BY: DENNIS BONA, COLLEGE PRESIDENT
I will concede that commencement can have the appearance of an old college tradition that has perhaps outlived its relevance in our digital age. Everything from the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” to the predictable and garish display of graduation regalia and seemingly endless speeches that too often drone on about preparing young adults for the “real world”. Well as lame as that may sound, for the students who chose to participate, their guests who are often the people who have supported them through to this accomplishment, and for those of us who work in this rewarding world of changing people’s lives, commencement is an awesome celebration of achievement!
Of course I have had the unique and special privilege for the past 20 years of being up on the stage with the graduates, either reading names or actually shaking their hands and handing them their diploma. This up close and personal perspective has provided me with insight as to just how momentous and important an occasion this is for students. I’ve witnessed their nervous expressions and felt every version of a handshake imaginable. Their body language often communicates uncontrollable emotions that reflect joy, relief, pride, fear, satisfaction, sadness, celebration and often a combination of all of the above!
In the end, I’m certain of a couple of things. First, few will have any recollection of what was said and even fewer will remember the details of the protocol, ceremony or pageantry of the event. But all who take that walk across the stage will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and the milestone that it represents in their lives. It’s a feeling that is deeply personal and one that can never be taken away, a feeling that one never regrets having experienced.
Second, for those of us who supported these graduates as they battled the rigors of the academia and/ or the many personal challenges and obstacles that they overcame to attain this great achievement, we experience a warm sense of accomplishment. Their achievement reinforces our own self-worth and adds both purpose and meaning to whatever effort or sacrifice we made to assist in their success. I’ve watched parents tear up with pride and contrary to the obligatory hard shell image that some of the toughest faculty prefer to project, they get weak kneed and get a lump in their throat at the sight of their favorite students flipping the tassel from left to right on their cap.
So you won’t be surprised when I proclaim my belief that this old college tradition is a great one. Even in this digital age where almost anything can be accomplished virtually through your phone, there is truly no replacement for the very physical and emotional experience of commencement. It’s a celebration that is worthy of everyone’s time. If you happen to be one of our outstanding graduates who either chose or were not able to attend commencement, we are of course still very proud of you and trust that you will be very successful in your future endeavors. In fact, I hope you continue your education and encourage you to participate in your next opportunity to take that walk across the stage!
Dr. Dennis Bona
Northland Community & Technical College