Graduates celebrate end of era

4 universities hold exercises bidding Class of 2001 farewell

May 25, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

It was a day of caps and gowns, smiling graduates and waving parents yesterday as four area universities sent the Class of 2001 out into the world with a suitable supply of diplomas and platitudes.

University of Maryland, College Park; the Johns Hopkins University; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Towson University all chose what turned out to be a gorgeous spring day for commencement ceremonies.

At College Park, friends and family looked on from the stands of Cole Field House as more than 3,000 graduates covered the floor, reveling in references to their beloved Terps' making it to basketball's Final Four during their senior year.

It was a day for decorated mortarboards that went beyond the usual "Hi Mom!" or "Hire Me." There were impressive structures atop a few graduates of the school of architecture. One education graduate's hat featured a small sculpture of a seated figure with the caption "Art Ed Rules!" Another proudly proclaimed "4.0." And one featured an elaborate patriotic Uncle Sam motif.

There was even a Biblical reference, to Psalm 84:11, which reads: "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly."

The graduates heard from a member of their faculty, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, still a tenured professor of political science.

"It makes me a little nervous to mention that I am a professor," Glendening said. "It reminds me of a report one of our elementary students wrote about Socrates. It said, `Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice ... and they poisoned him!'"

He told the class that a strong economy awaits them but that they should "remember that there are measuring sticks beyond money and stature. There are obligations beyond ourselves."

Glendening said the graduates should not be content with what is but should ask themselves what ought to be, and that society should focus more on education, equality and the environment.

"Everything I have achieved in life, I owe to the opportunities afforded me by education. We must commit ourselves to giving others the same opportunities I received," he said, arguing that someday a public college education should be free, as high school is today.

Glendening also told how his brother, a gay man who died of AIDS, spent his career in the military afraid that his sexual orientation would be discovered.

"Here was a man ... who dedicated his life to serving his country. Yet he had to live a lie every single day. Nobody should have to live like that," Glendening said, getting applause when he added, "I am pleased that earlier this month we signed legislation that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodation."

Glendening attacked the Bush administration's environmental positions. "When measures to make our drinking water safer are undermined, we must be angered," he said. "When it is suggested that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be opened up to oil drilling, we must be outraged."

At Hopkins, the dress was a bit more sedate as 1,176 graduates crowded under a huge tent on the Homewood campus. A couple of bouncing beach balls was about as crazy as it got.

Albert R. Hunt, executive Washington editor of the Wall Street Journal, noted that his father graduated from Hopkins in 1934 and from the medical school four years later. "My Dad passed away some years ago, but when I received this marvelous invitation, we checked to see if his gravesite was spinning."

Hunt said graduates inevitably hear platitudes that are all true, even if they are often contradictory - such as spend more time working and with family and friends. He said he would suggest two "lodestars."

"Avoid unearned cynicism ... and always try to be an optimist," he said. "The triumph of hope and faith is central to the American experience and success."

Hunt said the low voting rate among those of college age shows a cynicism about politics but that he finds hope in the tremendous amount of voluntarism among students.

"It is not simply that these are good deeds, but the rationale behind them is heartening. It is an idealism with few illusions; you are interested in results," he said. "This idealism, I think, is more practical than that of your parents, and thus probably more enduring. They wanted to change the world; you want to make a difference."

More than 1,000 UMBC graduates gathered in the Baltimore Arena and heard from Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children's Defense Fund. At Towson University, Sun editorial writer Barry Rascovar received an honorary degree as almost 2,000 bachelor's degrees were awarded.

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