So it all comes down to this. Five years at Cornell, ten design studios, countless exams, and one tightly rolled piece of parchment with my name on it. Done and done!
(my housemates: benn, travis, & jamie)
Eons ago, it seemed like I’d be at Cornell for eons. Then five years passed and the grand finale shot off in a blur. Life at Cornell as I had known it sputtered to an end and I finally felt prepared to move on. Classes done, parties thrown, pictures taken, and car packed to the brim with the nuclear fallout of college life. It was all finally over.
Graduation is not an end in itself; it is more of a transition. Many of us have no idea where we are headed, but the family pictures, long goodbyes, and funny hats remind us that we must be going somewhere.
Like an engaged couple whose first challenge together is planning their wedding, I was given the responsibility of orchestrating my own graduation weekend. Several relatives announced their intention to come to Ithaca for the festivities and I set out to find them adequate food and shelter. Four years as a campus tour guide and I thought I’d be prepared for this challenge, but the task of organizing one’s own family can never be underestimated. Keys, maps, schedules — all prepared neatly for their arrival, all somehow misplaced or discarded within hours. Four generations of Liddells roamed around campus — running up hills and darting between receptions without rhyme or reason.
On Saturday afternoon, the architecture department hosted a classy reception at the AD White house with enough wine on hand for conversation go down smoothly. Parents and professors confronted each other for the first time and swapped stories — hoping, perhaps, that their combined insight might paint an accurate portrait of their graduate.
A reception for campus tour guides followed shortly afterward, and I was impressed once again by the noise and energy generated by multiple tour guides in a single room. Volume must be an inherited trait, because the parents in attendance were no less boisterous than their offspring.
On Saturday evening, we retreated from the mayhem of campus to a beautiful enclave at the bottom of Cascadilla Gorge. The Director of the Rome program (a friend and Italian speaking-companion over the past couple years) opened her home to us and prepared an Italian meal with her husband for the entire group. The garden, the food, and the company couldn’t have been better.
Sunday morning finally arrived. I pulled on my newly acquired cap and gown and joined the pilgrimage of strangely clad graduates onto central campus. The architects huddled together in a small group on the Arts Quad in preparation for the big parade into Scholkopf stadium. I must have been nervous because I chomped down an entire box of Wheat Thins and moved onto a bag of Entenmann’s cookies (both purchased at the school store minutes before).
Students retrofit their mortar boards with colors and creatures while Beth Kunz, our fearless leader, draped purple stoles over our shoulders in recognition of the B.Arch (professional) degree. The Dean of our college, impressed by a multicolor boa on one girl’s head, found some feathers for himself and attached them to his hat — where they remained all day.
The ceremony went smoothly with thoughtful remarks by president Skorton, much applause from parents, and conferring of degrees by the deans. Our Dean joked that his boa flew in the face of hundreds of years of academic tradition; but he may not have expected it to blow into his own face during the ceremony. As he invited us to stand to receive our degrees, the strands of colorful feathers blew forward, obscuring his script and forcing him to pause to sheepishly readjust.
(at my best …and worst… with dean kleinman)
Shortly after the University event ended, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning held its own ceremony in a big tent on the Arts Quad. We listened to a few more comments from our administrators, then scampered across the stage as our names were announced. As I recieved my hard-earned diploma from Dean Kleinman, he said cheerfully, “I’m glad to see that you’ve stayed out of trouble Tim” — an apparent reference to my run in with the law last spring. I wonder if he knew that by handing me that diploma, he officially cleared my disciplinary record at Cornell. In any case, the diploma and handshake were appreciated.
In short order, family and friends dispersed across the country and I returned home to unpack, unwind, and start the next phase of life as a college-educated adult. Thanks to all who made it possible for me to go to Cornell, and all who made it painful to leave. It has been an incredible five years on the hill and I’m going to miss it.