I have attended many Univ.of Maine commencements in my twenty-seven years on the faculty. I always enjoy the event, but inevitably some of these have been marred by unexpected bad weather–why some years ago it was wisely decided to hold two ceremonies inside the Alfond Arena–and boring speakers and audio-visual problems. This past Saturday, however, almost everything went extremely well, and I was delighted to have participated in the great event. Having the faculty line up to greet the students as they marched into the Alfond Arena was a splendid change, giving faculty an opportunity to congratulate their students rather than search for them afterward, often in vain. And Saturday’s speaker Lawrence Bender, the 1979 UMaine civil engineering graduate who, as he explained in both ceremonies, eventually became an acclaimed producer of some very important and commercially successful movies, was wonderful: lively, humorous, insightful, and clearly appreciative of his UMaine undergraduate education.
I could not help but reflect on what graduates of strictly online colleges and universities miss when they graduate. True, they might have studied at their convenience and not have had to come to a campus, much less to a conventional class or lab, but they will likely never know the joy of the thousands of Orono students, faculty, staff, administrators–and, not least, families and friends– who gathered on Saturday, along with their counterparts elsewhere in Maine and throughout the nation during this season of academic celebrations.