Being There: The 2019 College of Engineering Commencement, Part I

Like most graduations, this one had students milling around a staging area and parents straining to find them; guests arriving late; graduates wondering how that sash goes on properly (i.e. engineers over-thinking the problem); the redolent strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” that recalled for parents their own distant graduations; doctoral hoodings by faculty members beaming with pride; speeches and cheers; academic achievers exalted; a well-ordered processional, a quick dash across the stage, and a handshake with the dean; families cheering for loved ones; and the dénouement, as 700 newly minted graduates funneled out after the ceremony.

But it was the small, singular moments that made the Class of 2019 Commencement of the College of Engineering, held last Thursday at The Mann Center, uniquely ours.

Rabbi Chaim Goldstein exhorted graduates to “take a moment for a selfless act” in a world full of self-absorption. Dean Sharon L. Walker, PhD, asked them to “reach across every divide.” BS/MS Mark Odorizzi received a rousing ovation for his perfect 4.0 grade point average. Class Speaker Christopher Henry spoke about his mother, who passed away while he was pursuing his degree, and Dean Walker was moved to hold him aside afterwards for a moment of recognition from all mothers.

Several generations of Colby Mills-King’s family clustered together in their seats, and besieged him joyfully afterwards. Masters graduate Abraham Calvin decorated his mortarboard with a hexagonal close-packed atomic structure that hovered above him like a mobile. Alumnus Matt Wiese came back to Drexel to cheer on friend Kat Johnston. Keynote Speaker Nicholas M. Donofrio talked to students about courage, “engineer to engineer.” And at the far back of the audience, a tiny old woman with a bright blue scarf clapped and cried through the entire ceremony.

A day that began with wind and rain grew brighter in time for the processional, providing Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost M. Brian Blake with the best take-away line of the day. Noting that the rain had been pouring down all morning but had cleared brilliantly by 12 noon, Blake said, with expert timing, “The sun will always shine on engineers.”

Tomorrow: “Part II: Faces of Commencement”

Photos by Corinne Strauss

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