Graduation – What a Day, What a Night!

Graduation day gave me a bit of a taste of what it’s like to be a rock star, minus the waiting. I slept in until 8am because my wife had the day off from work and we hung out for a while until she went to her mom’s to go scrapbook. Given the time (10am) and her need to be back home for lunch by 1pm, I knew there was no way they were scrapbooking. Those two can’t make a page in six hours, let alone two! I figured they were hanging the family graduation banners and balloons and maybe making some finger food to put in the fridge until we got back from commencement around 8pm. More on that later…

As we drove into town, it started to sprinkle. Then it started to pour. That’s not really a big deal when it’s an indoor graduation, but anyone who has ever been to a graduation at the Sun Dome knows two things: 1) it is a long walk to your car 2) the crowds around the one entrance everyone wants to use makes things 10x more difficult. We didn’t want rain. We didn’t get rain there. /phew!

I made my way to the registration area, got my card to give to the reader (who has the distinct “privilege” of reading every single student’s name as they walk across the stage), found a classmate from an English class, and proceeded to the floor… 75 minutes before the ceremony was set to begin. Soon, the stands begin to fill, and I don’t just mean that people started arriving, either. By the time we sensed they were about to begin, we were hard pressed to find any empty seats in a 10,000 seat arena set to 7,000 or so capacity for the event.

USF President Judy Genshaft’s opening words shocked us. We were the largest single-semester graduating class in the history of USF with 5,050 students and Dr. Stu Silverman read 1,021 names from that night’s commencement alone! Looking at the photos below, I can tell you from 2 past Sun Dome graduation ceremonies, the chairs usually only extend 3/5ths of the way back from the front. There were about 400 more names read than I remember the previous tallies they announce in thanking him for such a speaking effort.

If there is one thing I will always remember from the yada-yada-yada that took place was the Genshaft saying, “Remember, as the university gains in stature, so does your degree.” I beam with pride every time I see the USF helmet or logo on SportsCenter during the NCAA football season when they break into the Top 25, even the Top 5. I grew up as a little boy thinking I’d be a Buckeye, and that Ohio State pride still runs very, very deep.

Now I am a Bull.

It's hot! Can we go?

Second row, baby!

The Prez
... after!
Two grads

Happy parents
Happy in-laws
THE cake

As I headed to my seat, I noticed my brother-in-law getting up and walking along the upper walkway along with me, waving. I thought he was just going to the bathroom. He never came back. Hmmm. When we all got to the cars for photos, as planned, I asked where he was and I somehow got duped into a quick change of subject and a pile on of hugs. I was sort of grumbling to myself that he wasn’t in any of the photos. When we got in the car, I asked my wife why he left, to which she replied that his girlfriend forgot something and he needed to take it to her before she left for vacation. Grumble… putting your girlfriend before my college graduation… grumble.

As we pull onto their street and approach their house, I couldn’t figure out why there was a Jeep Wrangler and a Chevy Lumina parked in front of the house.

  • I wasn’t expecting anyone to come over at nearly 9pm.
  • I wasn’t expecting the Jeep because he’s a rather new acquaintance, but that’s cool.
  • The driveway was empty.
  • No other cars were to be seen.

I opened the door and my jaw must have hit the floor to see 14 people there shouting, “Congratulations!” There was my entire small group from church, a couple from a past group, our first year marriage mentors, and my best man… along with a nice spread of mini sandwiches, dips, and a USF cake made by my favorite cake maker.

I knew that little lady of mine was up to something. She spent the entire ride home recounting all of the lies she told me in the last 10 days to keep it a surprise and get everything planned. We got home after midnight, thus started my first full day as a college graduate.

What a woman!

What a graduation!

Thanks, family and friends, for making it my best day, second only to our wedding.

The Second Big Day Has Arrived

Big Day #1: Wedding

Big Day #2: College graduation

Commencement is at 6pm, but we have to be there by 4:30, so I’d better get a big lunch in before the long fast until post-ceremony eating can begin.

The live webcast is shown here: – you can either download the Silverlight plugin at the top right of that page or click the link below the video window to watch it in Windows Media Player.

No Pressure

I’ve recently realized that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform in too many areas of life that are so non-stop, it’s relentless… and probably taking a toll. I set the goal to graduate in May, which required taking 5 courses this semester and 4 next semester with each one including a Spanish course. So, while every course is necessary, the Spanish is “do or die” because they are 1) sequential; 2) much better to take in a 13-week semester; and 3) going to change the curriculum after May. To have to take Spanish 1 twice would be devastating to my goal.

Yet that is the course I have the least control of. How do you force yourself to absorb the concepts of a foreign language while not immersed in speaking it and working 50-60 hours/wk (in English, I might add)?

Things will only get worse in February when I apply to graduate. I’d really like to have some sort of celebration of my 13-year journey to get my degree, which would involve invitations and then require a follow-through performance to pass Spanish 2.

It’s time to stay positive and focus on the goal: hearing Dr . Silverman rattle off 800+ names at commencement, one of which being “Jesse Petersen,” walking across that stage with 5,000 watching with no clue about who I am, and then hanging my diploma in the hall next to my wife’s.

That will be a fine “job well done.”