This time of year I think about graduation ceremonies. The ceremonies are full of symbolism from medieval flowing robes to a flip of tassel from right to left. I have the privilege of being on stage as our students cross. It is always poignant and significant that they “cross” and walk away from their mentors to begin a new chapter. Sitting on the front row, I can see the nervous excitement on faces as the associate dean reads their names: “Lord, just get it right!” is the bubble above their heads. The exuberance to get to the “other side” as they head toward the President’s extended hand is palpable. It is a joyous occasion for so many. Although in the academy we do this yearly, I am reminded that this is their lifelong memory-making moment. Each year the Office of Mission & Ministry invites me to share “words of wisdom” for our graduating seniors on retreat. The team thoughtfully puts together a booklet with letters from individuals across campus. This is one small and sentimental tradition that adds to making Loyola a very special place, I am pleased to share my letter to our seniors with you.
For Your Senior Retreat:
Happiness does not depend on weather,
Although it sometimes helps to see the sun.
Paradise remains well-tucked within,
Precisely where one's labor is one's joy.
Yearning finds its answer in compassion.
Given the uncertainties of weather,
Rain and night in league against the sun,
All must find their happiness within,
Depending on their love of life for joy,
United by the bonds of their compassion.
And all should value knowledge, regardless whether
Tentative or salient as the sun,
In which one sees the world without within,
Open window to the source of joy,
Nor more nor less than one's sustained compassion.
I wish for you a life well lived! I wish for you the ability to hold both the memories of sun-drenched moments and the thunderstorms of doubt equally. I wish for you companions throughout this amazing adventure called life. I wish for you passionate work that brings you joy. You have given much to Loyola, and our hope is that in equal measure we have filled you to the brim! Celebrate all that you’ve learned, all that you’ve experienced… hold fast to that which is good and true… for you. I am very proud to have been your vice president for student affairs, My highest regards as you begin to leave us!
As part of our annual graduation ceremony, faculty and staff mark this day too! I imagine each of you have some version of a “robing area.” During “robing” for graduation at Loyola, the energy is high and the relief simultaneous … “the end is near” is the bubble over our heads. Colleagues talk about favorite students they will miss and the student who surprised everyone and is actually (and finally) graduating; these “war” stories never change—and there is a lot of smiling, nodding and winking. During the ceremony and after the first hour of hearing names called, I must confess that my row starts sharing commentary about graduate’s shoes and the decorations on their caps. All the while, one faculty member in the back row passes snacks around.Our comradery continues.
In the end, our traditions and ceremonies bring us back to mission and identity. At graduation, it is strikingly clear how strong, as a community, we believe that teaching the “whole” person is paramount and gratifying. I see it time and time again in the faces of our graduates and in the talk from our faculty and staff who strive tirelessly to see them through to crossing the stage.