Graduation in the Dark
Wellll, I happened to remember this milestone so I figured I might as well post about it. Truthfully, if not for the interesting circumstances, I probably wouldn’t bother.
Anyway, 30 years ago today — May 22, 1978 — I graduated from college. A bachelor’s degree was conferred — I think that’s the word — upon me.
Although this picture was taken on campus, I don’t know for sure whether it was taken on graduation day. If not on graduation day, it was plus or minus no more than a year.
In the picture I’m giddily pointing at a poster with the slogan “Do It in the Dark”. The poster was part of an energy conservation campaign of the type popular back then (and soon to be popular again I suspect). The purpose of the poster was to remind people not to leave lights on unnecessarily. Evidently I thought it would be comical — Romeo that I was — to show I was hip to the double meaning of “It” in the slogan, which, for the public service humor-impaired, referred to that which many people prefer to “Do”, in the dark. Clever.
The “in the Dark” part of the slogan was actually rather appropriate for my circumstances that day. You see during the commencement ceremony I was in the dark — figuratively speaking — as to whether I had truly earned enough credits to graduate.
Here’s the back story:
Three days before graduation, I got a phone call from my Urban Geography professor. He wanted me to come into his office to discuss my term paper, which I thought was pretty good. The problem was the paper was “too good” (and that’s all I’ll say here). He asked me to rewrite it and then drive it to his home the day before graduation to be regraded.
This was a major bummer. My last weekend at college was ruined.
While my classmates were partying — final exams were over — I was stuck in my apartment with my electric typewriter, correction paper, and, symbolically, maggots wriggling just inside the windows overlooking 21st Street. (At the time I didn’t know what they — the maggots — were. I thought they were rice kernels that mysteriously became animated somehow. Obviously I wasn’t a science major.)
When I handed the rewritten paper to the professor, he said to call his office tomorrow to find out my final grade for the course. The following day, graduation day, I sat through the commencement ceremony feeling apprehensive and rather hollow. When I found my parents immediately after the ceremony and explained what was going on, they were, to put it politely, irritated.
Fortunately. we wouldn’t have to wait long to learn the outcome, for it was time to call the professor’s office. I found a campus phone and dialed. The professor’s secretary answered. I popped the question. (No, not that question — the question about my grade in the course.)
She told me the professor had given me a C for the course! Yesss!! The elusive credit was mine, and my graduation was legitimate! I thanked her, hung up, and told my family the great news. If the picture was taken on graduation day, it had to have been just after this. No longer in the dark, I was giddy with relief.