For many, graduation is the culmination of four years spent at Cornell. While my Big Red experience began earlier, with Cornell reunions, hockey games, and two years of Summer College, graduation still represented a clear end. An end to what has been the four best years of my life.
My Cornell experience was transformative. I came to campus after a senior year of high school in which I was, like many other Cornellians, a big fish in a small pond. It took me months to develop a new sense of purpose and determination at Cornell. To my aid came the fraternity, the newspaper, the Lynah Faithful, the job with a professor, and the other organizations and activities of which I became a part. Together, these aspects of my life enabled me to stay busy while learning and having fun. In essence, the goal of college.
At Saturday's convocation, each of the student speakers opted for the rhetorical strategy of trying to name various activities which are common for many Cornell students: studying in Olin Library, going to the bars, attending sporting events. As each speaker presented a new list, I began to think about my own varied experiences over these years. Traveling to an ungodly number of hockey games in eight different states, staying up until 5:00 am to finish piecing together a newspaper, driving to a medium-security prison each week to teach a class, putting in 60-hour weeks at Uris Library to finish my thesis, talking to annoyed cops on weekend nights in my capacity as fraternity president. While I was joined in each of these activities by other people, the combination of all of them together is certainly unique.
So, too, is the combination of activities for every Cornellian. Some of us may seem to be more involved than others, but no two of us spent our time in Ithaca the same way.
I wrote a few weeks ago that there was "no broad sense of the Cornell community." I may have been wrong. You have to wait four years, but on graduation day, there is an undeniable sense of community. With everyone in the black robes, with the packed stadium, and the perfect sunshine, it was a strikingly positive final memory of Cornell.
Cornell is an anonymous place. Of the 130 people who shared my major, I had never spoken to half of them. But Cornell works because it allows each person to create a distinct experience. What binds us together is the realization that we each passed through this place and came out as a different person. Sometimes, as students travel along these solitary paths, they lose their direction and tragedy ensues. For most, though, this journey is immensely rewarding.
My one graduation wish for Cornell is that I hope that my alma mater will seek its own identity in the higher education community. Stop obsessing about being one of the Ivies, and start being Cornell. Stop worrying about the rankings, and celebrate the large student body and our lack of extreme exclusivity. Stop worrying that we are located so far from major metropolitan areas, and celebrate all that Ithaca and its miserable winters have to offer. Stop worrying that our name is associated with tragedy, and celebrate that our name is associated with unprecedented athletic success.
Just as students at Cornell seek their own paths, so may Cornell diverge from what is expected of it. As this happens, perhaps Cornell will move away from the unfortunate combination of grade inflation and the hook-up culture. It's hard to gain much from Cornell when you're scraping out a 3.5 while never leaving Collegetown and its bars.
But I don't want to end on a negative note. I am a proud Cornellian, and I will forever be one.
Thank you for reading this blog. When I started, I vowed that I wouldn't invest any time in publicity. For the first few weeks, I put a link on my Facebook page. And I posted links on eLynah to a couple of posts. But truly, that was it. My father found this blog by reading eLynah. My mother found it almost a year later when she searched in Google for the Cornell hockey schedule and one of my posts came up first. Many of my friends have no idea that I blog.
Regardless, I continued to write because people continued to end up here. Some of you have asked what the future holds. I am certain that I will not be able to update this blog as frequently. Moreover, I will no longer be living in Ithaca, and I hate to rely on my daily dose of Google news alerts for material. Still, I will continue to write when I feel like writing, whether about Cornell University, Cornell hockey, Teach For America, or anything else which arises. Please continue to check back and write comments. I also hope to begin contributing to MetaEzra on an occasional basis, although Matt's superior knowledge of all things Cornell means that my posts may center primarily around sports.
I will conclude this post with a quotation from a certain place in Ithaca. Prize to the person who guesses correctly. And please don't answer if I took you there this weekend.
Here may you too find beauty - goodness - truth.