Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Graduation Day

TigerBlog Jr. graduated from high school the other day.

It was a nice ceremony. It was held outside and behind the school's two main buildings, underneath a rather large tent, on a steamy Saturday morning.

The campus is small, and the older of the two buildings bears a bit of a resemblance to the Grad College at Princeton. It made for a very picturesque setting.

As for the ceremony itself, it was nice.

There were 115 graduates - all boys. The principal made a pretty good speech in which he used the nicknames of the 48 colleges that the graduates will be attending to define their character and characteristics. It was very creative.

For the record, the school is sending more grads to Penn State, Temple and Duquesne than anywhere else. One is going to Sacred Heart University; nine of the 115 are going to play Division I athletics, between lacrosse, baseball and golf.

One is headed for a seminary school. One is headed for the North American Hockey League before playing in college.

That was the kind of information that interested TigerBlog. The rest of the ceremony was typical - caps and gowns, a valedictorian speech (by one of TBJ's best friends; he started out talking about how much he likes to watch "Full House" reruns and went from there), the departmental awards, a keynote address that had several inspirational messages for the grads and of course the name-by-name recitation and awarding of diplomas to the grads.

In all it took two hours. It was probably pretty much the same script for TigerBlog's graduation all those years ago. And yours. And everyone else's.

TigerBlog, were he charged with running a high school graduation, would shake it up. Make it very informal. Have a reception under the tent, pausing to hear the speech from the valedictorian. Take a few minutes for the awards, because the winners deserve the recognition. But make it quicker.

Keynote address? Maybe, maybe not. And for the calling of all the names of the grads? How about doing it alphabetical order, and each kid who comes up for his diploma calls out the name of the next kid, who follows him and then calls the one after that. Or groups of friends who pick one leader who introduces all of the ones in the group.

Spice it up.

Today is graduation day at Princeton. It is the 268th Commencement Day at Princeton University.

That by itself is an incredible stat. Think about that.

Not too many institutions of any kind that were around in 1746-47 are still around today. Princeton University is one of them.

Those who graduate today would not have reached the finish line without an incredible amount of effort. Hey, just writing a senior thesis alone is challenging.

By graduating from Princeton, today's grads join what is without question the best, most loyal, most active alumni group anywhere. And there's a reason that Princeton inspires that kind of loyalty among its alums.

It is not easy to get into Princeton. In fact, it might be harder to get in than it is to get out four years later.

Princeton is a challenging place. It pushes its students to reach their fullest potential, and it challenges them every day.

Now is the day to reap the prize for the Class of 2015. Caps and gowns. Diplomas. Pomp and Circumstance. All of it.

As TigerBlog watched his son graduate the other day, he was struck by how fast those four years had gone by. Basically every senior athlete at Princeton whom TigerBlog has interviewed has said the same thing, that the four years flew by.

It is a fast-paced cycle, that's for sure.

It always goes the same way. There's a story on goprincetontigers.com announcing the incoming class.

Then there's orientation. There's freshman athlete orientation as part of that week, and TigerBlog always looks around the room at the faces, which are a combination of "what have I gotten myself into" and "I got this." TigerBlog always tries to guess who in that room will be the Roper and von Kienbusch winners.

Then they go off and start down the road to their own experiences. Some get hurt. Some never start. Some start every game for four years. Hopefully they all learn from their experiences. Hopefully they all get to compete for, and win, championships.

Eventually they reconvene - most of them - at the senior awards banquet nearly four years later. It's the start of their graduation week, and it's the end of their college experience.

They've grown up a lot in those four years. Mentally. Physically.

They've had to.

Princeton is not easy. It has high expectations and demands excellence.

To those who graduate today, TigerBlog wishes nothing but the best. That's especially true of the more than 200 of them who were varsity athletes here.

They have continued a legacy that began with a baseball game against Williams in 1864, slightly more than 150 years ago. They have added their own piece to that legacy, and now they all go their separate ways.

TigerBlog would say that he hopes they never forget where they came from, but he knows they never will. They're Princetonians.

That's not how they are.

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