Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Not-So-Epic Graduation

Thirty-five years ago today, I was awarded my degree as a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati. Looking back on that evening, I can still remember ... how little there was to remember.

I had made a decision during my junior year, in lieu of any prospect of an academic minor in multimedia, to enroll in two film classes. One was a "Film Design" class in my own graphic design department, the other was an "Introduction to Film Production" course taught by the fine arts department. In the former, I did an animation in Super 8 format, while the latter was more ambitious, requiring a one-minute live action or animation piece in 16mm. I got an A in the fine arts class, but the sum total of workload was more than I could handle, and my academic advisor allowed me to take an incomplete with two of my courses. The price of the department's indulgence came a year later, when I did not graduate with the other twenty-six students in my graphic design class, but had to finish during the summer quarter.

We assembled on that August night in the basketball arena on campus. There was the usual jocularity amongst the tasseled masses, of course, to listen to a keynote speaker whose name I forget to this day. (My already-departed classmates were treated in the spring to the "boy mayor" of Cincinnati, one Jerry Springer. I met him once. He was just as obnoxious back then.) At the end of the proceedings, we were to line up and receive our degrees. It was then that the students from the College of Design, Architecture, and Art, were directed the other way, to the back of the room, where a folding table was being hastily assembled for the dean of our college, who arrived with an assistant, each of them carrying a cardboard box. Our names were called, and we received our "sheepskins" in about as unceremonious a fashion as one could imagine.

When it was over (such as it was), I met my brother Steve and sister Mary, and we headed uptown to Pleasant Ridge, to my Aunt Marge and Uncle Bill's place on Grand Vista Avenue. Their house was just down the street from where a scene from "Rain Man" was shot in 1988 starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman -- yeah that's it in the picture -- but that's another story. Anyway, we arrived at the porch, and Mom came out. That's when ...

She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Now, Mom's parents were not much with familial affection, especially Grandpa, not because they were cold, but it was just their way. It tended to rub off on Mom. In fact, Dad tended to be more affectionate towards us kids than Mom. The thing is, she had never done that before that I could remember, and I don't know what I did to make her start then and there.

It certainly wasn't relief that the expense of college was over. I paid half my way through college through my internships, and Dad financed the other half. While other kids went to Florida on spring break, I spent my breaks doing production work for a free-lancer named Tom Newsome. He taught me a lot that I didn't learn in school. I also got to be a teaching assistant that summer, in lieu of Independent Study. I learned a lot there too, like how being a teaching assistant wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I put my plans for graduate school aside.

And with that, the tradition of an anticlimactic college graduation was begun, one continued by my son Paul earlier this year, when he graduated fere cum laude from the ├╝ber-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, with a 3.4 grade point average. Naturally, he carried the tradition a step farther than me. he didn't bother showing up. (My GPA was 3.0, by the way. Don't ask.)

At the end of the day, I might have been better off considering the experience I gained from both the delay, and the circumstances that caused it. I was aspiring to a specialty that was yet to be invented, one that I only could conceive in vague terms, and would only be realized with the advent of the personal computer, the graphical user interface of the Macintosh, and the advent of the internet. With a bit more nerve, I could have been Nick Selby before there was a Nick Selby.

But that's another story too.

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