|Caps and gowns signal a most special day. (B.W. photo)|
We had music, speeches and inspiration.
This was the 49th commencement for our "jewel in the crown" institution. Where has the time gone?
I remember year one, when the U of M president came out here in UMM's still-fledgling days. That individual was O. Meredith Wilson. The town really rolled out the welcome mat.
People may have forgotten, but UMM's footing wasn't all that solid in the very earliest days. The campus was transitioning from an ag school. I don't think the state would have ever turned its back on it. But legend has it we were rather "experimental," tentative or shaky at the start.
Today we're all focused on the obvious vitality. There's talk of a new dorm being constructed on the campus. This is a pleasant surprise for me, as I have been suggesting that infrastructure expansion is going to be nearing an end for all college campuses,
I assert this as an Internet triumphalist. Also, as an adherent to the "higher education bubble" theory. We're all entitled to our opinions. UMM's ambitious plans show that either I'm wrong, or UMM will be successfully bucking the trend.
Maybe it's the large state colleges that will be in the most trouble. Maybe the U can sail through any shoals.
In 2012 as in 1964, we had the U of M president come out here. We have a fairly new U head in 2012: Eric Kaler, who spoke in a quite commanding voice Saturday. He made note of the aesthetics of our prairie setting. He talked about how UMM has "a deep sense of place" with its history. It all started as an American Indian boarding school.
UMM has never lost sight of that origin. Consistent with this remembrance, the Midnite Express Singers performed an honor song. The lead singer was Bad River Ojibwe who is also "keeper of the drum." The group was introduced by Sandra Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.
I remember doing an article on Olson-Loy for the print media when she first began. Back then the "media" were relegated to paper.
Chancellor Jacquie Johnson made periodic appearances at the podium, serving as sort of a "glue" for the ceremony. She brought Kaler forward with the proper sense of fanfare.
Manjari Govada spoke on behalf of the graduating class. With this distinction comes the Curtis H. Larson Award for Govada.
Larson spoke on behalf of his class in that historic spring of 1964 when UMM ushered its first class into the world. The memories of the JFK assassination were still fresh. Lyndon Johnson was president. Unfortunately we were about to see the worst of the Viet Nam War. I soaked in some of the heated rhetoric at UMM's Edson Auditorium for the "moratoriums" in the late 1960s. I was junior high age but had reason to be on campus.
Whether in turbulent or calm times, UMM music gives a fine backdrop to the festivities. Simon Tillier directed the band this year. (Technically it's "symphonic winds.") Tillier is teaching specialist of music.
The vocal ensemble was directed by an old and capable hand at UMM. He needs no introduction but let's introduce him anyway. He's Ken Hodgson, associate professor of music.
The band played a tune quite appropriate for our prairie setting: "Sheep may safely graze." Hodgson led his singers through "Double, Double Toil and Trouble."
The always engaging Chancellor Johnson gave closing remarks, at which time everyone got their cameras ready for the informal milling about and reception at Oyate. How about a little food next year? (I ask that with levity.)
I came to the graduation hoping I might shoot some photos while being totally inconspicuous. You never know until you arrive at these events. As it turned out, I really needed to get out in front of some people once or twice. Now that I read the program, perhaps this was something I shouldn't have done. We were all asked to remain seated.
But maybe my appearance prompted some nostalgia. I was active in the print media for 26 years. But even that tenure came a long time after that first-ever UMM commencement, memories of which I'll always have tucked away in my head.
And yes, Jacquie, it was held outside. The P.E. Center didn't exist then. Inside, it would have to have been held at the old "P.E. Annex." We were spared being crowded into there.
Congratulations to the 2012 University of Minnesota-Morris graduates.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org