The Thursday before last was a very special day. It was Jim’s graduation from grad school. While he had received his New York State certification as an English teacher for grades 5-12 at the end of January, the graduation ceremony fell at the end of the academic year.
The weather was perfect the day of graduation. Manhattanville’s campus is quite lovely. It features Reid Castle, the former mansion of a newspaper magnate, as well as an assortment of attractive buildings of various vintages. Frost family members in attendance included Peter, Ellie and me. We were an avid crowd of supporters.
Jim was selected for the 2011-2012 Award for Excellence in English Education. Awards were given in each of eighteen teachings specialties. The ceremony took place at 4 p.m. in Reid Castle in a room right out of a scene at Hogwarts. The professors were in their academic regalia and each awardee was honored by a nominating professor. Professor Heckendorn presented Jim’s award speaking highly of Jim’s clarity of expression, voluptuous vocabulary and precision of thought. Listening to him I reflected as I often have that Jim received these gifts in part from his Yale education, but significantly he was influenced by his mother, Betty. Betty loves language, has always had an incredibly agile mind and a precise manner of expression. It was a lovely ceremony. Of course, unlike the other graduates, Jim had more in common with his professors than his peers from the standpoint of chronological years. He was still the most handsome in any case.
The Graduation Ceremony proper took place in a beautiful white tent on the grounds of the college. The tent looked a bit like the Denver airport inside and was quite attractive. The ceremony was just for the graduate schools and there were about 350 students. The commencement speaker was Geoffrey Canada. Chosen by Time Magazine in 2011 as one of its Top 100 People, Geoffrey grew up poor in Harlem, was able to attend Bowdoin, then Harvard and founded the Harlem Children’s Zone. He is a social activist and brilliant speaker. He was particularly appropriate for Jim’s graduation as he spoke about his life’s work, the importance of helping children grow and set high goals for themselves, self-determination and his own personal heroine, Harriet Tubman. He brought a tremendous gift of storytelling to his speaking.
Jim worked exceptionally hard during his classes. He brought a focus and his own years of experience which informed both what he brought to his classes and what he took away. We were all terribly proud to share this commemoration of his achievement with him. Finding a position as a teacher can be as disheartening as any job search and it was wonderful to spend an evening reflecting upon how far he has come in his journey to being a teacher and to enjoy his success.
After graduation, we celebrated with dinner at Tandoori in Port Chester and then headed home to give the grad his gift. The iPad was a hit. The evening was lovely. Not many kids can say they have witnessed one of their parents tackle the challenges of an academic experience, but I think Jim taught both Peter and Ellie what it means to truly invest yourself in learning and the rewards, both tangible and intangible, which come from that investment.