Earlier this month, I had the wonderful privilege of volunteering at the 2009 Commencement of my alma mater, Lake Forest College. Unlike when I was a student, Commencement is now held in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival and no matter the weather, it is held outside. In 1993, when I graduated, I remember seeing the temporary stage being built on the quad on Middle Campus and we all prayed it was warm and sunny that day in early May so we didn't have to be squeezed into the Gymnasium.
Bill Kurtis was our Commencement speaker in 1993. I don't remember what he spoke about, although I'm certain it was motivating and appropriate. He was someone I'd grown up watching on the local CBS affiliate, so I can't say I was overly excited about his speech. This year, however, Lake Forest scored Scott Turow of One L and Presumed Innocent fame. Selfishly, I must admit that my reason for volunteering was simply to hear him speak. As a fan of the legal thriller and with my own background in law, I was practically foaming at the mouth with the prospect of being in the vicinity of Scott Turow. His speech was memorable and hearing him encourage this year's graduates to make a difference in the world as he's done with his work on the death penalty was inspiring. He reminded me why I wanted to be a lawyer for most of my life and almost (the key word here is "almost") made me want to go retake the LSAT and apply to law school.
As wonderful as hearing Scott Turow was, the highlight of my day came at the beginning of the ceremony when the professors and other faculty members formed a gauntlet and the graduates walked through. I was standing immediately behind Ed Packel, Mike Dau, and Ron Miller and across from Carol Gayle, with Jill Van Newenhizen, Nancy Brekke, Sergio Guglielmi, and Jackie Slaats just a few feet away. The processional for 300 students must have taken almost 30 minutes because more often than not the students stopped to hug and thank their professors.
Watching members of the Class of 2009 share such intimate moments with their favorite professors and hearing their words of thanks and the genuine words of encouragement from the faculty reminded me part of why I chose Lake Forest in the first place and why I'm grateful everyday to be an alum. Never once in my four years at the College did I have a teaching assistant. They didn't exist and still don't. The professors and faculty knew me personally and 16 years later, they still do. Yes, I made myself known back then, but given that I never had a class with more than 30 students, it was easy and it was also impossible to hide.
I am confident that the nurturing (not smothering, to be sure) I received at Lake Forest helped shape the woman I've become. My beliefs were challenged and I was encouraged to explore where my beliefs came from and why I had them. I was given opportunities for wonderful internships and off-campus programs, which I smartly took advantage of. We were taught to think outside the box and to be solution-oriented. The faculty took an active interest in us both as students and as people. I'm proud of the relationships I still maintain with the faculty who were pivotal in my life.
Being at Commencement earlier this month sent me right back to that great day 16 years ago when I graduated and it inspired me to dig up some pictures. Enjoy!