REAL People: Reflections on Commencement
Commencement ceremonies can all seem the same – “Pomp and Circumstance” plays, graduates process in their caps and gowns, a distinguished speaker imparts wisdom, and loved ones capture it all with their cameras. Yet within these unchanging traditions, there are countless unique moments that form memories to last a lifetime. On Monday, May 12, Candler’s Class of 2014 will take part in the 169th commencement exercises of Emory University, making their own memories along the way. With that backdrop, we asked members of the Candler Alumni Board (CAB) to share their Commencement memories.
Emory’s commencement exercises begin with an all-school procession and ceremony on the Quadrangle, which Quincy Brown 95T remembers as “over the top – in a good way.” In 1988, an extraordinary guest added to the excitement: “Bishop Desmond Tutu was the Commencement speaker,” recalls Wayne Wiatt 82T 88T. “I will never forget my six-year-old son, Matthew, reaching out from the aisle to greet Bishop Tutu, and my wife whispering in his ear, ‘Remember this man – he is a very important person who is helping to change the world!’ To this day, Matthew, now 32, remembers that day!”
From the Quad, Candler’s graduates process to Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church to receive their diplomas. “The ceremony at Glenn Memorial was truly a moment of celebration,” says Jeremy Pridgeon 02T. “Timothy Albrecht playing “Pomp and Circumstance” confirmed for me that the journey was coming to an end, even as a new journey was beginning. I was experiencing change on so many fronts: completing my time at Candler, receiving a new pastoral appointment, change in personal relationships, and yet there was a sense of peace that God would be faithful and all would be well.”
Darren McClellan 01T says that “Glenn Memorial was as beautiful as any place I had ever been” that day. He also recalls a special moment after receiving his degree: “I remember the look I received from my non-churchgoing father on my way back to my seat. I could tell he was proud of his son, and for reasons he never expected or completely understood. I realized instantly the palpable witness that arose from my pursuit and completion of the MDiv degree.”
For many students completing the MDiv degree, graduation marks the start of a career in ministry, but for Patti Snyder 88T, memories of Commencement and the beginning of her pastoral work are intertwined. Snyder was at home preparing for a graduation party when she received a call from a member of the church she would be serving. The church hosted a homeless shelter, and one of the shelter’s guests had died unexpectedly. Snyder was asked to speak with the man’s best friend. “For the first time in my ministry, but not the last, I was called to something unexpected that I didn’t feel totally ready for, but that was clear in its importance. The most memorable experience of my graduation weekend was the conversation that followed, engaging in the ministry Candler had prepared me for.”
Along with their memories, CAB members had some advice to share, too. Beth Knowlton 04T urged the Class of 2014 to “trust that the foundation you have gained at Candler has prepared you,” but she and several other members of the alumni board advised the newest graduates to continue their education. As Carol Cavin-Dillon 96T put it, “There’s no way you’re going to learn everything you need in these few years. Stay open, keep reading, keep looking for opportunities to learn about your profession and about yourself. The journey is just beginning.”
To see the full schedule of Commencement activities for 2014, visit Candler's Commencement page.