NOTE: This post was adapted from a May, 9, 2015, blog post.
Today’s undergraduate commencement ceremony at Robert Morris University marks the end of my 14th year as a professor. Two of those years were spent at Texas Tech University. The next seven were spent at Point Park University. The most recent five have been at Robert Morris University.
I’ve seen hundreds of my “kids” graduate into their planned (or unplanned) careers. Some of them are doing exactly what they expected to be doing, while others have taken journeys to different careers or different lands.
Some are as settled in their personal lives as they could ever be; others are still searching for that special someone or are enjoying single life to the fullest.
Whether it’s through social media, an email or some other form of communication, I regularly learn about what they are up to. It’s no secret that I appreciate their updates, their photos and more. Allowing me to remain part of their lives is an honor.
On Friday, one of my former “kids” sent me a Facebook meme that captured how I, and many of my colleagues across the country, feel about our “kids:”
Faculty can’t fake caring. They can’t fake sincerity. They can’t fake warmth. And students have no interest in making those people mentors, allies and friends. True, no faculty member is obligated to care, to be sincere or to be warm to any student; faculty definitely can consider their students as little more than people there to be taught.
But those of us who actually like our students wind up sharing years of good and bad moments with them that remind all of us of what life is all about. A grade in a class is important, but a “thank you for all you’ve done for me” matters much more. And a note, sometimes from out of the blue, that says “I saw this and thought of you” is guaranteed to bring a smile.
To my “kids” who are graduating today, relish every second of the graduation ceremony. This is your day. You’ve earned the accolades, the smiles, the laughter, the tears, the hugs and the memories.
And know that “dad” is looking forward to hearing from you as the years rapidly go by.