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Reflections as MCC’s May 10 graduation approaches

George JohnsonBy George Johnson

Even though I’ve taught for 32 years at Marshalltown Community College, I still get emotional about one of the greatest events in any student’s life: Graduation. That night, graduates march in and the memories begin. They cross the stage all smiles for family and friends, and as the emotions flow, so do my memories. I find myself thinking of my first meetings with so many of them.

I may have met them the first day of class. They were wondering about that guy at the front of the class: What does he expect from us? Will he be kind? Will he really care about us?

Or maybe our first encounter was when I watched them on the sports field or saw them receive an honor at a school recognition event. I might have seen them raking, cooking, or cleaning during their service hours on and off campus. Others I met in the hallway between classes, when I gave directions or answered a question.

I’ve met some MCC students in their workplaces, where they probably wondered what I was doing.

It’s been my privilege to be their professor, their mentor, and their friend. I hope I answered their questions well. I hope that as they leave MCC, their experiences have been positive and their memories all good.

Many might think that graduation is an end, but I say it’s a wonderful beginning. Some graduates are on the way to more education, ready for new scholarly challenges. Some are beginning their professional lives, ready to work in an occupation about which they have become more excited during their studies. Graduation may also be the beginning of a new personal life … maybe a wedding, a baby, or a move to another location. Maybe graduation is as simple as becoming an independent adult, leaving the home they know and moving away from the support of proud parents.

Graduation is a time of celebration, picture-taking, and storytelling; there will be tears, hugs and laughter. As they march out to a round of faculty and staff applause, I always wonder: Will these graduates be okay? Will everything work out for them?

And then I remember what one of my students told me as we said good-bye: “Mr. Johnson, I know everybody here. It’s time for me to gain new friends and have new experiences.”

To quote Judith of Norwich for our MCC graduates this spring: All will be well. All will be most well.

George Johnson is Professor of Business at Marshalltown Community College.

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