There were cheers and applause, cowbells and blowhorns, and every now and again an excited yelp that forced you to turn your head and search for its source. And all around were signs and balloons, flowers and flashbulbs, and enough camcordaers to warrant opening a videocassette stand on the steps of Gilman Hall. Yet amid this collection of sights and sounds perhaps what stood out most were the thousands of beaming smiles that never wilted as sons, daughters, spouses, life partners and friends went up on stage to receive what at once seemed such a distant prize--a Johns Hopkins diploma.
With Mother Nature in full cooperation, the 1998 commencement on May 21 was a memorable celebration. And for parents like Kathy Dunne, the moment was surely something to cherish. As a 12-piece band played before the undergraduate ceremony in the afternoon, Dunne stood alongside seven other family members with a pair of Mylar balloons depicting Winnie the Pooh, one of her daughter's favorites.
"I'm so proud of her," Dunne said of her daughter Jessica, a biomedical engineering major. "She's done so well here."
For all the late-day hoopla of screaming family and friends, the day began calmly enough as well-dressed families and graduates marched in orderly fashion to the Gilman Quadrangle for the morning university-wide commencement ceremony.
But for some, like the Yelin family, the trek across campus was the last leg of a much longer journey.
"We came all the way from Israel," said Benjamin Yelin, whose son Roy was graduating. "We love to do that for him. It's a pleasure to be here. We're all very proud."
The university-wide ceremony conferred 3,016 master's degrees, 505 doctoral degrees and 255 certificates to the Class of 1998. Before the diplomas were handed out, Michael R. Bloomberg, chairman of the board of trustees, awarded the Milton Stover Eisenhower Medal for Distinguished Service to vice president and secretary Ross Jones, who will retire in June after 37 years at the university. According to Bloomberg, Jones, or "Mr. Johns Hopkins" as he referred to him, has been the model of loyalty and dedication to his profession.
"We would not be where we are today without him," Bloomberg said. "He's been a stabilizing presence within this university."
In his address to the graduates, President William R. Brody spoke of luck and how this class of graduates must recognize opportunities that come their way and seize them with both hands.
"Life after commencement is not a matter of carefully mapping out your future and then dutifully following from point A to point B," Brody said. "The reality of life in the closing days of the 20th century is that we can expect the unexpected ... and be willing to view these discontinuities not as challenges but opportunities."
The speaker for the undergraduate ceremony was Elizabeth Dole, former secretary of transportation and labor and current president of the American Red Cross. Dole spoke to the 1,098 graduates of her commitment to public service and the satisfaction she garners from being part of a cause. She urged the graduates to participate in the "extraordinary spirit of voluntarism" and to seize upon opportunities to "tackle real world issues.
"We need to find a cause that summons us to unselfishness," Dole said. "Personal integrity, our moral compass, counts far more than any line on a resume."
Following the undergraduate ceremony, family and friends were reunited with their diploma-wielding loved ones, who were greeted with hugs, congratulations and the click of a camera. But for many the day wasn't over as everyone was invited to Nichols House, the president's on-campus residence, for a garden reception. The hundreds of graduates and their families who attended were all greeted by President Brody and his wife, Wendy, as they welcomed these guests into their home.
Some of those who did not attend had other matters on their hands, such as Jennifer Dowling, who, upon finding her parents after the ceremony, was given her graduation present, a beagle puppy.
"She was very surprised," said Jeanne Dowling, Jennifer's mother.
As for Jennifer, she said it was better than receiving a car.
Many students said they were glad the ceremony was over, and that they looked forward to their new lives as graduates. As for what the future holds, most said for right now all they want to think about is the rest of their summer.