Tag Archives: graduation

Reflections of 2011


G bell

Chapel lights reflected in a G bell. I play this G and an A in the MMU bell choir.

For no particular reason, I think mostly because I had the photos and needed an excuse to use them, I posted pictures of the bells I play in the Mount Mercy University bell choir on my bike blog.

We—the bell choir—rang at graduate student hooding Friday. Today was honors convocation, commencement Mass, graduation and picnic are tomorrow.

Well, the Friday ringing was OK. I got lost for a time in one song, but tried to at least look calm, and was “with it” for most of the concert—particularly the biggest challenge, the number we perform with the MMU choir.

I hope the ringing goes well—but it’s kind of nice that we’re playing at graduation. It means that the focus isn’t on us.

It’s on the people who have earned degrees. The young women and men starting their careers, the older people who’ve come back to the university for their BA or Master’s degrees, the adult evening learners working for a better job and to provide more for their families.

Graduation 2011 feels a little scary. Nobody knows where the economy is headed, and it’s a tough year to enter the labor force with a newly minted MMU degree.

Take heart, class of 2011. It’s not the best of times, but at least it’s also far from the worst of times. Getting the career kick started can take time. By earning your MMU sheepskin, you’ve positioned yourself to live a different kind of life, but that life doesn’t automatically open before you—you still have to push and think and watch for opportunity. Opportunity never knocks. It whispers.

In the Journalism class of 2011, one student is from Germany, one from California, one a local girl whose aspirations are taking her in a non-journalistic direction. I wish them all the best and wonder where the winds of fortune will take them.

One of the best students this year isn’t a member of the class of 2011—Cindy doesn’t graduate until December and will walk the stage with the class of 2012. She has already started working on her future—instead of finding a job, she’s creating one as the owner of her own news outlet.

Well, scary. But, well, cool.

The class of 2011 will do many things. Students earning degrees today will have to be ready to change course, change jobs, learn new skills and keep moving.

Good luck to you all. And for you, I ring my bells.

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Ben Graduates from Linn-Mar


Ben's sisters, Theresa Kent and Amanda Moscou, urge him to conquer the word. Ben works on his "conquer the world" look.

I was prepared to hold up the Mount Mercy Alma Mater as an odd-sounding anthem to beat any anthem, but the Linn-Mar Alma Mater gives it a run for the money.

Had a great day May 30. Ben graduated from high school. He was festooned with grad bling—cords for service to the school, a tassel for distinction, National Honor Society cords—nice. I think Ben enjoyed graduation, and I know I did.

The ceremony itself was a typical graduation, a bit dull and long, although I think the student speeches were a cut above average (and I say this as a mediocre high school graduation speaker myself). The valedictorian, Sarah Weems, used a construction theme, which was mildly amusing. The salutatorian, a young man named Karan Rao, shared how the loss of his father shaped much of his high school experience—a touching, heartfelt speech.

How was it to have number six graduated? It was fun. Many family members gathered after the fact at the house and enjoyed some visiting and some eating.

Audrey, Ben and I. Two smiles out of three, as Meatloaf sang, "two out of three ain't bad."

The glut of graduation parties seems to be easing off, and we can maybe start enjoying the interlude summer between high school and college with Ben.

Ben has grown into an interesting, complex young man. He has a pleasant, wry sense of humor and a keen intellect. He can be a bit withdrawn and sullen—but golly gee, he’s 17. To some extent, a teen is entitled to a bit of teen leeway.

It’s not exactly time for a “George W. Bush” moment, where I can claim job well done and mission accomplished. Ben and Nina are still in college, and, to some degree, your children will always be your children, even as they grow and assume responsibility for their own lives.

But it still feels like a milestone has been reached. Whew.

Well, Ben, may your next adventure be fun and rewarding. I think you deserve credit for giving yourself a good start.

Ooops--Ben too busy joking with Amanda to notice the camera, the elusive Ben smile is thus caputred, if not on film, at least by electrons.

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Are We All The Same?


Katy Sebers

Katy getting ready to graduate. Mount Mercy Times photo by Cindy Petersen.

Terry Waite, a world-famous humanitarian, author and former hostage spoke at Mount Mercy’s graduation ceremony May 23.

Traditionally, graduation speeches are frothy and forgettable. Based on that tradition, Mr. Waite’s speech was an epic fail. I found it both thought provoking and memorable, and parts of it have been rattling round in my brain for days.

More on that later.

Graduation 2010 was special to me in many ways. It was the last graduation for Mount Mercy College, which, by the time it holds another large year-end graduation ceremony, will be dubbed “Mount Mercy University.” Sadly, I think they are keeping the Mustangs team name—when, obviously, MMU could easily be the Fighting Cows.

Katy Sebers, the third of my four daughters, was part of the class of 2010. She began her college career at Morningside College in Sioux City, ended up a wife and mother and student MMC, and changed her major from nursing to education to business.

But, she finished college and bore two children in four years. She’s the fourth of my children to earn a college degree, just two to go. All have finished in four years, or, in the case of Theresa, 3 ½ years.

Congratulations, Katy.

Besides some personal importance, and marking an institutional transition at Mount Mercy, there was a lot that was new for the graduation of 2010. What did I think of it?

  • Hooding ceremony was nicely done. Have to have a step ladder, however, if we insist on short faculty with PhDs hooding tall MBAs.
  • Honors Convocation was shorter than in the past. Thank goodness.
  • Time change to Sunday helped. I know, Sunday should be family day, but the switch boosted attendance at the senior Mass, which had almost always been a non-event in the past, and it created a whole day of hoopla. It (an extra day) meant not all other events had to be crammed in right before graduation. I know the change brings mixed reactions, but looking back? Yeah, it worked.
  • After-party continues to be a premier MMC event. It was windy, which didn’t help, but the picnic on the hill is cherished tradition and I hope MMU continues it. Could not linger as I had in year’s past—had my daughter’s party to attend and a student’s non-party to attend (tried to go a week early, did not realize her party was not on graduation day). Still, my annual consumption of a veggie burger was satisfying, even if Nikayla though I was crazy (she was perfectly willing to share cookies, but not the veggie burger).
  • Brian rocks out at Music Fest. Mickey's husband is behind him on drums. Mount Mercy Times photo by Cindy Petersen.

    Music Fest, about a week before graduation, was a wonderful new idea that I hope takes off. Although the crowd could have been bigger, I really enjoyed it, even as Brian’s music caused my flesh to boil. (Times editor said his rock band would melt faces. It came close).

  • Speaking of music, bells were indeed fun, and we got much more of a response this year. We played more and joined the choir for the alma mater. Should we keep the alma mater? Yes, indeed, it’s a Mount Mercy tradition, like the after-party, that should unite the university that will be to the college that was. And I hope I will be ringing for the class of 2011. Thank you, Carolyn, for your able leadership of the bell choir.
  • Besides Katy, I will miss having as students many members of the class of 2010. Brian, Bob, Mallory and Mickena of course come to mind, as do many others. All of you stay in touch, I will enjoy watching your journey from the hill. There is a danger in naming several students and not naming all others, and I don’t mean to slight any—there are many faces, voices and spirits I will be missing. Seeing the class of 2010 go is bittersweet, but that’s good. If a transition is only sweet, it’s not a sign you’ve been enjoying the trip. This has been a trip that was thrilling.

All in all, the graduation was hoopla done well. The Prez could cut back on his faux speech to conclude graduation, but I still have to give him credit, too—he does ceremonies well. Jennifer gave a nice student speech, which, of course, is only because she had a brilliant speech teacher. His name was “Joe,” by the way.

But the real crux of the event was Terry Waite and his speech. What a refreshingly pleasant, intelligent and thoughtful fellow. Kudos to the powers that be for bringing him to our hill.

Terry Waite speaks to MMC class of 2010. Gazette did not cover, to their shame--it was a great speech. MMC Times photo by Tom Cranston.

In his speech, he noted that there should never be a “war” on terror because wars escalate violence and divide people, and clearer attention to peaceful resolutions and bringing people together is needed. This from a man who was held captive and tortured by people Bush the Shrub would have dubbed “evil doers.”

Waite recalled his helpless feeling when visiting the mother of a British man brutally beheaded in Afghanistan. Then, he said, she spoke words that touched him. She noted that the loss of her son in such a hideous way was incomprehensible and her grief unimaginable. But she, the mother of a man who had been decapitated by his captors, noted that her grief was no greater than the grief of an Afghani mother whose child dies from a bombing attack or other military action by British or American forces.

I’m not a pacifist. But even I can see violence, even if sometimes necessary, is a path that tends to perpetuate itself.

Waite reminded his audience that despite different cultures and religion, we must always remember our shared humanity, even in the face of violence.

And, he said, we must never think that change is impossible—that the problems we face in reconciling with today’s enemies are too big to solve.

Given his life history, those words had a certain resonance and power.

Nikayla and I enjoy Music Fest on May 14. Hayley, the girl with us, is the youngest member of our bell choir (not sure I'm the oldest, Sister Shari might have a few years on me, but I'm close). Mount Mercy Times photo by Cindy Petersen.

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Notes from ISU Graduate Graduation


The Moscous

Lizzie, Amanda and Matt after Matt earned his PhD.

Dr. Matthew Moscou, my daughter Amanda’s husband, graduated from Iowa State May 7 with his PhD.

For the occasion, Amanda crafted a hand-decorated onesie for their 6-month-old daughter Elizabeth. Since Matt did much of his research on barley, the shirt includes, on a sleeve, a heart that looks a bit like a tattoo. The message on the heart? “Barley rocks.”

Yes it does, and the back of the shirt labels Lizzie as a “BCB Baby.” BCB is Matt’s field, his PhD is in something something “Bio” “Informatics” “Computers” “Breadcrumbs” or something. It’s hi-tech stuff that involves barley.

Congratulations to Matt, who late last year scored, along with an ISU professor, the cover of “Science.”

He and his family will be off to the U.K. this summer for his post-doctoral research. We’ll be listening for a cute British accent as Lizzie learns to speak in the land of Shakespeare and Monty Python. We plan to get a U.K. stamp on our passport while they’re over there, and in the meantime will be grateful for “Skype.”

Anyway, how was the graduation at ISU? After all, as a college professor, I have a professional interest in graduations, and Mount Mercy is just now starting to award graduate degrees. We have master’s degrees in education and business, and will be staring programs in family counseling and nursing.

Notes from ISU’s graduation:

  • Make sure the speaker doesn’t provide a “travelogue.” The ISU speaker talked about all the attractions of ISU—to an audience of impatient graduates, most of whom will be leaving Ames. Granted the families were there too, but still. It was not a great theme.
  • Treats are always nice. One of Mount Mercy’s better traditions is the post-graduation bash on the hill. With the timing of graduation being changed this year and an optional brunch being added, I hope that bash doesn’t get cut back too much. When Amanda graduated from Simpson, there was punch and cookies. Pathetic compared to MMC’s party-hardy approach. When Jon graduated from ISU, there were bars and lemonade. When Matt earned a PhD? Nothing. I felt cheated from calories. People were going to stand around and chat and visit anyway—give them some cookies, at least.

    Elizabeth Moscou

    Elizabeth had a big Friday night, staying up till 11 at dad's graduation, and then was entertained by family all day Saturday. Despite being worn out, the tired little baby was happy most of the time--she is a very social girl.

  • Stephens Auditorium is an interesting building. We were in the first balcony, and it looked like we were perched on the edge of a dust buster about to pitch into oblivion. To be fair, it didn’t feel that way—the balcony seemed rock solid—but I’m not fond of heights. I have to admit, however, for such a huge auditorium, the sight lines and acoustics seemed excellent. The building is a bit dog ugly, with its concrete construction and dark industrial carpeting, but has an odd charm about it too, partly because it seems to work so well, and an auditorium that actually functions is a thing of beauty. Despite the sort of Soviet-era heaviness to the architecture, there is also some grace to the shapes—I like the way the interior walls pitch towards the stage. I guess, even if it’s not my style—as I blogged earlier I’m fond of old, ornate auditoriums—Stephens deserves it reputation as an Iowa architectural jewel. Mount Mercy could use a 1,200-seat auditorium, which would require a change in the master plan, but if you’ve got $25 million and want to give it to MMC, I’m sure we can build an $18 million auditorium, name it after you, and have $7 million in extra endowment to support the arts. Just a thought.
  • It was nice to have some casual family fun, too.  Nick and Adrian, two of Matt’s friends, held a casual lunch reception the day after graduation. That was a highlight of the celebration, it was relaxed, with excellent food, just hanging around, eating, talking, and (in my case) dozing off on a couch. Family gatherings are a focal point of this kind of event—if you’re graduating this year and don’t want to have one, remember it’s not all just for you. People coming in from out of town should have an “unofficial” time to gather and socialize.

Well, in closing, congratulations, Dr. Moscou. You’ve achieved an important milestone and seemed to have fun doing it, too.

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First Blooms The Sequel


Irises and peonies.

White irises in front, blooming red "Japanese" peonies in back. Peonies have pretty yellows center, are smaller than "regular" ones.

It’s an extraordinarily busy spring. Katy, Ben and Matt all have graduations, with a BA, a high school diploma and a PhD—all on three sequential weekends.

Getting people to all 3 events is further complicated with this being the spring of new moves and new jobs—just got back from Omaha late last night moving Nina into an apartment. She has a social services night job, which seems to be going well, but I hope she does not get too worn out.

April 30--Amanda, Lizzie and Audrey.

Last day of April 2010. "Mess" is due to impending move and packing. Amanda, Lizzie and Audrey during our supper stop on the way to Omaha to move Nina.

It was fun to see Lizzie on the way there, and to briefly say hi to Matt and Amanda on the way back.

Yikes. End of spring semester is always busy anyway, the extra travel time this year makes this the time that tries men’s tires, sleep patterns and health. Well, stress is not always negative, and this spring seems full of positive stress.

Anyway, of course, this is all about the garden, where “new” has been a theme this spring.

As you can see, Japanese Peonies (I think they are Japanese, I keep calling them either Chinese or Japanese—but of course, I’m relying on the name the family gave them in the farm garden, and who knows?) are in bloom. They formed buds earlier, bloomed with smaller flowers and will probably be done before the “traditional” peonies are in bloom.

That’s nice. It’s the mirror image of lilacs, where the larger, “traditional” bushes bloom before the exotic dwarf varieties, but like lilacs, one reason to have more than one type of peony is to have a longer peony season.

Bearded Iris.

Yellow and green leaf is "bearded" iris that will grow no beard (flower). Not that it, the older iris, is next door to a new white iris that is blooming. Backyard garden iris witch casts powerful spells ...

The other big news from the garden is that the plain white irises are in bloom. Note photo—the variegated leaf is a “bearded” iris that should bloom blue. I split up a non-blooming clump in the back garden and placed roots in various places.

I feel a little less inadequate about the whole iris controversy. Who knows why almost all of my iris refuse to bloom? When the variegated bearded one is right next—right adjacent—to new white irises in the new garden in the front yard, they still won’t bloom.

The iris’s witches spell apparently works in new gardens, but, happily, appears not be contagious.

A new evergreen bush that looks like a rhododendron relative is also in bloom for the first time. Naturally, I have no record of what it is. But oh well, the flowers are the point.

New Moscow lilac whose photo was in an earlier blog post has tripled in size. If it keeps going, it may reach that magic size, 4 to 6 feet, when a lilac will bloom next spring.

We’ll see. Time for me to go—tons of other stuff to do in this busy, but happy, spring.

New bush in bloom

New bush in back garden blooming this spring. Don't remember what it is, it looks a bit like a type of rhododendron.

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Living Life’s Transitions


Amanda gets a surprise

Amanda was having her hair fixed the day of Theresa's wedding. She wanted juice and a home-made cinnamon roll and called Ben. Surprisingly, Ben delivers. You just never know what the future holds ...

Soon, the class of 2010 will walk across the stage and take its place in the American workforce.

For some, it will be an easy transition—students who have connections or luck or the right major may have already lined up nice first jobs. Other students have applied for, and been accepted, into graduate school.

For many, however, graduation means the beginning of a time of uncertainty and at least temporary unemployment.

That’s the way it was for me when I graduated with a BA in History and Communication from Marycrest College in 1982. I was engaged to be married, my future wife had a nursing job in central Missouri, and I was unemployed.

Luckily, not for long. Despite a national recession and the presence of the one of the world’s largest journalism factories at the University of Missouri just 20 miles east, I got a job at the “Booneville Daily News” as a sports editor.

That brings me to a point of advice to the class of 2010: Remember Tom Hanks in the 2000 movie “Castaway.” When reflecting on his experience—being stranded on a deserted island with only a volleyball for company and, at one point, being driven to the brink of suicide—he noted that one lesson he learned was that you just have to keep breathing. Because you never know what the next tide will bring.

That can be scant comfort when you’re standing at the edge of the unknown, but I think there is wisdom in that outlook, too.

Audrey and I had planned to take a mini vacation this spring break. The kids had given us a bed and breakfast certificate for our 25th wedding anniversary, and we were thinking of a two-day trip to the St. Louis area—our plan was to go somewhere not far away where spring is just a bit further along and enjoy ourselves.

As fate would have it, it didn’t happen. Our son-in-law is finishing a PhD at Iowa State, and, with a new baby in the family, was struggling to get everything done.

Audrey and I decided it would make more sense for her to offer to take care of our granddaughter during spring break. Frankly, it was something of a relief to us—knowing how far behind I was in grading, having extra days to work without having to make time for a trip was probably a good idea anyway for me, too. And any excuse to visit a baby granddaughter has its own rewards. And, it seemed the week had the desired impact—word from Ames is that the big project is much farther along.

So, son-in-law, don’t feel at all guilty. St. Louis and the bed and breakfast certificate will still be there. Audrey thoroughly enjoyed visiting her granddaughter and I got some extra work time and some R and R in the garden—it all worked out for the best for everyone, not just for you.

April is just around the corner. Lent is in its final days and Easter is nearly here. It seems that virtually all of the peony clumps from the farm survived, and I’m anxiously awaiting them to see what colors they bring.

From Wikimedia commons, posted by Steve Ryan on Flikr. Finch in Feburary 2009, but could have been in March, given the uncertainties of March weather.

April, it is said, is the cruelest month. I am not sure at all what T.S. Eliot meant by that line in context—I am not a great literary interpreter of 20th century poetry. I personally think March is crueler—whatever limped through the winter may expire in that half spring, half winter month—but I don’t think T.S. was writing about birds, small mammals, bulbs or other non-human living things.

But, for students, perhaps April is about the hardest time of year. In May, the coming excitement of graduation and the final push to finish everything as best as you can provides a final burst of energy. But in April, just after mid-term, if you aren’t going to make it, if your academic ship is foundering and full of holes, it’s probably sinking time.

Still, April is also full of new life and new hope. If you are failing at something you’re trying, it just means you haven’t found the right path yet. Failure is never truly failure unless you fail to learn anything from it.

And if you’re graduating from Mount Mercy this year, or from ISU with a PhD, congratulations. If you don’t that that dream job lined up, please remember Tom Hanks.

Keep breathing. You never know what the next tide will bring. Not everything that washes ashore is good or welcome, but at least much of it is unexpected.

May some of that which is unexpected be surprisingly good.

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