Yesterday, I took my dad along on a day trip. Our destination? My nephew's graduation; he was getting his PhD in mathematics from Penn State University. For the curious among you, here's an example of a paper he has written on "Multifractal formalism derived from thermodynamics," and here's another on "Bowen's Equation in the Non-Uniform Setting."
Yeah, I thought so too.
Anyway, the occasion gave me pause to think about passages. We sat in the Bryce Jordan arena, families arranged in clusters peering down on the floor below, where rows and rows of chairs were arranged. The masters' students were all arrayed on one side, sitting in small clusters; as it soon became clear, they were seated by their majors. Masters' students had dressed themselves and some had not mastered (tee hee) the fine art of arranging their hoods. Some did not have the velvet sides properly displayed: colors on the velvet denote the major, the inside of the hoods denotes school colors.
Then the procession began, led by the marshal with the official mace. Behind the marshal came rows and rows of faculty resplendent in academic regalia. Most robes were black, dotted with the occasional dark blue. And then there were the splashes of red, green or dusty orange gowns. I even spotted one pale blue.
Finally, in marched the doctoral candidates in their robes, with their faculty advisors interspersed. The doctoral students did not have their hoods on; instead they were draped over their arms.
When the degrees were awarded, first all the masters' students rose and were pronounced as having their degrees. I confess--I relaxed a bit, no individual names, I thought. But, wait. . . The voice on the loud speaker intoned, "We know the family members here are proud and have supported their sons, daughters, husbands, wives and loved ones, but please HOLD your applause until the end, and no yelling out so we can hear the names as they are called."
OH. Individual names. Indeed--called one by one, marched up to the stage, handed the degree, and then the newly minted grads walked down the line of dignitaries' shaking hands.
Then the doctoral students--first, they were all called to rise. Then advisors hooded them, and they were pronounced all doctors. And then the calling of names. By then, the well-behaved families and friends had forgotten the intoned announcement. As some names were called, there were loud cheers--"Go, ___" or "WOOOOOO". Well, I can understand the feeling.
Finally, our doctoral candidates name was called (and properly pronounced). I confess squelching the urge to stand up and go "WOOOOO" myself.
Passages are important. My father had expressed an interest in attending this graduation. I think he has attended the various graduations of all his grandchildren, who chose to participate in their graduation ceremonies. I likely would not have attended my nephew's graduation otherwise. But, it was a rewarding event to have attended.
Here's a link that has a photo album with a Penn State Graduate School ceremony: it is not my nephew's but shows what the scenes are like.
Photo above of my nephew--contemplating Niagara Falls, from the photo album on my brother's Facebook page.