Pomp and Circumstance


Pomp and Circumstance. what does that mean? Well, the definition is: splendid ceremony with celebration and fuss. It is also the title of several military marches played at occasions such as graduations. This month, many students will don caps to take that walk of honor to receive their hard-earned diplomas. To me, a graduation is a truly momentous occasion – the recognition of an accomplishment worthy of “celebration and fuss.”

I have two very cherished memories of my oldest son, Matthew – when he graduated from Mott Community College, and four years later, from Michigan Technological University. Matt made the decision to go back to college after he became a single father. He owned a successful landscaping company, but decided that in order to provide his beautiful, little daughter the upbringing she deserved, he needed to further his education.

So, for two years, he took classes at MCC while working full-time. He would drop off his infant daughter every morning at a daycare center in Linden – diaper bag in tow – go to classes, and then study for many long hours into the night. He graduated with honors. Graduates of the MCC Honors Program are invited to attend the Annual Honors Program Dinner & Medallion Ceremony. Matt told me that the people he invited to the dinner were those who had helped him the most in obtaining his goal. He invited me, his father, and the owner of the daycare center who cared for his daughter while he went to school.

Matt made a decision to further his education and pursue a degree in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech in Houghton. He and his daughter, then two years old, made the long drive to the Upper Peninsula in his red pick-up truck. They lived on campus for four years, coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He worked as a teacher’s assistant and often brought home papers to grade over the holidays. During the summer, he would pick up landscaping jobs. On many occasions during those four years, he became discouraged and just wanted to give up. Imagine the challenge of raising a child alone on a college campus, working and studying, worrying about finances and not having a family nearby for support. He kept plugging on. I admired his tenacity and determination.

A few weeks before his graduation, Matt called me on the phone, his voice filled with excitement. He had applied for jobs with several different companies at a college job fair and was offered a position with the Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction and civil engineering company in the United States. When he told me the news, I couldn’t speak for a moment … his hard work had finally paid off. We both knew how much his life would change and we were overcome with emotion. He was still driving that same battered, red pick-up truck, and wearing the same worn out tennis shoes. And that was all about to change.

On a beautiful spring day in May, Matt’s sister, father, his three nephews and I drove to Houghton for the graduation ceremony and to celebrate his accomplishment. We all cheered as he walked on stage in his cap and gown and was handed that diploma. Never had I seen a bigger smile. For me, the moment was bittersweet, however, as his new job would take him and my granddaughter to a different state to start a new life.

This month, many proud parents will experience these same emotions as they watch their sons and daughters graduate. And there will no doubt be splendid ceremonies – with much well-deserved pomp and circumstance!


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