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Indiana University

Goodbye, IU! Hello, world!

Over the next few days, students will participate in commencement ceremonies at IU campuses across the state. We’re ready. The herald trumpet is shined, the banners unfurled, the gowns pressed. Chairs and podiums are set up, microphones tested. Landscaping is in shape, with grass trimmed and flowers planted. Diplomas are ready to go. And because I work with IU Emergency Management and Continuity, I’ll assure you that security in place. So, now, on with the show …

And it is a wonderful show! Just outside my office window on a sunny Wednesday before the weekend’s commencement ceremonies, I see about a dozen students grouped under the Gothic arches of Indiana University Bloomington’s Sample Gates. Clad in graduation caps and gowns, they chatter happily with family and friends, and pose with a smile for just one more photo.

The same small yet momentous event happens every spring on IU campuses. The landmarks vary, of course. At IU Kokomo, the Well House by Wildcat Creek greets soon-to-be-graduates. At IUPUI, maybe it’s Don Gummer’s sculpture, “The South Tower”; at IU South Bend, the Crossroads Fountain; or at IU Southeast, the Amphitheater. Whatever the iconic backdrop, a cell phone or digital camera marks the spot and a significant life passage.

At IU Bloomington, the Indiana limestone Sample Gates graciously serve as the formal entryway to campus. Countless times throughout a given week, students pass back and forth through the gates and across bricked sidewalks going from classes to libraries to dorm rooms to cafes. But now, soon-to-be-graduates pose beneath its elegant arches. A moment in time is captured.

No matter what campus the photos are taken on, the students are often waving. And, I always wonder: Are they waving “goodbye” or “hello”?

There they are, our students at IU Bloomington, with backs to the beautiful campus now accessorized with cream and crimson tulips and framed by the gates’ arches. These “kids” look like they’re ready to greet whatever the future holds — careers or graduate school, new friends and communities, excitement and uncertainty.

And yet, after the photo is taken, the students linger at the gates. Maybe they are a bit reluctant to move on? Saying goodbye to friends and the place that has become home for the past few years is tough. New challenges, known and unknown, are ahead, and certainly there will be sorrow as well as joy, achievements as well as a few not-so-successful attempts.

I like to think that as students across our IU campuses pause at favored landmarks, it’s not to say goodbye or hello. I hope it is simply to savor and remember this amazing, hard-earned moment when all things are possible and the future beckons. I hope they pause to consider the love and support of family and friends, the experience and self-knowledge gained and the lessons learned.

I’m always happily surprised at the pride I feel when I see those students posing for cameras. I don’t even know most of them, but I enjoy looking on. And I speak for many of us at IU  who have seen our “kids” come and go over the years — 34 for me this spring.

May these soon-to-be-alumni always be safe and watch out for one another in an uncertain world. May they go forth to be good people doing good things. And may they return to their IU home for another photo moment or two.