Our college always has its commencement events on Memorial Day weekend. That's much later than most other schools, and has something to do with the way that we configure studio-based education. The last class ended on May 12th, but those who are graduating have significant work to do before they can don their regalia. Students completing theses must finish a 100-page or so book on their project that will live in the library as a cumulative record of the strongest work in the school; and we put up a commendation exhibit in the gallery, with all of the projects that were commended for degree project (undergrad) and thesis recognition. So the book and the gallery require students to finish their work to a high polish once classes end.
It's also portfolio week. Three times per year, some of our students are completing either the first or second segments of their three-segment curriculum, and must submit a portfolio as justification for admission into the next segment. These are serious events — on average, about 60% of our undergraduates pass a portfolio review on their first attempt, about 75% of master's students. We have a small number of portfolios to do in May, about 40; the July and the January reviews are much larger, a hundred or more books submitted at a time.
So today is the beginning of Commencement, with our Honors and Awards ceremony tonight. It's a full-scale event; when I was an undergrad at Berkeley, the awards ceremony took place with just the recipients and the Chair of the School of Architecture out in one of the courtyards behind Wurster Hall. But here, we have light catering and music and lots of families; it's a fun evening.
Tomorrow, commencement itself, beginning with the march of faculty and students led by a New Orleans brass band, down Newbury Street five blocks to Boston's Old South Church. One hundred seven graduates this year, plus five honorary degrees (including a Doctor of Humane Letters to Ada Louise Huxtable, who won't be able to be with us for the ceremony itself but who is planning to come to tonight's smaller Honors and Awards. Let's hear it for civilians who write intelligent things about architecture!!! We need a LOT more of that.)
Then, in the afternoon after parents hands have been shook and students hugged, I get my reward; a drive to Vermont to be with my honey for the remainder of Memorial Day weekend. We'll have lots of folks on the lawn Sunday afternoon to watch the town parade roll by, a shaggy but pleasant assortment of fire trucks and ambulances, tractors, ATVs, a high school band or two, dogs, bicycles, and whoever else gets into line. And that evening, we'll all head over to the first big town potluck of the year, which runs from five or so until well after dark.
We've been lucky on weather with both BAC graduation and with Middletown Springs Memorial Day ever since I've participated in either — it's far more likely to be sweltering heat than to be rainy. And the early forecast for rain in Boston on Saturday is now being declared unlikely, but rain is possible in VT on Sunday. If that happens, the parade may be endangered, but the potluck will just move indoors.
Ceremonies like these bring communities together in ways that are sometimes overly formal and sometimes a little hokey, but together nonetheless. And they extend our communities a little, too; we add parents and kids and friends to the college family, we invite fire trucks from Granville and Poultney to be honorary Middletonians for the afternoon. We both enclose and expand the circles, and celebrate the intersections that make all of our communities richer.