Tomorrow morning, Georgetown’s senior student-athletes will don their caps and gowns just like everyone else, wait — and maybe sleep — for hours in their seats just like everyone else and, eventually, walk up to receive their hard-earned diplomas just like everyone else.
After all, due to a home series with Villanova for men’s baseball and an unexpected NCAA tournament exit for women’s lacrosse, both spring teams will find themselves at home on the Hilltop for Commencement Day. That isn’t always the case; some years, as in 2012, scheduling is just outside their control.
But former players say that that doesn’t at all mean we should pity them for ‘missing out’ out on the bigger event.
In fact, when reached by phone this week, Kevin Johnson (MSB ’12) explained that the quiet Monday graduation ceremony he and his teammates attended last spring in Riggs Library may have been even better — or, at least, far more meaningful.
“It was nice that it was small — the space was small — so even though we just had 50-odd people there, it felt homey, almost,” Johnson said. “People were talking and stuff — it was nice.”
The intimate atmosphere was just one aspect that made the Monday service special for last year’s seniors. University President John J. DeGioia, traditionally speaks at the separate ceremony for athletes as he will Saturday for the entire senior class.
With such a small group, the president’s comments could be very specifically tailored.
“It was about what we did as a team and what we did as athletes,” Johnson said. “[DeGoia was] talking to us, not just giving your run-of-the-mill speech. You can tell that they cared.”
And with the whole process taking no more than 30 minutes, according to Johnson, it might not even be fair to say in this case that DeGioia’s message was worth the wait. Those present in Riggs usually include just family, girlfriends, academic advisors and some fifth-year seniors, and the process is heavily streamlined due to the mere handful set to receive degrees.
The downside to smaller attendance is obvious, as the Monday-graduating athletes miss out on celebrating with all their classmates on the lawn as they otherwise would.
It may not be the traditional spirit of graduation, therefore, but it may just represent a purer form of it.
“With the drinking and everything, it can get lost,” Johnson said. “Looking back, I’m probably glad we did it that way. My best friends in college were my teammates, so we got to start together and finish it together.”
“Finish it together” didn’t just extend to the confines of Healy Hall, either: In 2012, baseball completed its season with that aforementioned road trip to Cincinnati, where the senior Hoyas had brunch with the coaches and got to go out on the diamond as a unit one last time.
So yes, what Johnson and others often go through is most decidedly not standard graduation fare. But you’ll have a hard time convincing any of those who have been through the experience that it’s not at least as memorable.