Circumstantially Pompous

Twelve years ago I graduated from high school.  When Jostens came to my school on the day we were to order our cap & gown and other graduation paraphernalia, I was incensed.  It's a monopoly.  My choice was Jostens or nothing.  So I went with nothing.  I took a moral stand against Jostens' monopoly.  That wasn't good.  I was on the administrators' radar because I was in the top 10 in my graduating class.  I was asked no fewer than 5 times by the various administrators of my school whether I wouldn't change my mind and actually participate in the ceremony.  In fact, one of them even talked to me as I was sitting with the band ready to start playing for graduation.

Six years ago, I graduated twice.  In the Spring with my BS and in the Summer with my MS.  I was ambivalent.  I didn't really care one way or the other.  It was no longer a moral stand against monopolies.  It was just a lack of interest in the ceremony.  In fact, I didn't understand what the big deal was and why so many people chose to participate.

This semester, I graduated with my PhD.  That will most likely be the last degree I ever obtain in my life and therefore most likely my last chance to walk in a commencement ceremony.  That was one reason.  Another reason is that, as a professor, I will use my regalia on many occasions for the rest of my life.  Therefore, I bought my own so I could use it throughout the years.   Today was my commencement ceremony.  The first one where I actually wore my cap and gown--and hood.  The first one where I walked across the stage and had my name read.

It was great.  It was actually a very brief ceremony.  They only had one speaker, who only spoke for a few minutes.  We sang the National Anthem and the school's alma mater (at the end).  Aside from the reading of names and the walking, I think that it was under a half hour.  It was actually really exciting to be part of something fancy and special.  I was surprised at how it affected me.  I felt warm and excited.  I felt good.  I realized that there's a reason for all of the pomp and circumstance that we humans do.  Before, I just thought it was silly and pointless.

Logically, it doesn't make any sense.  The outfits we wear while dressing in what Hugh Nibley affectionately calls the "black robes of a false priesthood" are ridiculous.  We wear a piece of cardboard on our heads.  We have a long, droopy colored piece of fabric that we drape down our backs.  It's pure nonsense.  So, before, I never really understood why people thought it was so special.  Now I think that it's special because people think it's special.  And that's good.  People are emotional.  People do silly things because of the emotions they elicit.  And I loved it.

And when they called my name, my husband and my friends were there to cheer for me.  It was great.  My advisor was proud of me as he placed the hood on me.  I have finished my long trek of college education.  I have not learned all there is to learn.  In fact, I intend to continue learning for the remainder of my life, as any professor should.  But my career as a college student is over.  I have attended 22 years of formal education.  I have attended 10 years of college.  I have earned 3 college degrees, all in mathematics.  I have spent countless hours working math problems, grading math problems, writing math problems, solving math problems.  I have studied many topics in mathematics.  And it has come to fruition.  I am now a doctor.  I have now officially joined the ranks of the stuffed shirts of academia (and, considering that I'm 260 pounds, my shirt really is stuffed).

Here is to a better, more educated world.  Here is to education in the arts and sciences.  Here is to teaching and learning.  Here is to the love of learning, and the improvement of minds.  Cheers.