This past weekend my family and I gathered to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from Moravian University.
It had been raining for days, so the college made the decision to move the ceremony inside, with a ticketing system for family members and an overflow area where the ceremony would be streamed live. The college did a great job communicating this last-minute change, and while we had to do some last minute adjusting of who was sitting where, everyone did their part to make the best of it.
As we patiently waited for the ceremony to begin, I began to get emotional. The chorus practiced a song, “Oy es dia de placer”. This piece was sung at Vespers back in December and I was excited that we would get a chance to hear it again, but it was also a very moving song, and for a mom already on the emotional edge, it was difficult.
Was this really happening? Was my baby girl, my first born, my heart, my mini me … was she actually graduating from college?
Flashbacks of “Polly Pockets”, endlessly reading “Fox in Sox” to her at bedtime, braiding her hair, snuggles on the couch while we watched yet another “Barbie” movie, shopping for her first prom dress, getting her license, the first time we left her as a freshman and then the first time she drove to school by herself. It all flooded through me and I braced myself.
A few minutes after ten and the band began playing “Pomp and Circumstance March no. 4”. Everyone stood and my breath caught as I craned my neck toward the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Walking two by two, hundreds of excited graduates made their way into the arena. Suddenly, there she was. I grabbed my husband’s arm, smiled at Rachael’s dad, and watched her walk in.
Tall, gorgeous, a confidence in her walk and decked out in a black robe with her red ASA regalia. I began to wave, hoping to catch her eye. I willed her to “Look this way”. Her eyes found mine, she smiled, waved back and then gave us a “peace” sign. Classic Rachael. My heart was racing, and the pride swelled so much that I thought it would shoot out of me like a sunbeam. “Here we go” I thought.
The President of Moravian University is a Moravian Alum, Bryon Grigsby.
The first time we met President Grigsby was the day we visited Moravian for a tour. A close friend of mine had a daughter who was a student and was an active member of the sorority, ASA. The college seemed to hit a lot of the marks that Rach was looking for, so we took a trip there. Near the end of our tour, we saw a tall man in a suit out walking a greyhound. “Who is that?” Rachael asked. Amanda said, “Oh that’s President Grigsby and that his dog, Mo.”
Rachael was so impressed that the President of the College was out walking his dog. Such a normal thing to do! That was it. She made the decision then and there that Moravian was where she wanted to be.
I share that story with you because I think as adults, we assume that we know how kids think, what inspires them and what really matters to them. Yes, Moravian had a nice campus, it was just the right size, and had the degree program she was interested in. But more than that, it had a leader who she could relate to. He was out walking his dog in the middle of the afternoon and stopped to say hello to a prospective student and her family. He was real, approachable, and down to earth.
Fast forward four and a half years or so, to President Grigsby’s commencement address:
He had a lot of great things to say about the Class of 2022. I dare share that he even said it was his “favorite” class, but in truth his daughter was also graduating alongside mine. But he was right about one thing – this cohort of students was special. They have dealt with a lot over the past four years. The pandemic, remote learning, political drama, a social revolution, and talk of war. Despite it all, they continued with their education and made it to this day.
He spoke about their determination and resiliency, and how the founder of Moravian, a
16-year-old girl, also had a strong determination and resiliency.
Moravian College, now Moravian University, is the 6th oldest college in the country, created 280 years ago. This college was originally created so that girls could be educated. That’s right, in a time when women were seen as little more than child-bearers and homemakers, this institution was created to give them an opportunity to expand their thinking and strive for something different. Moravian was also an early adapter of the co-ed model, merging both the men’s and women's schools in 1954.
Imagine the hutzpah at the time, back in 1742, to create a college to educate women? It was radical, revolutionary, and highly controversial.
The irony of this is not lost on me. When I think about Rachael, she is full of fire, determination and is the epitome of someone who follows her own path. She is outspoken, determined, relentless and fights for what she thinks is right, regardless of what the masses believe. It is apropos that she chose Moravian as her college, and it enabled her the freedom to continue to grow, learn and decide her next steps.
Moravian has a saying “Be a little Revolutionary”.
It’s the “revolutionary” people who will lead us into the future, stand up to injustice and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. They are the outliers, the dreamers and the ones creating their own path, even if they must walk it alone.
Make your mark, make a difference and “be a little revolutionary”.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of any entity that this author represents.