Rains wash away commencement celebrants’ plans but not spirit

Students wait in line to take photos in front of the Alma Mater statue Saturday, May 10, 2008. While rain made the site less attractive Sunday, there was plenty of sunlight to take photos Saturday. Steve Contorno

By Steve Contorno

Graduation caps were thrust into the air Sunday, though not always on cue. Mother Nature did her best to mess up hair, invert umbrellas and put a damper on the day by dampening just about everything. As a result, graduates of the class of 2008 were sent into the real world facing their first test – staying dry.

“It would figure this would happen on my graduation,” said Marcella Fridman, a graduate from Media, as she clutched her cap and gown.

But for Fridman, there was little the weather could do to ruin the experience of finally receiving her degree.

“It’s a big day. I will definitely look back at what this school means and what graduating here means for me,” she said. “It’s very bittersweet to say goodbye and graduate.”

Ceremonies of the 137th University Commencement took place throughout the weekend, but Sunday’s events included the two campus-wide commencement ceremonies at Assembly Hall. Unfortunately, Sunday was also the day that the natural elements were at their worst, as rain, wind and colder temperatures combined to sully the day.

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“It really sucks,” said Colby Noethe, a graduate from Aviation. “I wanted to show my parents and family the Quad and around campus and stuff. But it’s a pain to have to walk around in the rain so we won’t get to do that.”

For those that had their college ceremonies Saturday, which included AHS, Business, Labor and Industrial Relations, Law, some of LAS and Social Work, the sun shined brightly on them, providing picturesque photo opportunities in front of the Alma Mater statue, where lines reached the corner of Sixth and Green streets at the height of the day.

Greg Terzick, a graduate from Media, had his college ceremony Sunday, but said he was able to take advantage of Saturday’s sunlight.

“I did the whole photo-op thing yesterday,” Terzick said. “Today, it’s too hard because grandma is here and I don’t want to make her walk around. My roommate said he waited in line for, like, 20 minutes yesterday and got a picture with the Alma Mater.”

Those that didn’t have Terzick’s foresight were forced to forgo a portrait with the statue or, like Greg Danko, take one in the rain.

“It’s a symbol of Illinois,” said Danko, a graduate of LAS. “I had to do it.”

Picking and choosing which graduation customs to partake in is part of the role of the graduate. While Danko chose to stop in front of the Alma Mater, he decided to skip the campus-wide ceremony.

“I just felt like the smaller ceremony was more worth it,” said Danko, who was joined by his father, Dan, and sister, Christine, also University graduates, and his mother, Marilyn, in front of the statue. “Hearing your name and everything was the most important part to me.”

The University split the campus-wide commencement into two ceremonies with assigned colleges partaking in one of the two. The opportunity was there to attend both the campus-wide and individual college ceremonies.

Noethe attended both and said he enjoyed hearing the main commencement speaker, Mannie Jackson, University alumnus and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters.

“He had lots of good things to say,” Noethe said of the former Illini basketball player. “The biggest thing was he told us not to worry and to have confidence in ourselves.”

With all the ceremonies concluded, there is one hope for those that graduated – that their futures be brighter than Sunday’s weather.

“This day is pretty much the culmination of 18 years of school,” said Terzick. “It means I finally figured out what I want to do, and this degree gives me the possibility to pursue it.”