The wait in line was worth it. Like a long black ribbon connecting the past to the present, students formed a line, two abreast, from Reardon Auditorium, traversing campus, down University Boulevard and across the street to the Kardatzke Wellness Center. The line connected their past four years of classes to their commencement Saturday and each individual future. In all, more than 500 students received diplomas. For most, like Cylea Anthony, the day was an emotional roller coaster, leaving friends and starting a new life. “I think I’m experiencing every emotion there is. It’s bittersweet,” Anthony said while waiting to enter the center and take her place in history during the 87th commencement at AU. Unlike some, she knows her next step after graduation. “I’m getting married and moving to California.” Inside, organ music echoed across the steel-beamed ceiling of what usually is an indoor track and infield. Cameras from different angles panned the students and followed the procession in. The images flashed on two large screens, one on each side of the stage.
Family and friends of the graduates clogged the aisles and the entrance where the graduates filed in. Some held video cameras at arm’s length over their heads, trying desperately to get their son or daughter as they walked in. Others tried to see the images on small screens of digital still cameras.
Norman Middleton, 73, was watching a friend’s child graduate. He remembers his 1977 graduation from AU for his master’s of divinity. He smiled, thinking back at what he felt and what he learned after graduation.
“It will take some of them 20 years before they appreciate what they are getting or what’s happening to them today,” he said. “Some will take more out of here than others.”
Rollie Wrightsman, 73, of Lima, Ohio, graduated from Bowling Green University in Ohio in 1953.
The Korean War was on, he said. Many of the graduates of his class were expected to get drafted for the war following their graduation. He suspected the graduates Saturday will keep in touch with the friends they made in college.
“I remember waking across to pick up my diploma,” he said. “I remember talking with the fellows, they talked about what they would do after graduation.”
The graduates Saturday will remember their friends and they’ll remember receiving the degree in their hands, Wrightsman said.
When AU President James L. Edwards began to give the welcoming address, the roar of voices subsided. This year Anne Ryder, journalist and columnist, gave the commencement address.
Outside rows of tables with punch and cookies were being prepared for the celebration after the graduates moved the tassel from the right to the left.
Further down the street, students like Josh Davey, 21, a senior, loaded boxes into cars, vans and trucks. Boxes filled with books and clothes were being moved out of the dorms by the underclassmen, all within sight of the graduates.
Davey said he’s definitely looking forward to his own graduation a year from now.
— Avon Waters is a reporter for the Anderson Herald Bulletin (www.theheraldbulletin.com)