Saturday, May 10, 2008

Graduation Day

I got back to my room after the Edgar banquet and subsequent partying at about 1:00 in the morning. I was able to sleep for about an hour, then got up, showered and got myself packed and out the door for a six AM flight out of LaGuardia to Sarasota, Florida for my oldest daughter's graduation. After four great years at Ringling College of Art and Design, Robyn was graduating with her Bachelor's Degree of Fine Arts, major: Illustration. If you want to see some of her artwork, check out her blog:

I was panicked that my flight would be delayed because there were *no* other flights from LaGuardia to Sarasota, but I got there on time - and even the layover in Atlanta wasn't bad. My family was already in Sarasota -- taking in the beautiful weather and all the amazing artwork. I had to get myself showered (again) and dressed because I had a very special afternoon planned.
The commencement speaker for Ringling's graduation - as I mentioned in a prior blog post - was Jeffrey Katzenberg, of Dreamworks. I was very excited (I think that was pretty obvious). What happened next, after that blog post, was even more exciting.

My daughter Robyn is dating Andrew (great guy) and his mother, Bonnie, is a member of Ringling's board. Because of her standing at the school, she was invited to an afternoon tea -- featuring Jeffrey Katzenberg on the day of graduation. And ... how cool is this ... she invited me to go with her!!

The tea was held at the Ritz Carlton hotel and let me just say ... Wow! The finger sandwiches, canapes, and desserts were beautiful, and abundant. Bonnie and I were rebels and had coffee instead of tea ;-) There were only about 100 people invited to this and I felt incredibly lucky to have been invited. Bonnie is great. Andrew had prepared a question for Jeffrey Katzenberg - he'd typed it up ahead of time and Bonnie wanted to be sure that it was asked during the event. For a little while there, we thought that the organizers had forgotten, but Ringling president Larry Thompson pulled it out and gave it the attention it deserved. Now, I'm not just playing favorites here, but I thought Andrew's question was by far the best one asked during the event. Most of the other people were not parents of graduates -- they seemed to be local luminaries and/or donors to Ringling. They were more interested in what Katzenberg could do for the school, whereas Andrew was more interested in the future of the industry.

We had a great time and I was just so happy to be there. What a wonderful afternoon. Thanks, Bonnie!!

The afternoon tea ended at about five, and we were allowed entrance to the graduation ceremony at about six. I got back to the room where everyone (Dad, Sara, Biz, Grandma, Paul, Auntie Claudia, and Mitch) were ready to go, too.

Beautiful ceremony. As "Pomp and Circumstance" began and the graduates began their march, I started to cry. Yeah, for those of you who know me -- I am not much of a crier. But the sobs started and would not stop. I asked Curt why I was crying and he just said, "Because you're happy and proud." And he was right.

Three students sang the National Anthem so beautifully it gave me chills. Student speaker Erin McGuire's talk was one of the best I've heard, and Jeffrey Katzenberg's address was inspirational. Right before he talked, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. This is Mr. Katzenberg's first degree. He never attended college, and he talked about that, too. I can't do his speech justice, but I felt as though the audience really came away better for having heard him.

There was one big faux pas. The invocation/benediction person did a major "oops" at the end when she called him "Jeffrey Katzenberger" and the entire audience gasped. She tried to correct herself, but the damage was done. Even from my high-up seat, I thought I saw Larry Thompson cringe.

Except for that, it was one of the best graduations (if not *the* best) I've ever attended.

Aren't they beautiful?