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Purple Cows at Harvard Commencement

harvard_commencementNot a subscriber to Harvard Magazine? Then you missed this article on Harvard’s Commencement, featuring a picture of some goofy alum and his adorable daughter (Williams class of 2021).

The caption reads: “David Kane, Ph.D., ’98, associate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and his daughter Cassandra enliven the faculty procession with his dangling purple cows from Williams (his alma mater) and her Mad Hatter headgear.”

I attached the magnetic purple cows (a reunion gift from a few years ago, I think) to my mortarboard in order to show the colors at the event. I brought Cassandra because I thought it would be a hoot, and it was.

Perhaps all you need to know about the difference between Harvard and Williams is that, at Harvard, the faculty (or the less than 5% of them that bother to come to Commencement) parade between rows of graduating seniors who are expected to clap for them.

At Williams, we do things differently.

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#1 Comment By Larry George On June 26, 2009 @ 10:59 am

(A few words to the wise — If you really want Cassandra to go to Williams, right about now might be a good time to stop the “Class of 2021” stuff and to back way off. It will need to be a good fit for her and to be her choice, not yours, and think of what damage you might be doing if, heavens forfend…. That said, now and on into her teenage years will be great times to talk about college, colleges, higher education, and a lot of other things that will be relevant to, and helpful in, her college search.)

#2 Comment By Ronit On June 26, 2009 @ 11:08 am

Great photo.

#3 Comment By sophmom On June 26, 2009 @ 11:29 am

Gorgeous duo! What’s the purple thing she’s holding?

#4 Comment By Parent ’12 On June 26, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

Fantastic Photo, such a happy pair.

Dave, thanks for sharing the pic, very refreshing. It could promote Father’s Day as well as graduation.

#5 Comment By hwc On June 26, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

A few words to the wise — If you really want Cassandra to go to Williams, right about now might be a good time to stop the “Class of 2021″ stuff and to back way off.

Amen. It took me two years of concerted effort to get my daughter to consider applying to Williams. She wanted nothing to do with “her parents'” college. If nothing else, it’s worth considering the legacy advantage from an admissions game strategy standpoint. Williams was, by far, my daughter’s best bet for maximizing admissions odds and value — even if she only viewed it as a “safety” in the sense of not being head over heels about it. I couldn’t even convince her to apply.

What finally worked was to hand her the keys to the car when she was 17, tell her to round up a couple of friends, and take their first solo “road trip” out to Williamstown. That’s what it took to break the connection in her mind between Williams and her parents.

This visit allowed her, for the first time, to picture Williams as her college (instead of sharing a freshman entry with her mother or whatever). Having overcome that hurdle, Williams became one of her stronger preferences, to the point where we even discussed (briefly) the option of the double-legacy ED application.

Another piece of advice: resist the temptation to walk around Williams with your daughter pointing out places like where you lived, yadda, yadda. Keep taking her to Harvard events. That way you’ll guarantee that she won’t want to apply there!

#6 Comment By JeffZ On June 26, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

Yeah, I have to say, I agree. I come from a Harvard family myself, my Dad took me to one of his reunions, etc. To their credit, I wouldn’t say my parents pressured me, and they quickly agreed that liberal arts colleges were the right place for me, but my natural tendency to rebel created enough lasting antipathy that I applied to Harvard neither for undergrad or for law school (and I probably had good independant reasons not to in each case, in any event).

#7 Comment By frank uible On June 26, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

David, million dollar smile, and it ain’t the one on you.

#8 Comment By Vicarius’83 On June 26, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

Great photo, but Dude – does Harvard really let faculty, like, wear flip-flops to commencent and everything? That’s like, totally awesome.

#9 Comment By hwc On June 26, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

BTW, how does Williams do the graduation procession with the faculty?

#10 Comment By Larry George On June 26, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

The graduates march between two lines of the faculty (and there are LOTS of faculty members there), and the faculty members applaud the students, rather than vice versa. Lots of goofy smiles from the faculty and lots of locked-on-focussed looks and dramatic clappings for their advisees, etc. It is quite touching, and it just melts all the guests’ hearts, as well: “This is what a liberal arts college and education are all about.”

#11 Comment By JG On June 26, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

Marching through the happy gauntlet of faculty and through the Hopkins Gate is an image/moment that I have thought of fondly several times.

I also use it as an example when I’m talking up Williams – it’s the encapsulation of the Williams experience: the history of the Gate and West College, the connection to faculty, the student-centered experience, the quirky ivy planting and watch dropping from the day before…then I throw in the Alumni Association and that Williams was the first to use the plain robes to hopefully create a more egalitarian experience at graduation. It isn’t everything, but it sure hits the high points.

Great photo Dave!

#12 Comment By hwc On June 26, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

Thanks. It’s been so long, I don’t remember the details of the Williams graduation. It is funny how the traditions vary from school to school. My daughter’s graduation wasn’t like Williams’ or Harvard’s.

#13 Comment By lgeorge On June 27, 2009 @ 4:27 am

hwc – I think your class graduated inside because of rain (now they give out inexpensive ponchos, and people just tough it out). The usual routines were probably less evident.

#14 Comment By hwc On June 27, 2009 @ 8:53 am

I graduated outdoors. If I recall, we had nice weather all weekend. Warm and sunny, the gowns were hot.

We had a steak and beer bar-b-que for several close friends and their parents at out house the day before.

#15 Comment By 1980 On June 27, 2009 @ 10:46 am

1980 graduated in the hockey rink (it was raining that Sunday a.m.) I don’t remember walking through a line of faculty but my memory is also hazy. I attended other graduations on either side of mine and they were all outside – by Mission Park I think.

#16 Comment By Ronit On June 27, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

2006 graduated in the rain. I was one of the students working as ushers for the College Marshall (Joan Edwards). We handed out thousands of purple ponchos. The whole of the science quad was a sea of purple. Quite an impressive sight.

In my own (2007) graduation, I would say the walk through the lines of faculty was the most memorable and moving part, save for maybe the singing of the Mountains at the end.

#17 Comment By JG On June 27, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

We graduated in 2001 not only in the rain, but during a thunderstorm. Graduation was paused partway through due to lightning and everyone went running for the science quad buildings during the 45-60 minute delay. Since it was a million years ago before everyone and their mother (and 5 year old) had a cell phone – and Williamstown had little to no reception – nobody could find their families.

When we finally got back out there, the graduation speaker (Robert Rubin) – who had two students holding umbrellas over his head – still freaking spoke for about 40 minutes as we sat there in the rain. We were wearing trash bags and watching the nasty black dye from rented robes stain our clothing. It was pretty sunny by the time of actually being handed our degrees, along with a giant ziptop bag. Awesome. I can’t even remember how long it took, but with the rain delay I think the ceremony easily topped 3 hours and approached 4.