Founded in the late 17th century, the College has created and preserved strong traditions, many of which fall around or near commencement weekend. One of my favorites is the Candlelight when members of the graduating class stand in front of the Wren Building the night prior to graduation, dressed in their caps and gowns and accompanied by their families and friends. Each student is given a small white candle to hold during the ceremony while a selected member of the graduation class, an administrator, and a professor from the College are all invited to speak. After the last speech, the class officers begin the lighting of the candles and the flames quickly spread throughout the crowds. As Vice President of our class, I had the opportunity to stand on the steps during the ceremony, looking out over the crowds. The image of that light spreading and symbolizing the warmth and community in our class was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen. It was while standing on those steps and looking out at the faces of close friends – some huddled together as they cried to be leaving, others with smiles spread across their faces in celebration of the weekend’s festivities – that I was reminded just how much I love this place. Your tour guides will talk about the distinct and valued community we have here, but it is not until traditions such as Candlelight or Convocation that you will truly understand the meaning behind their words.
The following morning all of the students again congregated at the Wren building but this time to participate in the Commencement Walk, a traditional walk across campus from the historic Wren to the Hall, where the graduation ceremony is held. The entire walk was surreal – linking arms with close friends and crossing over the Crim Dell Bridge while family members snapped photos along the way. Despite our rainy morning, students were excited and cheerful as ever – charging passed the Sunken Gardens and over the bridge triumphantly, umbrellas in tow.
Just over three months later, when I look back on that weekend, I don’t really remember much of what was said during the actual commencement ceremony. It was all of the build-up – the spreading of the candlelight, the hugs and stroll down campus with my class, and the mere thumbs up and high fives of those we passed along the way – that I still and shall continue to remember. This is truly a place like no other.