30 years ago

by Jeffrey Carter

I attended last evening the Conservatory senior follies show, something that is really a few funny moments coupled with dozens of long-standing awards.  Laughter commingled with tears for most of the evening.

I barely held back my own tears as I watched two of my students say goodbye, both of them long before having given over to their own emotion.  And in the blink of a watery eye, my mind was back 30 years ago.

Thirty years ago this month I graduated from university.  My recollection is that I cried pretty much through the entire day of graduation and on the long drive to my new home in southern Missouri.  College had been the best four years of my life, and I had developed friendships there that I knew would never be the same in their immediacy.

I watch the students in my own department, and I see these friendships develop over four years, more or less.  ‘Tis no wonder that we feel powerful emotions at that culminating moment.

We faculty feel something just as powerful, but more nuanced, for we know that our job is teach, inspire, impart, and love these students for a while, then send them on to the next step in their journey.  Our journey is filled with a cycle of welcome/goodbye, something that happens every year.  That longer view doesn’t lessen the loss we feel when a special student, a keen and eager and talented young musician and scholar, crosses the stage for the last time at college.  But the longer view does help with some perspective and clarity.

That I still say prayers of thanksgiving by name for some of my high school and college teachers (and mentors) is a testament of the long view that they took years ago in imparting their knowledge and wisdom to me.  They paid it forward.  I trust that I’m doing the same.

But this weekend may be a weepy one as Webster University celebrates another Commencement Day.