We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close. Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.
But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel. And I took lots of pictures!
We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati. This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.
We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception. This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.
We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend. This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university. These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.
Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane. Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.
Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.
The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends). The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.
We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus). Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes. Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see. Of course, I took some pictures:
Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.
First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony. Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci. We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.
From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place. We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.
We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!) There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.
There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people. And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater. I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.
Next we attended a much-anticipated event: a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year. This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements. I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.
All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family. It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).
The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!). The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!
Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though). There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.) Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.
As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats. Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.
The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events. If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description. I came expecting to be bored, to be honest. But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.
It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker. Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest. This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!
Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out. And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.
The valedictory address was amazing. What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”
And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude. And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.
One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event: the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.
Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names. I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot. We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.
I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it. I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks. Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!
Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue. Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree. Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.
And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!
Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right? My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall. Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.
Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:
I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere. And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service. It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.
Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude. He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses. He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst. As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.