About Site


Gathering on Tappan Square
Written May 26, 2008


Today was a big day for Oberlin College.  The school was featured on the front page of the New York Times.  Oberlin's president is very proud of the article about the "sustainability house," the Student Experiment in Ecological Design.  And, more importantly, it was Commencement Day, celebrating the college's 175th anniversary!

I had traveled to the campus in north-central Ohio for a weekend reunion of my class of 1969.  We've been grouped into a "cluster" to hold our reunions in conjunction with the classes of 1968 and 1967.  Therefore, this was officially the 40th anniversary year for our cluster, even though it's been only 39 years for my particular class.

So when today's commencement commenced, I was there to take a few pictures.  Here are half a dozen.


Over more than four decades, I’ve witnessed several other Oberlin commencement processions.  The links below will take you to the photos.  Also, this one leads to a 1965 speech.






Early-morning thundershowers had led me to think that the 2008 ceremony might be moved indoors, as mine had been.  But the weather cleared, and friends and relatives of the graduating class began to gather near the middle of Oberlin's Tappan Square.

Cell phones were more in evidence than the last time I was on hand for this event five years ago.  Mostly the conversations seemed to be of the "where are you" variety.  "I'm to the left of the stage, about halfway back, near a big tree.  Do you see me waving?"

Across the street, about 660 members of the class of 2008 lined up on the sidewalk, despite the fact that their chalked starting positions had been partly washed away by the weather.  (For a panoramic view, click here.)  The academic procession began at 9:30.

The first music was Ralph Vaughan Williams' hymn tune "Sine Nomine" (For All the Saints) — well suited for a march with its insistent bass line.  I think churches should start playing it that way, with brass and drums.

The procession crossed Professor Street and passed through the Memorial Arch, as photographers moved in and the sun peeked out.

It could be quite a chore to spot one's favorite graduate.  Some folks found themselves standing on chairs.

Most ceremonies of this sort take place in football stadiums nowadays.  From the raised seating, it's easier to see what's going on and keep an eye on your graduate.

But Oberlin traditionally holds its commencement at Tappan, which is as level as the rest of the town.  As you can tell from the perspective of the TV cameraman below, it's tough to see anything but the speaker's platform and the tops of a sea of heads.

On the weekend preceding the commencement, there was the reunion.  Here are three other stories about that event:

Learning from the Achievers
The Organ Tour
What's New with Obie


Back to Top
More CollegeMore College