By Dr. Terry Jones
Professor Emeritus of Social Work
Cal State East Bay
I can count on one hand the commencements missed in my 40 years at Cal State East Bay. It isn’t difficult to imagine being on a walker in my 90s and still attending commencement in full academic regalia. Even semi-retired, it is hard to stop participating in something that is both a rite of passage and reaffirmation of society’s highest principles.
There is this overwhelming feeling of joy at commencement. Yes, some of that is the relief of graduates who finished final tests or papers to earn their degrees – but, what I see is the lights turn on for kids in the audience as they watch a mother, brother or cousin cheered across the stage. The university is no longer abstract or distant. It is a place explored by the familiar footsteps of today’s graduates. First-generation college students dream not just for themselves, but for the family and friends that will follow.