Family ties at Villa Julie graduation

14 of 369 getting diplomas have relatives on the staff or faculty at the college

May 15, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Villa Julie College officials have long considered commencement to be a family affair.

That is why the small liberal arts college in Stevenson has consistently held two ceremonies on Graduation Day, allowing each student to bring more family and friends than the two guests they otherwise would be allowed.

But this year, the distinction took on extra significance: Yesterday's 369 graduates included 14 students who are children or grandchildren of faculty or staff members. In most cases, officials arranged to have the students' relatives award their diplomas.

"I guess today provides new meaning to the notion that our faculty and staff do love our students in a special way," said Paul D. Lack, college dean and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Jakie Brown Jr., an instructor in the information technology department, was among those awarding diplomas to family members. The youngest of his four children and only son, Jakie Nehemiah Brown, 21, graduated with a degree in computer information systems.

"It was very unique," said the teacher, who hugged his son on stage.

When Villa Julie began allowing staff members to present degrees to their relatives, Brown was the first to do so. That was in December 2001 with the daughter he calls his "baby girl," Alikia Brown.

Proud parents, relatives and friends packed Villa Julie's gymnasium, clapping, hollering and sounding air horns and cow bells to acknowledge their graduate's moment on stage.

The college awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who shared what he called his "10 Life Lessons" with the crowd. The honorary degree was the governor's first, he said, despite official appearances at numerous graduations over the years.

Villa Julie bestowed an honorary doctor of humane letters on Rebecca Hoffberger, director and founder of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and yesterday's commencement speaker.

Quoting film star Mae West as saying, "Too much of a good thing is wonderful," she wished the graduates "an outrageously and excessively happy life."

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