I had a conversation with my mom this week that brought to light some of the startling similarities among our college experiences.
My mom finished her Bachelor’s degree at Boston University in 1970. She went on to earn two master’s degrees at BU, in Education and Historical Preservation.
I got my Bachelor’s degree at Arizona State in 2005, and am currently pursuing an MBA.
My mom and I both witnessed significant historical events while in college that had serious effects not only on our lives, but on the entire country. For Mom, it was the Vietnam protests and shooting at Kent State. For me, it was September 11.
I think we can both pinpoint exactly where we were and what we were doing when these incidents occurred. Spanning more than 30 years, they spurred the same feelings of fear, uncertainty and grief.
Following 9/11, I can remember some unrest on campus, but activity was more peaceful then aggressive. It was a different story at BU. I read this week that following Kent State, outraged students threw firebombs at an administration building, and several fires were set on campus.
University Officials, weary of the unrest, cancelled all ceremonies and festivities with regard to safety. My mom remembers the university forgoing final exams and ordering students off campus. They cancelled commencement ceremonies and simply mailed diplomas out to students. My mom never got to walk with her class.
Here’s where the irony comes in.
When I finished college, I didn’t really want to go to graduation ceremonies. No one did. Seems absurd now. We were so overjoyed with our newfound freedom that having to commit to anything sounded miserable. It didn’t help that at one of the country’s largest universities, these ceremonies are quite a process.
Fortunately, along with most of my friends, family and common sense convinced us it was ridiculous to miss the ceremonies. I still fondly remember graduation day and am grateful I attended.
I can only imagine what a different story it would’ve been if we didn’t have the option to attend, and were never publicly recognized and lauded for our achievements. What kind of world is it where a college education is so taken for granted that students are too lazy to participate in commencement?
Bur back to my mom’s situation – Boston University has decided that it’s time to make amends to the class of 1970 and that everyone deserves a graduation. The university has invited several thousand alumni from that class to return to Boston on May 16 to participate in graduation.
The class of 1970 has been invited to two days of events for what would be their 40th reunion weekend, said Meg Umlas, the university’s executive director of alumni relations.
On May 15, BU will hold a special remembrance service, where a tribute will be held for the Kent State victims, deceased classmates, and the late Howard Zinn, a former BU professor and an antiwar activist. On May 16, before the graduation, the class will have its own convocation ceremony at Rich Hall. After the ceremony, graduates will walk out onto Nickerson Field and join the BU class of 2010 for commencement (Boston.com).
One woman interviewed about returning to graduate said the following: “I don’t know if I’ll know anybody, but I feel like I’ll hug everyone. I just want to a chance to say goodbye and say what a nice class we were and that we were worthy.’’
I’m not whether scheduling will permit my mom to make the cross-country trek, but I certainly hope she can attend, and if not, at least her accomplishments have finally been given proper recognition.