than the previous one.

There's special sentiment and pride in seeing off those students to the next chapters of their lives. And today it came in Quentin. Molly. Katie. Gaby. Nichole. Beka. Keaton. Linda. Emily. Whitney. Devon. Ash. Abhi. and Anthony.

It's interesting. The memories of my own college graduation seem to blur more with each passing year. I remember the thrills of sitting next to my closest friends and crossing the stage, shaking the hands of some of my mentors, and the excitement of having Kates and my family travel hundreds of miles to support me -- even though I denied it was a big deal at the time. But the images don't stick with me as if it happened yesterday.

Now, I think I enjoy the experience far more as an observer. It also offers some reassurance every few months that I'm here for a good reason. I'm making an impact, and this place is having one on me. And I need to keep working toward the goals I've set for myself here.

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