Photo essay by Dan Rosentrauch

 

Commencement — a milestone in any student's life — is particularly unique at Saint Mary's. The events leading up to the ceremony and the celebrations that follow make this rite of passage especially memorable. In the tradition of the classic Life magazine photo essays, we invited a photojournalist to document Saint Mary's most recent commencement weekend, from the receptions before to the final good-byes. These pages tell the story that Dan Rosenstrauch says he found that May weekend — the sense of tradition and pride: pride in the College, pride in the graduates, pride in the family members who supported them. We think they also tell the stories of commencement weekends long past, and those yet to be.

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Commencement marks more than just a start to "real" life. It's a time for hundreds of students to gather as one and be celebrated as many. The satisfaction they feel with completing a journey begun years before cannot be concealed behind formal gowns and mortarboards — some customized with a loving message. Mirroring the graduates' pride are the thousands in the audience — doting fathers, loving mothers, supportive siblings and friends and professors who've helped them learn and grow along the way.

 

Black, Asian Pacific American and Latino students celebrate their achievements at mid week receptions; the Baccalaureate Mass is celebrated the evening before commencement. Tents erected on the Chapel lawn await the crowds, as do folding chairs carefully arranged on the football field where the ceremony will take place.

 

It's hard to suppress emotions that have been building up for weeks, months and years. Even the most mild-mannered and shy can dazzle an audience with a wide grin, or hoist a roommate's mother in a display of pure joy. Moments are captured with a camera; memories are made through songs sung and smiles shared.

Post-commencement parties continue throughout the afternoon, with graduates visiting friends' tents and professors and Brothers stopping by to share congratulations and parting words. Even as the day draws to an end, many linger, unwilling to put the celebration behind them. But good-byes must be said, belongings must be packed and the time finally comes for the last drive out the front gate

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