Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Commencement(s) and a FIRST

Last Thursday morning Saint Michael's College held its 103rd Commencement exercises - we graduated over 500 students and the ceremony was marked by a first - Jamie Gorton was the student selected by his fellow classmates to deliver the address to the graduating class. I was on Jamie's POW when he first arrived at SMC and have enjoyed a friendship with him ever since. Although I never had him in class, I followed his successful career at SMC - he was actively involved in many areas of the campus and so I was not surprised when he was selected by his friends and classmates to deliver the student address. What none of us were prepared for was how he ended his talk. After providing many laughs ("nice of the faculty and staff to come to this commencement dressed as pinatas" - a reference to the many colors worn by faculty/staff which represent the colors of their individual colleges/universities) and providing a challenge to the students to make this a better world IF they can all work together to "make it work" - he asked Rachael to stand up - "you know which Rachael" he said and then he proceeded to ask his girl friend if she would marry him - I have attended 28 commencement ceremonies at SMC and this IS a FIRST. Fortunately for Jamie and the rest of us, Rachael said YES. There was thunderous applause as both Rachael (Roy) and Jamie are clearly favorites of their classmates. I know Rachael fairly well as she has taken a number of my courses, including most recently my Men & Masculinities course - while we discussed a wide variety of topics in that class, this is one we did NOT talk about - how to respond when your boyfriend proposes to you in front of 3,000 people....... I wish them both the very best.

On Thursday afternoon I was honored to attend a wonderful luncheon hosted by the family of Lucia Suarez Sang - Lucia is from the Dominican Republic and ten members of her family traveled to SMC for Lucia's graduation. She has been an active member of this community and she has been a joy to get to know and we are a better place because of the many contributions that Lucia has made here. Her family was clearly so proud of her and it was wonderful to be able to share with her family just how much we love and appreciate Lucia. I also had the chance to meet the family of Joy-Anne Headley and of Kemi Brewster - two of our students from Barbados. I had met Joy-Anne's family previously but had not met Kemi's before. Both of these amazing young women also have contributed much to our community and Commencement was a perfect time to express our gratitude to these families for sending their daughters to us.

Several of the young men who were in my Men & Masculinities course introduced me to their parents and there were many, many pictures taken over the course of a few hours. Getting to meet parents after WE have "had" their sons/daughters with us for four years is always one of those additional joys of working here. Of course, the morning began interestingly enough when Bill Collins, class of '84 came up to say hello - Bill and his wife Erin graduated from SMC in '84 and their's was the first SMC wedding I ever attended. Bill gave me a handshake and a hug and them told me that they were here for their son Bill's graduation - talk about feeling old......... It was also great to see several former students whose younger siblings are now graduating - time certainly flies these days and fortunately there are so many wonderful memories of so many current and former students.

On Saturday I traveled down to Boston where I attended the 'hooding" of my friend and former student Jim Howland. Jim earned his Ph.D. from the School of Education at Boston University and I was privileged to serve on his doctoral committee. His wife Liz, also an '88 graduate was there with their two kids - both sets of parents were also there and I had not seen them since Liz and Jim were married 17 years ago. Jim is the social worker/teacher at the only school in MA for kids in recovery and Liz is a social worked/teacher in a Special Education program near their home in Beverly, MA. Here is a picture of the three of us:

no pressure on their two kids, Ben and Marguerite but Mom has two masters and now Dad has his Ph.D.

In addition to Jim's commencement, Seth Brown - '09 received his Master of Science Degree in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia this weekend. It is extremely rewarding when I get to see my former students achieving their advanced degrees - we have so many of our students who are now going on to further studies and that speaks volumes about the programs offered by Saint Michael's College.

I have already heard from a number of my students who just graduated. Several have posted pictures from Commencement on Facebook and others have contacted me through Skype or emails. They all seemed to understand when I said that I don't say goodbye but "see you later" - hopefully we will stay in touch for many, many years to come. Good luck to you all and thanks to each of you for enriching my life here at SMC.

Take care, be well and please, please continue to keep all of the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, some thoughts for our seniors and yes, it is snowing here again.......

As many folks are celebrating Mothers' Day with their friends and families, our seniors are in the third day of Senior Week. Commencement is just a couple of days away (Thursday) and from all reports the seniors are having a good time despite the snow that has been falling for several hours - and they always ask why we can't have commencement outside??????? Two of my seniors (Dave Hiltz and Jason Fuchs) just took me out to lunch at Sneakers in Winooski - this place has been around since I began working here 29 years ago but now they have moved just a few doors down the street and they are better than ever. Jason and David are both psychology majors and they have each taken several courses with me. It is always such a time of mixed emotions as I know that they will be leaving soon (this is just a natural progression of how things are supposed to be) but they sometimes don't realize that THEY impact US as much as we impact THEM. Tomorrow evening there will be a reception hosted by the seniors for the faculty/staff of the College at the Catamount Country Club - this is always a great time for us to say those "see you later" remarks because I know that many, many of these seniors WILL be in touch with us for many years to come. I had 13 of my students over for brunch at my home last week - this is my Practicum class and while 3 were not able to join us, the other 13 had a great time - it was a nice day and we were able to get a couple of pictures outside. This group of 16 has been with me for the entire academic year and it is rewarding to read the evaluations provided by their site supervisors - it is also rewarding to remember back to September when they were all so tentative on their placements and to see them now after a year is truly a gift. They have worked 8 - 10 hours a week in social service agencies throughout Chittenden County and have done an amazing job of learning all that they can about their agencies AND impacting both the staff and the clients of their sites. I often remark on my blog about "the joy of teaching" and this certainly is one of those joys.

Last night I attended a graduation party for the son of good friends who used to live here in Vermont. Three of their sons graduated from SMC and their youngest just graduated yesterday from Champlain College. The Stratford family now lives in MA but it was good to have them all back here for Connor's graduation. Matt and his wife, Denis and his wife and Tim (without his wife but with pictures ) are all doing well and their parents Denis/Marnie look great and it was just nice to re-connect with all of them. I marvel at how easily goof friends re-connect even though it has been quite a while since I have seen any of them - email helps but this is much better.

I hope that you all have a great weekend and that you get to celebrate the impact that mothers have had on all of us - whether you are lucky enough to still have your Mother in your life or you have lost your Mother, remembering that her influence in our lives lives forever......

Take care, be well and as always, please keep the members of our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers and to all of our graduates - since I never say goodbye, I will ask that you remember that you have been successful here at Saint Michael's College and therefore, there is absolutely NO reason for you to ever think, even for a nanosecond (whatever that is) that you won't be successful when you leave here. On Thursday, President Jack Neuhauser will hand you your diploma and because you are polite, you will say thank you. You do NOT give him back all of the good times, the challenging times, the good decisions, the bad decisions you have made here during your four years - you will take all that you have learned from those four years and, armed now with a diploma from Saint Michael's College - go out and make our world a better place - God knows we need you to make this a better place.........

Peace and Godspeed - "see you later"