ConGRADulations MMU Class of 2014

Seniors get flowers at Mass.

Seniors get flowers at Mass.

Yes, I know it’s “congratulations.” It’s just a bit of linguistic trickery in honor of the 2014 MMU graduates. Today was a fine day—a beautiful, lush, green Iowa spring day with sunshine, gentle breezes and an afternoon high just touching 70 degrees.

It was a wonderful day for the MMU graduation and the picnic that came afterwards.

The morning began with senior Mass in the Chapel of Mercy. One highlight was Father Dustin Vu describing himself as a “rock star priest,” in a nicely done sermon, and, to be fair, he is. At the Mass, the seniors received a rose and a blessing.

Later came the actual graduation ceremony at the Five Seasons Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. We’re back there after a hiatus at the Ice Arena, and I’m happy to be home again in the more spacious confines of the center.

Our speaker was a 2002 MMU grad named “Kutcher.” He has a famous twin brother named Ashton, but I was pretty pleased to hear from the less well known Kutcher twin, Michael. He lives with cerebral palsy, and he spoke movingly of the day a few years ago when he met a young girl who has much more severe disabilities than he does from that condition.

“I felt shame,” he said. And as a result, he found his calling—to be the voice for the little girl who can’t speak for herself, to be an advocate for people living with cerebral palsy. Kutcher’s message was pretty inspiring. I tried, but my little point-and-shoot camera didn’t take a clear picture of him—but trust me, even if his photos were foggy, I think his message as clear and sharp.

It was, as graduation speeches go, a good one.

Sun shines in chapel window during senior Mass.

Sun shines in chapel window during senior Mass.

And then, after degrees were given, came the singing of the Alma Mater, a song that, in my opinion, demands a certain volume—it’s the kind of anthem that if it is to be sung at all, should be belted out to make the rafters ring.

“All hail our alma mater, with spirit strong and true.” And to be truthful, I did sing loud. I may have embarrassed and endangered the hearing of professors in my neighborhood.

I would say I’m sorry, but my strong, true spirit won’t let me lie. The song is a legitimate excuse to make some noise. Especially on the extended “forever” that ends each verse: “We’ll honor and remember her foooooorrrrreeeeeeeevvvveeeer.” That long forever is the crest of a crescendo, so crescendo it, please.

Then, after the ceremony, came the annual MMU picnic, one of my favorite events. It’s my annual veggie burger (which I eat with a double beef burger and hot dog on the side). It’s a chance to sit and relax and chat and see and be seen—and who did I see but a wonderful blast from the past named Christina.

Like mother  like daughter? Christina Capecchi and daughter during a tour of the larger office the Times occupies now. More than a decade ago, Christina was the first Times editor I worked with.

Like mother like daughter? Christina Capecchi and daughter during a tour of the larger office the Times occupies now. More than a decade ago, Christina was the first Times editor I worked with.

Christina Capecchi was the first editor of the Mount Mercy Times I worked with when I joined the faculty in 2001. She is an excellent writer, and after MMU earned a graduate degree and went on to be a nationally syndicated columnist in Catholic newspapers and a part-time writer for The New York Times. She graduated 10 years ago, and was back for a sister-in-law’s graduation from MMU.

It was great to see her, her husband and her young daughter. It was fun to show them the newsroom and also to introduce her to Tom Kremer, this year’s Times editor.

He’s got a few more years on him than Christina does, since he’s a nontraditional student who came back to college after some working years. And she was a bright, bubbly sophomore that year that she edited the paper, while Tom’s demeanor would never be called “bubbly.” But, somehow, they are similar souls. Both are talented and insightful writers. She earned her graduate degree and he is off to grad school this fall. If I could invite them both over for a chili feed, I think it would make for an interesting evening.

All in all, today was a very satisfying day. Sadly, a substantial minority of MMU graduates chose to eschew the ceremony and picnic, which is too bad. Shared rituals are good for a community, I think, and the picnic is a fitting finale to the graduation day.

Well, if you weren’t present for graduation or the picnic, you missed a heck of a speech, a very nice meal and some grand visitors. I’m glad I was there.


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