One inside, one outside. One concise, one sprawling. One downtown, one in the suburbs.
But the capped and gowned audiences at both Baltimore-area college graduation ceremonies yesterday morning beamed alike with their new degrees and contemplated the ample advice their commencement speakers provided.
"As great as your achievement is today, don't let your bachelor's degree be the end, but let it be your first step to obtaining achievement," advised Micah E.S. Crump, a Coppin State University alumnus who delivered that school's address.
At the same time, Lone Azola, the Towson Alumni Association president, told the 2,847 Towson University undergraduates and graduate students, "I hope the document you receive today will change your life. Make it count."
The Towson ceremony, underneath a perfect spring sky in Johnny Unitas Stadium, brought together 11,000 visitors - the largest commencement crowd in the university's history, a spokeswoman said.
The school's recent growth spurts were evident elsewhere: The ceremony got off to a late start because traffic was snarled and shuttle buses were unexpectedly overtaxed. And the student speaker centered her talk around the universal inability to find campus parking.
Michelle Guderjohn, a 23- year-old from Hampstead, told her fellow graduates that their hours spent looking for empty spots were not for naught. "We've learned patience, that all our hard work will eventually pay off," she said, noting that she hoped not to offend the commencement speaker - U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
Coppin undergraduates gathered at the city's 1st Mariner Arena, where 532 degrees were awarded before about 5,000 onlookers.
Crump, a 2000 graduate of the historically black college who is a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University's School of Business and Management, told the crowd of his journey from high school dropout to graduate student.
He recounted how he dropped out in 11th grade and spent years struggling until he finally realized the importance of education. After that, he told the graduates, he endured bouts of hardship and self-doubt that he had to work hard to overcome.
"A person's past is neither his or her present or future. History is replete with countless stories where people faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges persevered," Crump said.
Franz Freeman, a 32-year-old from Washington who graduated with honors and plans to pursue graduate studies in math, said Crump's speech was particularly inspirational. "Lifting, lifting - that's the word for what it was," he said.