In May, 1983, I walked across a stage at the University of Alabama and received a degree & a handshake from the president of the University. In my case, it took 6 years and 3 different schools to get there, but that’s another story for another day.
A few years later, I received a M.A. degree. Then, in 1990, I received a Ph.D., which could well have been viewed as that year’s sign of the imminent return of our Lord.
Since then, I have attended numerous college graduations, and I actually love the ceremony. As a professor I get to don the robes & the hat and be part of the platform party w/ my colleagues. I dig the significance of the ceremony, the motivation of the speakers’ remarks (well, most of them…), and the general pomp & circumstance of it all.
But the coolest part to me is afterward, when I get to shake hands w/ my students who have just walked across the stage & received a degree. I *LOVE* this part of the day! “Mom, this is Dr. Madaris” etc. Utterly awesome, in the real sense of the word “awesome.”
And yet, in all of my goober-ish enjoyment of graduation, and all of the excitement of the new graduates, there’s a decided bittersweet feel. I really love my job, in large part because I really love college students. (well, most of them…) I like to think that over the course of battling with duration, net present value, market efficiency, supply & demand, futures contracts, gap, CAMEL ratings, and other goodies one covers in various econ & finance classes, at least some of those students become friends. Which means that graduation = saying goodbye to friends who are (mostly) moving away. I do NOT enjoy that part of graduation day. Even with the excitement of the day and of students/friends moving into career type jobs, I’m not very good at saying “goodbye.” I totally agree with C.S. Lewis, who said (paraphrased) “the reason saying goodbye is so hard is because we were never meant to do so.” One of my favorite descriptions of heaven is this: the land of the eternal hello. I can’t wait.
Well, all of that was background so that I could say this…Lisa, Anne & I won’t be at Temple Baptist Church this Sunday morning, and I won’t be eating my usual dose of catfish Friday @ WCU. We’ll be heading north to Oxford, MS, along with my Mom & her husband Leo. We’re attending a baseball game Friday night featuring the two teams that are tied for first in the SEC Western division, but that’s just the lagniappe. The real purpose of our trip happens Saturday on campus at the University of Mississippi.
James Madaris, my son, in whom I am VERY well-pleased, graduates from the School of Pharmacy with a Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences degree.
At the risk of pride, there is no chance that I could ever get admitted to the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy, let alone get an actual degree from there. (I know a number of things, zero of which have to do with the natural sciences…)
I remember telling James during Christmas Break of his freshman year that this weekend would arrive with amazing speed. And so it has. What I under-estimated, was the speed at which it would arrive FOR ME.
Seems just a few weeks ago that James was dressing as our then-pediatrician Dr. Kent (who is one of my life mentors…), and playing teeball, and feeding the ducks with his Mother, and going to the zoo, and moving over to this new school setting called “PCS,” and learning how to strap on football pads, and helping me set up the tent for family camping trips…and going to prom, and laughing with me as we listened to the local rock radio station’s commercial while in MY car: “Not your father’s radio station…unless you have a really cool Dad…” And becoming a rather good all-district tackle, and graduating from high school, and getting accepted to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Early-Entry program (which rejected something like 80% of those who applied that year), and moving into the dorm and commencing life as a UM student…
In case you’re wondering, Ole Miss has been an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE experience for James. Regardless of your football team leanings, hear me say this—me, a lifelong Bama fan and three-time Bama grad: I find it very difficult to even imagine a better college experience than James has had at Ole Miss.
Pharmacy School has challenged the stew out of him, and he is a better man because of facing and overcoming those challenges…he has grown spiritually there…he has made some (I predict) lifelong friends who are the kind of friends parents want their kids to have…he has totally dug games from the student section at Vaught-Hemingway stadium (along with the last two Cotton Bowls), and in the ancient basketball arena, and @ the baseball stadium…he has lived on campus, near campus, and a ways away from campus…he—like his parents—has come to *really* love Oxford…all while becoming a man and being well on his way to an excellent career of serving others, which career path was decided on during high school.
I had a whole thing here about the visceral hatred many in our state have toward Ole Miss, but deleted it. Instead, let me just say this: James is NOT wealthy, he’s NOT particularly a partier, he’s NOT in a fraternity, and neither of his parents went to Ole Miss…and he dearly loves the university and the Rebel sports teams. Plus, his degree will come from one of the top pharmacy programs IN THE COUNTRY.
Why didn’t he go to Bama? Two reasons, out-of-state tuition (a surmountable challenge), but mostly because of the insurmountable fact that Bama doesn’t have a pharmacy program at all, let alone a top 10-20 program!
I couldn’t be happier with his school and career choice!
Note: James & I cheer for each other’s football teams to win almost all of their games every year…*another smile*
For those unfamiliar with pharmacy programs, James still has two more years to go. Next year, he’ll move to Jackson for the dreaded P-5 year of clinical at the Medical School. The following year will be a bunch of 5-week rotations. And then we’ll re-convene for another Ole Miss graduation, at which (Lord willing) he’ll receive a Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). And then off to practice his craft & begin his career.
As both of my regular readers will know, (*smile*) I dearly love my son and am very proud of his achievements and of who he has become. Hence, I’ll tell you when I decided he was going to make it to this point. 2nd semester, freshman year. A phone call, just to chat (which, just as an aside, is one of the GREAT blessings of my life…that my son sometimes calls for no particular reason). Here’s the paraphrase of part of the conversation: “Dad, don’t be offended, but I wish I could major in business…those guys have it so easy! They go to class, study about 10 minutes & then play the rest of the time. And frequently, they don’t even go to class!” I asked if he wanted to change majors. “No, I don’t; I really want to be a pharmacist!” I suggested that skipping class is not a good plan, even for business majors (remember, I’m a business school professor), but especially for early-entry pre-pharmacy students. His response: “Oh, don’t worry, Dad…I can’t afford to miss class, so I don’t!”
That’s when I knew he’d get to this Saturday.
That confidence has been confirmed through many chats & report cards & honors & such, but I’ll spare you.
So, this Saturday, I’ll don my suit—purchased this week for this very occasion—and head to Oxford with great pride and thanksgiving that God has granted me the amazing privilege of being James Madaris’ Dad, and watch him shake hands with school administrators & receive a degree that just boggles my mind to ponder.
And Friday and Sunday, we’ll watch the Rebels take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in what has shaped up to be a baseball clash of two powerhouse teams. Me? You bet! I’ll be wearing my Ole Miss hat & shirt, and hooting & hollering right there alongside this MAN who looks a bit like me…albeit a bigger, stronger, smarter, better-looking version of me. A *MAN* who, for Friday’s game, will be an Ole Miss undergraduate student, and for Sunday’s game, will be an Ole Miss ALUMNUS.
I have so many more thoughts about this event, but I'll just close with this, in loving honor of my son, and without any hint of apology.
Love you buddy!
p.s. – I doubt I’ll shed any tears this weekend. Except maybe on Friday. And of course, Saturday at graduation. Oh, and Sunday when we roll out of Oxford… *smile*