"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Graduation, again

It's an up mood-down mood time of year for me. Nothing makes me more aware of the passing of time than graduation. I've taken part in 40 or more of these now, and there is such a sense of accomplishment and pride, mixed with a sense of loss.

With Jill Kelsey
The smiles on the faces of the students, the introductions to parents and grandparents, the "Hey, Dr. Clark" greetings. They make me smile. I like clapping for the favorite students as they cross the stage, giving them a thumbs up, and afterwards, shaking their hands, hugging, getting my photo taken.

And then you walk away, take off the robe and funny hat, put it away. Some of the students stay in touch, some become friends, others are vibrant memories, and many become faces and names on the edges of my memory.

In the hall of the Communications Building we put up plaques each year listing all the graduates. I recently went there and started trying to put faces with the names etched in metal. It gets harder and harder, because the department has grown and changed, with more than 100 graduates a year, and my changing duties as well.

With Sherri Ward
But I see my reflection in those plaques, on several levels, and many of the students have become good friends. Thanks to Facebook I've reconnected with more. I'm fortunate in that I almost can't go anywhere in Oklahoma City that I don't run into  former students.

The other change is in myself and my colleagues. This year, colleague Mark Zimmerman, who once was my student, and then employee, took photos of me with Jill Kelsey and Sherri Ward. They're both in the midst of change in their lives, and Jill is retiring. This will be her last graduation. I hired both these people, and they were the first females in the department faculty. They have been excellent teachers, admired and loved by students. For me, they've become more excellent friends.

That's graduation.

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