Monday, May 7, 2012


In a lot of ways, graduation day hasn't changed much in the 16 years I've been at Small College. Happy graduates, beaming parents, lots of toddlers who should have been left at home because it's hotter than blazes and they won't remember Cousin Becky's graduation anyway.

One thing has changed dramatically, though: Technology.

The very first commencement coverage I edited for our Small College alumni tabloid included the picture shown above. Can you tell why? It's because the gesturing man was calling someone on his cellphone to coordinate family seating arrangements. Back in 1996, this was extraordinary--the cell phone was the size of a two-pound barbell and sprouted a four-inch antenna, but it allowed him to FIND HIS FAMILY in the mob that surrounded him.

My photographer had used black and white film to capture the moment, then she developed the film and I used a special magnifying viewer to check the image before she printed it off in the campus darkroom. (Film and photographic paper were expensive, and we didn't want to burn unneeded prints.)

I thought of that picture this weekend as I sat in the darkened auditorium for honors convocation. The new graduates' families were sitting in front of me so I was watching as fully half of the parents experienced the ceremonies via their iPhones or through the viewfinders of tiny digital movie cameras. Several were holding up iPads (an unfortunately bulky task) to capture the momentous occasion.

Yesterday, instead of having to wait a couple of days to see if we had gotten any good shots, I could check my own phone and find Instagram pictures of the ceremony in progress.

I'm not sure there is any deep insight in this observation. These are not the first graduates to know that they live in a rapidly-changing world. Heck, I'm pretty sure I remember the commencement speaker telling us in the BHS Class of 1972 that we were living in the most important time in history, but Miss Matheis had also told us in eighth grade that America would have switched to the metric system before our class got through high school and that hadn't happened either.

I guess what I'm saying is that times are changing, and they're changing faster than ever, and if anyone tells you what will be happening in 10 years, you can be sure that person is talking through his hat. The only thing you can be sure of is this:

Toddlers won't enjoy graduation. Leave them home.


  1. Toddlers won't enjoy graduation. Leave them home.

    To be honest, most adults won't, either, so don't sweat not having enough invitations for everyone you know. I have vowed that I will never attend another graduation as long as I live!

  2. Hahahaha!! I've done a few of those toddler graduations AND remember that HUGE cell phone! Thanks for the morning smile!