The final sprint across the academic finish line sometimes takes interesting turns.
By Kelly R. McKendrick Sr. (BS ’82), Gilbert, Ariz.
Blood, Sweat, and Binder Clips
By Zephne Larsen Vaterlaus (BS ’12), Provo
I arrived in Provo the day of graduation, having just finished my senior thesis the day before. I only needed to print and turn in a hard copy.
As I dressed in my robes, my husband, James P. Vaterlaus (’14), sent my thesis to a printer in the Crabtree Technology Building. We rushed to pick it up, inspected it for the last time, and ran our separate paths: me to the commencement line and James to turn in my thesis. He ran to the Eyring Science Center but realized the thesis wasn’t stapled. He searched until he found the one working stapler in the building and wrestled the staple through my 31-page thesis. Feeling triumphant, James looked down to see his blood all over the front cover. Somehow the staple had stabbed his finger! In a panic, James ran to the Clyde Building, reprinted the top cover, ran to the Bookstore, purchased some binder clips, returned to the Eyring, and hung the clean thesis on my professor’s door. After convocation my professor assured me that my thesis was satisfactory and I could indeed graduate.
By Kristin Gubler Marshall (BS ’83), St. George, Utah
It was the day before graduation. I took my last final exam and went to pick up my cap and gown. I was in the last trimester of pregnancy and very large. The woman at the counter looked at me and asked, “When are you due? Tomorrow?”
I explained that I was seven months along and was grateful that I now had two stress-free months to prepare.
I awoke early the next morning, and as I began to get ready for graduation, my water broke! Instead of driving to the Marriott Center, we drove to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. While my family watched graduation on TV in the waiting room of the hospital, I became the mother of not one but two beautiful baby girls.
By Pamela Davenport Graf (BA ’86), St. George, Utah
My husband, Jeffery D. Graf (BA ’86), and I were so excited to be graduating together. After the commencement ceremony, we took photos around campus with family members.
We took one of our pictures at the edge of the fountain in front of the ASB. While we posed, my cap began to slip. As I reached up to grab it, my elbow knocked Jeff’s cap into the fountain, where it quickly sank. Needless to say, he was not happy! He had not had his college convocation yet, and now his cap was sopping wet.
We decided to get some lunch and leave his cap on the dashboard of the car. Perhaps the August heat would dry it out. Not only did it dry the cap, but whereas it had been too big for him before the incident, it now fit perfectly.
By Rachel Belk Moyar (BA ’11), Orem, Utah
My older brother and I graduated from BYU on the same day. Naturally, our proud mother couldn’t take enough pictures of us in our caps and gowns. We posed at various locations on campus, smiling until our cheeks hurt. I began to hint that even our future picture-crazed posterity would be satisfied by now with our visual record of the great event. Mom took the hint but wanted just one more—she suggested that we jump from the raised flower bed surrounding the Brigham Young University sign on the corner across from LaVell Edwards Stadium. The picture would capture us in midair with arms raised in triumph: the perfect memento to mark the conclusion of all our hard work at BYU. The picture was perfect—but for my brother, this was cold comfort as he later limped across the stage to receive his diploma with a broken foot!
Warm, Fuzzy Memory
By Jonathan M. Chamberlain (BA ’58), Orem, Utah
It was a hot August commencement day at BYU. As a new faculty member, I was to wear my cap and gown and march from the administration building to the Marriott Center and then stand in line with the other faculty members to congratulate the graduates as they passed. My doctorate gown was black and decorated with navy blue velvet stripes. I neatly donned my cap and gown at home before driving to campus. I rolled the windows down to get a good breeze going.
I did not realize that my children had left several ripe cattails in the rear of our station wagon. Soon an unusual amount of flying fuzz surrounded me in the driver’s seat, some of it sticking to my eyelids. By the time I arrived, I had blurred vision and was in a cloud of fuzz. My heart sank when I looked at my gown. The once navy blue velvet was now uniformly covered with what looked like white cat fur.
Seeing my plight, helpful colleagues joined me in a good laugh as we wet our fingers and tried to rub the stripes clean of fuzz. Before we could finish, the signal to start marching came. I had the distinct sense of leaving a cloud of trailing cattail fur behind me as we walked. Once, I glanced back to see a few people picking at their velvet stripes. Fortunately, no one complained about my cattail fuzz, but a few hands politely covered laughs.
By Julie Gillespie Weed (BA ’99), Bend, Ore.
I was a fifth-year senior with more than 150 credits in 1998 when BYU started emphasizing timely graduations, and I began feeling the squeeze. Everything was lining up for graduation until I realized I would be three credits short of my English degree and I had no room in my schedule due to student teaching. By chance I found The Great American Novel was offered through Independent Study. How hard could it be to find time for pleasure reading?
All too soon I realized that cracking open a lengthy novel was the last thing I wanted to do after teaching and grading papers. Panic set in: I skimmed chapters of The Scarlet Letter and watched a movie of The Age of Innocence.At one point, I even read the CliffsNotes on Moby-Dick. Horrors! What had become of me?!
Weeks later I was drowning in guilt and stress when my appendix ruptured. It looked like I would be missing an appendix and a diploma in April.
Luckily, I discovered that Independent Study classes do not have semester deadlines—I had an entire year to finish my course. I was saved! I proudly walked into the Marriott Center in my cap and gown that April, knowing the actual diploma would arrive in August.
Lions, A Liger, and Bears—Oh My!
And reptiles, insects, and plants too. As part of a pack of excited school children or as students becoming one with nature on a college date, all kinds of creatures have found a haven in the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. From research and employment opportunities to scavenger hunts and live animal shows, chances for discovery have flourished over the last 35 years. When it reopened in June (see story on p. 33), the expanded Bean Museum featured both old (Shasta the Liger!) and new friends. Share your memories of this wild place. Deadline: Sept. 8.
BYU Magazine pays $50 for stories published in First Person. Send anecdotes (of up to 300 words) to email@example.com. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.