Today I read about a 98-year old woman who just got her Master's degree from Fort Hays State University. The newspaper said she is the world's oldest graduate.She said when her husband died in 1972 she thought her life was over and she started preparing to die. But a few years later she took a tennis course from Dodge City Community College. This led to her taking more classes, until she got her associate's degree. Then she left her Jetmore farm and moved to Hays to pursue her bachelor's, which she finished in 2007, at the age of 95. And now this spring she walked across the stage to claim her Master's degree in History. She admits it might seem crazy, but she's already planning to enroll in more classes this summer and fall.
I am SO not enrolling in more classes. But if I were going to go back, it would be to study literature. Well, maybe when I'm 95.
As a graduation present to myself, I went to Columbia, Missouri on Friday to attend my commencement. I wanted to explore the college town and see the University of Missouri for myself. All my classes had been online or in a classroom in Kansas City, and I had yet to set foot on the actual campus of MU. So Roger and the kids went with me, and we made a day of it.
It's a two hour drive to Columbia from Kansas City. We left in the morning. On the way we took a quick spin through the charming little town of Rocheport, on the banks of the Missouri River. Home to vineyards and bed and breakfasts, and a trailhead for the Katy Trail.
When we got to Columbia, we headed for the downtown district, full of shops and restaurants. Like downtown Lawrence only bigger. For lunch we grabbed a couple of slices of 'za at Shakespeare's Pizza, which has been around since 1975. Then we wandered around. Downtown Columbia has three vintage clothing stores! I only had time to check out one of them, called Maude Vintage. We also stopped in at Cool Stuff, which is a fun and crazy emporium containing an eclectic mish-mash, everything from miniature Buddhas and Tibetan incense, to novelty items such as finger pirates and finger zombies, and an eyebrow kit, that provides a different set of eyebrows for every day of the week. They had a magnetic dress-up Einstein, which I was sorely tempted to buy, since I am a lover of all things Albie.
Next door was the Peace Nook, a cozy little basement shop that sold goods of a natural, metaphysical, existential or environmentally-friendly nature. I bought a nifty cotton Fair Trade bag there made in Nepal.
After that, it was time to hustle over to the campus, for a reception given for library science graduates. They presented me with a certificate and a little stuffed tiger. Then we strolled around campus. Visited the massive Ellis Library. And stopped to listen to a guy who was sitting outside, playing accordian. He was wearing a gorilla mask. At Annabelle's behest, I posed with him, and tipped him for the honor.
By that time, we were ready for a nature break. We went back to the car, threw on some comfortable shoes, and drove four miles out of town to Rock Bridge State Park, which has some amazing geological features. We walked one of the trails to a cave called the Devil's Ice Box.
The park was a refreshing change from the congestion of the crowded college town. But all too soon we had to leave so we would have time to get supper before commencement. We went back downtown. Roger and I ate at this terrific vegetarian restaurant called the Main Squeeze, that served up some awesome veggie enchiladas. I also had a Ginger and Mary Ann --fresh-squeezed carrot and apple juice, and ginger. The girls drank fresh juice and smoothies, but were holding out for the burgers we also planned to get at Booche's down the street. We had to try Booche's, because it has been a pool hall since 1884, and USA Today had said it had the best burgers in the country.
The burgers were pretty good. I don't know if they're the best, but what I liked was how they didn't seem like restauranty burgers. They reminded me of the burgers mom used to make.
After stuffing ourselves, we headed over to the huge basketball gymnasium for commencement. Roger and the girls went inside to find a seat, while I went over to the field house to sign in and line up. Thank goodness they had a couple of tables marked "Regalia Assistance," to help people put on their hoods and caps. My Master of Arts hood was white in the front, with gold and black, the school colors, in the back.
We stood in separate lines in the field house. The MBA's in one line, the Master's of Education in another line, and so on. We waited for an eternity. But how exciting when we finally started the procession. We wormed our way through the back hallways of the field house, through a staircase that connected to the bowels of the gymnasium. First the Ph.D. candidates, then the Master's graduates. Looking around at the other students, it was not lost on me that nearly everyone was young,young,young. There were few people who looked my age, but I really didn't care. I was enjoying myself.
As we got closer to the entrance to the arena, I could hear them playing Pomp and Circumstance. I can tell you, that was a thrill. It may not mean much in the big scheme of things, but as I heard the band play and I shuffled along in the procession, I was glad I was there and glad I got to wallow in a brief moment of TRIUMPH! It was over! Hallelujah!
As I entered the arena, I was struck by the hugeness. The arena was huge. People were seated up to the rafters. I was so happy to be there, to be done! I scanned the whole arena for my family. Not expecting I would see them. But they had gotten there early enough, they had very good seats, and were seated close to the floor. They waved and yelled as I passed and I started dancing happily in the procession, much to Lilah's embarrassment.
Of course the ceremony took FOREVER. The speeches weren't very long, but they asked that everyone remain seated until every last graduate had walked across the stage. First they had an eternal wave of doctoral students who were announced along with their faculty mentors. They had given each of us a blue card with our name on it. It had the special pronunciation I had provided online a month or so ago. "Briand is pronounced Bree-ond as in pond." I handed my card to the reader right before walking up the stairs to the stage, and he said my name correctly. Woo hoo!
After the ceremony, people threw their caps up into the air. I threw mine up and hit the head of the woman next to me.
The ceremony had started at 8:00 and ended sometime after 10:00. By the time we got out of there, got gas and munchies for the drive home, it was 11:00. We got home around 1:00 in the morning--a very long day. But thank goodness we didn't have any soccer games in the morning, and we could all sleep in.