The first downer of the evening occurred before I even stopped for dinner on the way to Hofstra, when my brother texted me to let me know that he was stuck on a job out on the East End, and wouldn't be able to make it to Hempstead. After I ate, I was fighting traffic to reach campus by 6:00, as the letter containing the instructions requested that I arrive one hour prior to the start of the ceremony. Instinctively, I read that request to be an order. I figured that the staff organizing the commencement would have some good reason for needing us there that early. Perhaps they wanted to line up the candidates in a particular order. I was dismayed to learn that the lead time of sixty minutes was chosen to account for the fact that a significant number of people would either ignore or disregard the instructions. Apart from lining up by college, we milled around until about five minutes before the start of the program. Therefore, I could have easily showed up at 6:30 - possibly even 6:45 - and suffered no ill effect.
I was near the front of the first line to file in, and therefore ended up in the front row. As everybody else made their way to their seats, I briefly tried to find my parents, but given my distance from the bleachers, that would have been like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. After the invocation, national anthem, and alma mater (which I did successfully learn), there were three speeches - only two of which appeared in the program. The president led off, and little he said was particularly memorable. He did implore the graduates to exercise their right to vote, which was to be expected - because hey, did you know that Hofstra is hosting a Presidential debate for the second consecutive election cycle? During Rabinowitz's remarks, a familiar looking older gentleman in a plain black academic gown ascended to the dais. After a second, I recognized him - Senator Charles Schumer. According to a friend who is both a Hofstra alumnus and has worked several commencement ceremonies as a photographer, he makes frequent appearances. My friend also rattled off many of the anecdotes that Schumer told us. And the senator didn't even stay for the rest of the ceremony. I didn't much care for his remarks, nor those of the keynote speaker, Dr. Irwin Redlener '64. I don't feel the need to get to deep into the content - it suffices to say that the politics of the doctor align closely with those of the senator, while I recently made a monetary donation to the Reason Foundation.
After the speeches, it was time to confer some degrees! Being in the front row, I didn't have to wait long; I think I was the sixth one to walk across. Thankfully, the presenter got my name right. It was also very beneficial to go first, for two reasons. For one, after the handshake line and the brief pause in front of the green screen for my portrait, I was able to sit as the rest of the several hundred graduates were recognized. And for two, my position in the front row allowed me to observe some interesting things...like the one young woman who chose to pair four inch neon orange heels with her blue cap and gown. After all the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees were conferred and their recipients were recognized, the program wrapped up quickly; a few final remarks from President Rabinowitz and the moving of tassels was all there was to it.
After the ceremony concluded, the newly minted graduates walked back to the Physical Education Building to await their friends and family for a reception. I didn't intend to stay for very long; just enough time to grab a drink and a bite to eat, take any pictures my family might want, and maybe introduce my parents to some of the other engineering graduates. When none of our parents showed up, we decided to walk back toward the basketball arena to try to find them. The others did...but I did not. So I returned to the reception, lamenting my brother's absence - unlike my parents, he has a cell phone, which could have resolved the situation much earlier. After a few minutes of walking around, I took a seat on a pulled out section of bleachers, burying my head in my iPhone to distract myself from the sight of everybody else celebrating with their loved ones. By 9:40, I figured my parents wouldn't turn up, but I had to stay and make sure. Did they get lost? Or did they leave right after the ceremony, possibly to beat traffic? A few minutes before 10:00, as the reception was breaking up, I walked out into the light rain - honestly, not feeling too good. This was supposed to be my night, and as I searched for my parents, I definitely felt a little bit abandoned. Some good news did come in as I reached my car; my friends did exceptionally well at the trivia that I normally play on Tuesday nights. That was followed immediately thereafter by the failure of the suction on my GPS mount, sending it crashing to the floor. All I could do was laugh; it was a fitting end to the proceedings.
When I got home, I was pleased to find my mother asleep and my father gone to work. I wasn't really ready to discuss the issue. The next morning, my mother acted as though there was nothing wrong. When I asked her why she wasn't at the reception, she said that she and my father departed shortly after I walked across the stage. They had neglected to eat before driving to Hofstra, and they saw no need to remain once I had been recognized. I don't necessarily blame them for doing that. I just wish I'd been told beforehand that that option was on the table. That said, I'm not inclined to put the cap and gown on again and give them any pictures they want; they'll have to make do with whatever ones I choose to give them from the packages I order. While I most certainly won't let one bad night taint my perception of the two and a half years I spent at Hofstra, I wouldn't mind a mulligan on last December 20.