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Columns Votes

Alumni Vote - June 2007


Pomp and Circumstance: About 60% Say They Attended Commencement

For the Columns Alumni Vote in June, we asked if alumni attended the main graduation ceremony when they completed their UW degree. The 952 responses broke down to 59 percent “yes” and 41 percent “no.”

These numbers are similar to rates that UW graduation officials have tracked for decades. They say attendance at the main ceremony ranges from 51–54 percent.

While this Web-based poll is not statistically valid, it does give insights into why or why not alumni have “walked” at commencement. With more than 800 written comments, certain trends emerge, such as that the ceremony lost its attraction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that seating in Hec Edmundson Pavilion limited participation in the 1980s.

Here is a selection of comments from those who came and those who stayed away:
• “It was a great finale to some of the best years of my life. For me it was also a tribute to my mom, who had passed away just a few months before my graduation. I know she would have wanted me to be there, and I know she would have been proud.”

• “A funny thing happened at that ceremony—somehow I found a bottle of champagne hidden under my gown. When I popped the cork mid-ceremony, I aimed it a good friend, also a 1986 bachelor of arts graduate that day, who was sitting in a row about 100 feet in front of me. Miraculously, the cork sailed, like cupid’s arrow, to her head and landed with gentle plop on her cap. She turned around, our eyes met, … and, well, we had our first date that night at a graduation party, dated for years and got married in 1990.”

• “It was probably the only way I’d ever get a moment on the Huskytron!”

• “I probably would’ve walked anyway, but was inspired by a story shared by Professor Jon Bridgman in one of his history classes. Professor Bridgman skipped his own commencement ceremony at Harvard in 1947, at which Secretary of State George Marshall spoke. Marshall’s commencement address initiated the post-World War II European aid program known as the Marshall Plan. Professor Bridgman made it a point to attend every commencement ceremony after that.”

• “Since I was the first individual in my family to graduate from college, it was very important to my parents (Japanese Americans interned during World War II) and my grandparents (Issei generation also interned during the war) to attend my graduation. It represented a badge of honor, pride and achievement for my family.”

• “It was the Vietnam War era and traditional ceremonies just weren't the ‘in thing.’ ”

• “My parents were recently divorced and I couldn’t stand going through an important life event like graduation knowing they wouldn’t get along, so I went hiking at Mount Rainier instead.”

• “I graduated with a bachelor’s. As far as I was concerned, I wasn't going to spend my time and money sitting in the hot sun (or rain) for hours, not be able to understand the speaker … and not even have my name mentioned. I still don’t have regrets about it.”

• “I would rather have root canal work than sit in a black clown suit for hours.”

• “At the time, I was paying 100 percent of my schooling and did not think the extra expense, or time, was worth it. The ceremony sounded more like a chore, rather than a celebration. Now, having attended my oldest son’s university graduation ceremony, I regret not attending mine.”

To read all the comments submitted by the voters, please visit the links below:

< Return to main Alumni Votes page

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