As the countdown to graduation begins, so many memories flood my mind. Our youngest of three, our “baby,” is graduating from college. How did this happen?
Some background: It wasn’t always easy. Among our three children, our youngest was always the least interested in school. Don’t get me wrong, he was an A student in high school — when it came to socializing, sports, and girls. If you wanted a lovable comedian in the classroom, he was your guy. Academics? Not so much. And he paid the price, attending another school that he didn’t love as a freshman in order to improve his grades. Fortunately, he did. He worked hard, and earned a strong GPA. Even though he was accepted to every college to which he applied for transfer, the question of “where next” was easily answered after he visited UMass Amherst. It had everything he wanted in a larger university. Best of all, his good study habits stuck, and he’s maintained strong grades all three years at UMass Amherst.
As he prepared for senior year, we discussed balancing his classroom performance with enjoying his final year of college. It can be a challenging balance for some, including those with outsize personalities such as our son. Fortunately, he heeded our advice and has had a great senior year. Those conversations we had last summer occurred at a point when we still had “plenty of time.” Graduation was nearly a year away, not yet truly on our collective radar. Yet, here it is, and as it approaches my wife and I are experiencing a host of different emotions.
Yes, it is emotional. Personally, I’m experiencing a variety of feelings, including uncertainty about his future employment as he waits to hear back from several companies, as well as recognition that this is another milestone on life’s journey reflecting the inexorable passage of time. But most of all we feel pride in our son’s accomplishments. And, truth be told, a bit in our own. It’s not easy to raise children, including the concern and expense of educating them.
As we prepare to watch our son cross the commencement stage, memories of his birth and life to this point flash through my mind. Through highlights and lowlights (fortunately, many more of the former) he has been a source of caring, humor, and outright fun. Although he hasn’t yet articulated it, we know the great sense of pride and accomplishment he feels. He’s worked hard and made many great friends at UMass Amherst, all while receiving a fantastic education. UMass Amherst has become a special place for all of us. Personally, as I conclude my term on the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council, I rejoice in the friendships I made with other parents and staff members. I recall my first meeting two years ago when outgoing members were recognized. Just starting, my departure from the Council seemed far away then. Now it is my turn to say goodbye.
But in a way, even as a parent, I’ll never truly say goodbye to UMass Amherst. As such a special place to my child, a bit of the UMass Amherst magic wore off on me. Undoubtedly reinforced through my tenure as a member of the Advisory Council, I feel like I made a small but meaningful impact on the college experience of my son and other students. As such, I encourage you to get involved, either by applying to join the Council or by some other means. It is clearly worthwhile, as evidenced by the smiling faces we’ve come to know who are preparing to cross the graduation stage. So this isn’t goodbye, UMass Amherst. I’ll continue to visit your website, read these blogs, and follow your sports teams, among other things. No, it’s more, “we’ll continue to stay in touch.” And we will.
Chuck Kaufman is a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council and the parent of a graduating senior.