Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Graduation Day

On May 13, 1989, I graduated from the University of Idaho with a Bachelors of Science in History and Minor in English.  It was the culmination of four years of school and it was a special day for my family.

My college career had a rocky start, my grandmother actually died the day I was supposed to go to college and get my dorm room.  I still remember driving the short 30 miles a bit later in the day with tears running down my face.  When the funeral happened a few days later, my brother and I both had to leave and go up and take care of registration.  Back then, computers weren't that common and registration occurred on the floor of the football stadium that is called the "Kibbie Dome!"  It was a mind blowing experience, especially for a freshman who had never seen anything like it.  I was fortunate,  I had my brother to guide me through and I survived the experience.  During the next few years - I provided the same assistance to several freshmen as I never forgot the experience.

I was not the first or even the second to graduate from college in my family.  My grandmother had graduated from the Lewis Clark Normal in 1932.  When she went to school, her father butchered a hog to pay for tuition and she rode her horse to school.  Her mother and she picked lettuce for three summers to save enough money to buy a piano so she could learn music - which would help her get hired as a teacher.

There was nothing so dramatic when my brother went to school.  He had his own tribulations - but his graduation in 1986 was a triumph - and not just because of him.  My grandfather had lived on his own after my grandmother had died.  Looking back, he really shouldn't have been living on his own.  Grandpa had numerous health problems and his days were involved with the various treatments of his blood disease and diabetes.  Back in the early 1980's, Grandma Cappy and Grandpa Gwen donated a sum of money to the University of Idaho to provide a three scholarships for District #241.  This was the school district where my Grandpa had been on the school board for 25 years and my Grandma had taught school at one of the elementary schools.
Gwen Shearer & Capitola Friddle Shearer - My grandparents
 Every year, one student from each of the three high schools in the district, got a 4 year full scholarship to the University of Idaho.  It didn't matter if they were going to teach, become an engineer or lawyer - all that mattered was that they came from that district and were going to school at the University of Idaho.  It was something that gave my grandparents a great deal of satisfaction and something we as a family was very proud of.  During that graduation in 1986, the first class of these scholarship students was going to graduate.  So, my parents made arrangements to get my grandfather physically as close to the Kibbie Dome where the graduation was being held and made arrangements for someone to transport him up to the doors.  Mom had some food with her in case his blood sugar dropped (which it did) and they made it so a fragile old man could see his first grandson graduate from college but also see the first of those scholarship students graduate.  He said he was doing it for both he and grandma - and it wasn't an easy thing for him to do physically - but he did it anyway.  Eight months later, he passed away.
My brother, Russell with my Grandpa Gwen Shearer, and mother Betty Johnson

In many ways, I was like those scholarship students.  My grandparents provided the money for me, my siblings and cousins to go to college without the worry of college loans.  I saw a lot of friends who had a lot more of a struggle.  While it was much cheaper back then, I realized that I had been very fortunate.

I don't enjoy being the center of attention - and I was incredibly nervous.  I was sure that I would trip and fall in front of the entire crowd...so I didn't sleep that much.  Neither did my one year old niece - she was teething and I remember her being just a bit too much like me in terms of being reluctant to go to sleep.
My niece going up the stairs on the morning of my graduation.  You couldn't keep her down!
 When I walked into the Kibbie Dome during graduation procession, I looked up in the crowd trying to see my family and it would have been a hopeless cause, except my sister-in-law was holding up my 5 1/2 old nephew so I could see my family.  Since I was graduating in the centennial year of the university, I got a medal signifying the event.  My brother said that it wasn't quite fair - he didn't get a metal.  My mother told him that she didn't have a professor walk up and tell her that he was a pleasure to have in class like I did!  (One of my Professors came over and gave me a hug and told my mother that I was one of her favorite students and that she loved having me in class - it is always great to hear nice things from people you respect) Looking back, I find it interesting that two of my clearest memories of that day are connected with my niece and nephew.  That niece also went on to graduate from the University of Idaho...and next year, I will be able to go and see her brother graduate from the University of Idaho as well.
After the ceremony - at home with the beautiful cake that my sister-in-law made.

So, today I think about 25 years ago and going up to get my diploma and knowing that I had my family there to see it happen.  I also think of how lucky I was to have grandparents who gave me, my siblings and cousins the opportunity for education.  Since they set up that scholarship - about 90 students have graduated.  That is quite a legacy for them to leave behind.