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Families weather ceremony with smiles

The crowd gathered on Killian Court managed to keep the mood sunny despite the clouds hanging in the sky over MIT's 140th Commencement exercises, held Friday, June 9.

The threat of rain had many in the crowd sporting MIT ponchos, which were handed out at the doors. But the rain mostly held off for the ceremony -- there was just a light mist that many in the crowd did not seem to mind.

"It could have been uncomfortable if it had rained like yesterday," said Dottie Ferrara, who was in Boston from Crete, Ill., to watch her daughter, Aimee Vessell, get her MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Wearing a gold coat and sparkly jewelry, Ferrara brought her two sisters along to celebrate the event. All three had also been present at Vessell's last graduation, when she earned her her bachelor's degree from Northwestern.

"She told me last night that she could not wait to see us because that would mean it was all over," said Judy Kennedy, Vessell's aunt from Indiana. A third aunt from Wisconsin also made the journey to see Vessell graduate.

MIT Sloan School graduate Malia Schoch's family also traveled far to see her graduate. Coming in from Hawaii, their flight was so delayed that the trip took 25 hours in total, according to Shoch's mother, Fay. Still, they said they would not have missed the day.

"We have been excited for her all the way through this," Fay said. "This was her heart's dream."

Each member of the Schoch party -- her parents, husband and two close family friends -- wore one of the floral leis that were air-shipped from Hawaii last week.

Schoch herself wore a special lei, a necklace made of fragrant jasmine flowers and long green vines. "It is the lei of choice for the honored person," her mother said.

Many graduates were creative in their fashion choices Friday morning, particularly when it came to headgear. Laura Nichols, a graduating senior who earned her S.B. in mechanical engineering, put her degree to good use by constructing a series of small wire sculptures that sat atop her mortarboard.

Another graduate wore a giant carrot on her cap, which made her easily visible amid the sea of black. But it wasn't only the Class of 2006 that had fun with headwear. David Goldman, a member of the 50th reunion Class of 1956 wore a red beanie with a silver propeller on top -- the perfect match to his reunion red jacket.

It was all in the spirit of the day, said Ferrara, who planned to take a tour with her daughter later in the afternoon and go to a concert in the evening. "This has been a wonderful day," she said.

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