austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

When the ivy walks are far behind

My sister-in-law has graduated. I knew she had been taking courses in a ``nontraditional'' environment for a while, and never quite got what she was studying except at one point she thought I might be able to talk statistics with her (while I've studied statistical mechanics, that really has less to do with statistics than you might imagine). But since for the most part I haven't been on the same continent as her I don't think that represents a failure of decent interest in the people around me; I knew she was going and was making reliable progress toward her goal. And, well, she finally made it.

The ceremony was held in the Garden State Arts Center, the huge and beauty-free structure built decades ago and where I once received strangely detailed instructions on clapping. We got a seat right up by a large walkway, and only once did my father and my sister-in-law's father (uncle-in-law? I don't know the word for it) get in trouble for walking along that path which had been roped off as graduates were to march in along that path. The campus police (who as far as we could determine -- my brother keeps up on these things -- had absolutely no authority there) yelled at them to stop, but my father didn't hear, of course, and kept marching, leading to the spectacle of campus police doing a very poor job of chasing down two near-deaf retirees. I like to think the audience enjoyed that. We were dying laughing, certainly.

The committee looking for honorary doctorates to give searched as far and wide as the alumni directory, as they picked one alumnus who, while successful, still lived in the same county as the university and who hadn't gone to his graduation, and another guy who was a Trustee Emeritus. The Commencement Speaker was -- well, you know the game show Deal or No Deal, a rather enjoyable twist on the Monty Hall problem and test of expectation values? They had one of the suitcase women from it, who also hadn't gone to her graduation. We got to wondering if there were anyone on stage who had attended their own graduation, but the question was unanswered.

It was a pleasant if not very formal ceremony; and the high proportion of commuting or nontraditional students meant there were very few examples of cap art (only one anti-Bush cap, that we found), and most of the decorations added to gowns were small and reasonably tasteful things for this genre. On the way out people were passing out free copies of The Star-Ledger with a special wraparound section headlined the university celebrating ``Its `Success Stories','' which shows the ability of grocers' quotes to turn ordinary statements into sarcasm. At my mother's direction I picked one up; between my father and brother the family secured another four copies. Don't wave free stuff around the males of my family, is the lesson.

Trivia: The Big Bad Wolf, of the 1933 Disney short The Three Little Pigs, was animated by Norman ``Fergy'' Ferguson, later famous for animating Pluto. Source: Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin.

Currently Reading: Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild, David Stern.


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