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The opposite of the 2020 grad season is the 2022 double dose of ceremonies


Greetings from the District of Columbia, where I am polishing this column after a six-hour drive from Gambier, Ohio last night (during thunderstorms) in order to make sure my daughter would be able to show up for her first day of her new internship.

It’s been quite a ride.

Two weekends ago, we joined thousands of other families celebrating their children’s college graduations when we flew to Columbia, Mo. to see my son receive his diploma for a Master of Arts from the School of Journalism. A few days later, we flew to Ohio, this time for a Class of 2020 makeup ceremony that Kenyon College promised they would deliver way back when we were all locked down.

The opposite of the 2020 Amy and son

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Photos by/Courtesy of Amy Senk

As a proud parent, Amy posing with her son at his University of Missouri graduation

Both ceremonies were immensely satisfying in very different ways. I was so proud watching him receive an advanced degree from my alma mater and being back in my old college town is always a blast. The overall mood was celebratory, and everyone we ran into was raising a glass to a child or grandchild. It felt like a dream, a bubble of pride and possibilities. I was surprised at some of the changes from my own college graduation way back in 1989, which was held in a park and not an arena. There was a more casual, party feeling, with lots of yelling and the graduates on the jumbo screen where you typically see basketball stars.

In tiny Gambier, Ohio tradition was the name of the game.

The opposite of the 2020 graduation day

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Graduation day at Mizzou Arena

We arrived a day early and explored campus, meeting one final time with parents we befriended from the Parents Advisory Council, while my kids strolled down Middle Path (a path down the middle of the college’s main quad) and checked out the library, which opened after my son left campus. I sat on a porch with other parents we had known for years, savoring the moments.

The opposite of the 2020 sidewalk sign

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Sidewalk sign in Columbia, MO during graduation weekend

I remembered being on the deserted campus in March 2020, when I was clearing his dorm and getting ready to drive his car home to Corona del Mar. My most vivid memory from that trip was looking around the beautiful campus on that gloomy day with an overwhelming emotion of regret. I was so sorry that when I had last been there a few months prior, I didn’t appreciate it being the last time. I didn’t savor it enough because I thought I’d be back. It took two years, but we returned, all of us.

The opposite of the 2020 columns

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Columns of the former Academic Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1892, with Jesse Hall in the background at University of Missouri

The ceremony itself was moved from Middle Path to an indoor location because of the threat of storms. Later I read in the commencement program that in prior years, the ceremony had moved indoors because of large piles of cicadas. I was glad we just had clouds.

At Kenyon, the online graduation was short and sentimental, but on Sunday, they pulled out all the academic tradition. Graduates wore black, with faculty and administrators in more colorful robes and caps. They announced each graduate and any honors in Latin.

The opposite of the 2020 Kenyon College

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Commencement at Kenyon College, even though it was belated 

It was 27 months overdue, but it couldn’t have been better. Except for the part midway, when American Airlines texted that our afternoon flight to D.C. was canceled and we spent the rest of the ceremony telling ourselves to enjoy the moment, to stay in the moment. Later, the only option was to pick up a rental car and drive 400 miles through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and a wee bit of Virginia. But we did it.

My daughter will start work in a few hours, and I’ll head back to the airport for home. We all appreciated time together and having the chance to celebrate graduations in person. But it’s time for everyone to get back to work.


Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20+ years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association. She and her husband have two children. Her son recently graduated with a Master of Arts from the School of Journalism from her alma mater and her daughter is attending Duke University. She is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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