On Sunday, May 21, I snuck away from our seats prior to our son, Ned’s, Davidson graduation. I walked over to the front of Chambers, just as I had done two years before at our daughter, Polly’s, graduation. There, other family members and friends of the Class of 2017 lined the walk. In their full regalia, the faculty marched out first, guiding their students one last time to present them to their eagerly awaiting families and to the world. Then came the students who spilled out, full of joy and excitement. Knowing full well the rigor of Davidson through Polly and Ned’s experiences, I could truly appreciate their sense of accomplishment.
As parents, we can only gain glimpses into our children’s lives and experiences while they are in college. With both our children, my wife, Lilo, and I have been fortunate to observe how a particular professor inspired and challenged them to pursue a particular path toward their degrees.
Another glimpse into their experiences at Davidson occurred the Saturday night before each of their graduation ceremonies. On that evening, the department chairs host open houses in their homes. We observed the tight relationships between faculty members and students. We could feel the true sense of “we came through this together” much more than a traditional teacher-student relationship. Standing on the front porch on a Concord Road house both this year with the Political Science Department and in 2015 with the Environmental Studies faculty, we experienced the mutual pride emanating from the faculty members and the students as they recounted stories, expressed their gratitude and said their goodbyes.
Lilo and I have also especially enjoyed seeing the deep friendships and bonds Polly and Ned formed during their time here. With Polly, now two years out, we have seen how enduring these relationships remain, forged not only by the academic rigor, but even moreso by the real community that exists at Davidson.
On the surface, Davidson might appear to be a picturesque college campus right out of central casting with a quaint town of small shops and houses with manicured lawns, picket fences and front porches. Those looking from outside may consider it a bubble, not in touch with the real world. As parents of two Davidson graduates, we know nothing could be further from the truth. Although we could only experience it second-hand, we have seen evidence of how the students, faculty and community are willing to challenge each other during their four years together for the greater good, beyond the Davidson campus.
As I returned to my seat for the graduation ceremony, I reflected that Commencement is aptly named as this day marks the beginning for these newly-minted graduates. Through their shared experiences in the community of Davidson, Lilo and I have no doubt that they will make an impact on the broader world, and we look forward to seeing how they carry it out.