Pastel-colored spring suits and sleeveless summer dresses, bright straw hats and strappy high-heeled sandals, nicely pressed suits and ties--the families in Killian Court wore their own Commencement regalia on Friday, a beautiful spring day for MIT's Commencement.
The thermometer inched its way up to a more-than-cooperative 65 degrees at midday, after weeks of cool and rainy weather. To help guests cope with unexpected heat, a 24-ounce bottle of Poland Spring water had been placed on each of the approximately 5,000 beige folding chairs lined up in neat columns and rows like an accounting ledger on Killian Court.
Meanwhile, at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Kay Jurkiewicz and May Matsamura had parked their little red wagons full of floral bouquets on the sidewalk near the Student Center. Matsamura reckons they sold about 40 bouquets of roses (singles for $3 and up to $20 for a larger arrangement).
"When the families see [our flowers], they remember, 'Oh, I should give her something. He or she deserves it for the accomplishment,'" said Matsamura, who lives in New Hampshire.
And those flower bouquets found their way into Killian Court with the families, waiting to place them in the arms of graduates. Parents and grandparents, siblings and children all milled around, chatting, snacking, taking photographs. And then, the voice: "Ladies and Gentleman. The academic procession will now enter Killian Court."
They rose, looked about expectantly and finally set their sights on the center aisle where familiar faces began to appear. First faculty and staff, and then the faces the families had been waiting for--their own graduates.
R. Erich Caulfield, president of the Graduate Student Council, gave a poetic oration to his co-graduates, ending with "Congratulations" perfectly spoken in a dozen or more languages.
Later, a diverse cadence of languages again was heard in the careful pronouncement of each graduate's name.
Afterwards, Wimla Kothari, who came from India to see her granddaughter, Rachana Oza, receive the S.B. in management, asked: "Who was the young man who was such a good speaker?"
"At first I thought he was speaking in high English," said her daughter, Rachana's mother, Abha Oza. "Then I realized he was being entertaining. He certainly kept the crowd's attention." Oza, her husband and 11-year-old son Anand had traveled from N. Potomac, Md., for the ceremony. Anand was engrossed in his paperback book.
In the first aid tent, things were quiet. There were requests for ibuprofen, sunscreen and a few baby wipes, said Linda Forgues, the triage nurse at MIT Medical who staffed the tent from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with Dr. David Diamond and Dr. David Shein.
"Most of our [medical] requests are weather-oriented, and today is a perfect day," said Forgues.
Cameron Bass, who received the S.B. in mechanical engineering, carried a large plastic lawn goose under his arm. His mother, Liz Bass, said he had stolen it from a friend's lawn in the 10th grade.
"Since then it's been a lot of different places, but I never thought it would graduate from MIT," she said.
"We left a ransom note," said Cameron Bass. "And my friend's mom baked us cookies, but we didn't give the goose back. We've carried it across the country and taken pictures of it in a lot of different places."
Bass wore the goose strapped to his head during Commencement; the goose wore the mortarboard. Bass also wore a "Cameron" plaid kilt (light green and red) with hiking boots. (For more information about Bass' dress sense, see /newsoffice/2003/makeover-1217.html.)
The goose tucked under his arm, he and his family and friends headed off Killian Court to a graduates' luncheon. "I want to get my last bit of free food for my $160,000 in tuition," he said.
"I don't want to talk about it," said his father, Stuart, with a laugh. "I'm just a welder."
By then, Facilities workers were busy restacking the chairs on the lawn, now littered with Poland Spring water bottles. By 5 p.m., it would all be gone.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 9, 2004 (download PDF).