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Graduation Day

May 26, 2010   We all knew it was coming, but we didn't expect the procession to be so grand or the emotions to run so high. I don't think it was possible to expect exactly how the experience would turn out -- we would only graduate from Hamilton once, and this would be it.

We all lined up in our respective caps and gowns (tassles intact for most of us) and awaited the signal of the bagpipe band. See, the procession began with a bagpipe band -- a very talented one -- leading the way. As we filled in the Field House and saw the front of the room on two very large monitors in front of us and an eager crowd surrounding us, we knew that something grand was going to happen.

Sitting down in alphabetical order, we watched as a stage filled with Hamilton trustees, President Stewart, and other members of the faculty and administration stared back at us proudly.

Corinne Bancroft, a member of the senior class, received a special prize that recognized the Hamilton student who represented the ideals of the college and delivered a speech that was critical of Hamilton but also optimistic as it cited Hamilton's substantial progress in creating greater economic and cultural diversity on campus.

Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric and the parent of Sarah Immelt -- another member of my class -- delivered a fantastic and inspiring speech that argued the most successful graduates would be those willing to be innovative through action, not just thinking, and those willing to be humble in the learning process.

Shortly thereafter, each Hamilton graduate walked on stage individually, receiving his or her degree from President Stewart and their traditional cane as well.

Congratulations are in order to Phil Milner and Kevin Rowe, the senior class's salutatorian and valedictorian respectively. Next year, Phil will be enrolled in a Ph.D. program at MIT (chemical biology, I think) and Kevin will be traveling the world on a Watson Fellowship, completing a study on international cuisines.

As the procession ended and each Hamilton graduate reviewed the paper in their hands that was to somehow capture four glorious years, we stood up and sang Carissima, Hamilton's song.

We then received our blessing from President Stewart and were again ushered by the bagpipers who led us through a line of our professors, each of whom was clapping and cheering for the class of 2010.

As we met with our families, took our graduation photos and took mental photos of the last time we'd all be together as a class, I'm sure it hit us all that we really just had finished the beginning of the end.

And just like that -- 22 years after birth -- life suddenly became far more open-ended.

...what a day...