I don’t know about you but I swore off graduations after my last child’s college graduation. I totally forgot that I would one day be old enough to have grandchildren. Last year the eldest bonus grandson graduated from high school and of course, we were there. This year his sister will follow and, of course, we will be back on those high school bleachers…

Then, last week I saw a former Viterbo University student’s FaceBook posting of a link to the city newspaper. Sophia had been chosen as the ‘graduate’ profile since she would be giving the undergrad’s commencement speech. I had mentored Sophia during her teaching practicum and we had met one on one once a week for an entire semester discussing methodology and today’s classrooms. Sophia epitomizes a student who had made the most of her college days. She loves her campus and even became a resident assistant helping students acclimate to college life on a daily basis. Sophia has a passion for teaching and it came as no surprise that she would land a teaching contract before she finished her student teaching experience this winter semester…

A work email also arrived asking for 10 faculty volunteers to serve as ushers. Tickets were being issued for the first time as winter graduations are usually smaller and held in Viterbo’s Fine Arts Center where seating wasn’t usually an issue. This year the nursing school class would be included and that would mean more guests with each graduate being allowed 4 tickets.

Instructions were given when we volunteers arrived a half an hour before doors opened and entailed three faculty at each door. One to tear tickets, one to hand out programs and the third to direct inside the auditorium. My assignment was the balcony with the task of verbally directing folks to their seats. Each seat needed to be filled and overflow areas were awaiting once the auditorium was filled. Now you can imagine what might follow…

Folks who had waited in line and arrived early wanted to pick where they would sit. Many were not real happy about having been limited to tickets anyway. My instructions were to fill each section at a time but my very first family would not hear of it. They had 10 family members coming. That’s how it began and it didn’t improve for the most part. You also need to understand that folks had issues with parking and many are accustomed to arriving last minute to events and it not being a problem. There were the elderly and those with disabilities who couldn’t do stairs. The royal headache increased as the lower balcony filled and the second tier was to be filled from the top down. Oy.

How happy would you be to have go all the way to the top and those who arrived later would have to climb less? Folks understandably would also be saving seats for those members arriving later and might even have sat elsewhere. I was thrilled having filled most of the balcony to be relieved of my ushering job to go downstairs for a seat supposedly saved…


I have a feeling that section’s student usher gave me her end seat but I didn’t argue and was relieved to be seated where I could even see my student’s face as she gave her condensed 5 minute talk. She even threw in some Spanish. ¡Ándale Sofía!

Yet, it was the Graduate speaker’s commencement speech which brought tears to this listener as she tied her immigrant South Dakota Norwegian grandparents’s working the fields to the difference of how today’s Central and South American immigrants working those same fields are treated. She as did Sophia connected the school’s Franciscan core values of contemplation, hospitality, integrity, stewardship and service from subject teachings with the intentions to accompany the school’s mission of faithful service and ethical leadership. What more could we wish for as their educators?

During Trustee Andrew Dahl’s speech he had the house lights lowered as he demonstrated the power of each individual’s contribution to society as he first just turned on his phone light, then asked graduates to add theirs, followed by the guests’. Each tiny light together with the others lit up the auditorium. By each of us letting our own light shine, we together will light up our society.

Congratulations to all Viterbo graduates. May you all help make this world a little brighter…

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