Congratulating grads for more than 20 years—as Michigan Tech president since 2004—and the Big Day never gets old. Glenn Mroz gets personal, sharing the excitement of The Big Day.
The alarm clock is set for 5:30 a.m., but I’ve been awake for hours. The excitement of the previous evening’s reception spent with graduates, their families, faculty, and staff lasted through the night as one student after another talked about what’s next and where’s next. But today is even bigger.
7 a.m. – In the car, heading to the Rozsa Center for the Army and Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony.
7:30 a.m. – Cadets who were just kids a couple years ago make an absolute commitment, taking a pledge first given by General George Washington. Many of us remember others, standing in those same spots, who took that pledge and made that ultimate sacrifice. The day has hardly begun and it’s already emotional.
9 a.m. – Time for a quick breakfast followed by donning academic garb, and photos with speakers, award winners, trustees, family, and friends. A quick peek into the MacInnes Ice Arena shows the seats already two-thirds full—wow—1.5 hours before the processional!
10:15 a.m. – Everyone in line. Orders given to silence cell phones—but tweet your heart out.
10:30 a.m. – The University Marshal raises the mace high. Pomp and Circumstance begins, and close to 1,000 soon-to-be-grads follow the marshal onto the floor of the ‘Mac’ with family and friends on their feet in the stands. Nobody can sit at this point. It’s just too big a day.
Seven graduating seniors harmonize on The Star-Spangled Banner, a cappella. Are these really the kids we helped move into the dorm as first-year students? That seems like yesterday. The student speaker is followed by the director of the Peace Corps as commencement speaker, an award to an amazing alumnus, hooding of PhD’s and Master’s candidates.
11:15 a.m. – The ROTC grads are called on to the platform to repeat their oath in front of their fellow graduates and all assembled. The words “so help me God” are still hanging in the air when more than 5,000 people—everyone—regardless of national origin, are on their feet cheering. This is not the cynical America you see or hear about in the media—it’s Michigan Tech. It’s respect!
11:25 a.m. – The students receiving Bachelor of Science or Arts degrees proceed across the stage, smiling, excited, high-fiving. A member of ‘Animal Control’ (aka Blizzard T. Husky, our mascot) keeps up the tradition of revealing his identity at commencement—with paws on and a tail sticking out the back of his gown. Spirit!
1 p.m. – The room is warm and the stands are still packed. It’s the big day. The students are welcomed into the Alumni Association, now some 70,000 strong in every state and every continent—yes some work in Antarctica. All the family and friends have been introduced, thanked, and are on their feet. Only the grads are seated.
1:15 p.m. – The tough part—saying goodbye—but doing it right. Making it count. Thanking the students for choosing to come to Michigan Tech, telling the students they taught us a lot! That they gave so much to enhance our community, our lives. It’s the last chance to let them know how we feel about them. Emotions are high. “As you make your mark in the world, know that we are proud of you, we have confidence in you, and we wish you the best always.” The ovation is beginning and I have to shout to be heard. “WOULD THE GRADUATING CLASS OF 2016 PLEASE RISE AND ACCEPT OUR THANKS AND CONGRATULATIONS ON A JOB WELL DONE!”
Everyone is on their feet—the roar is deafening. Hugs all around, hats in the air, give way to the students returning for the reserved singing of the Alma Mater. When the students hit the final note, the drum section of the Husky Pep Band fills the air and our not-so-reserved band appears from seemingly everywhere. FIGHT SONG! One last time…for a while. One last salute to the Class of ’16.
Because it’s a very big day.
TechAlum congratulates the 691 undergraduates, 192 Master’s, and 51 PhDs joining the ranks of Michigan Tech alumni!