It’s Not “The Big House.” But For UM Grads, A Westport House Will Do.

Saturday was supposed to be graduation day at the University of Michigan. Held every year in the 100,000-seat football stadium — “The Big House” — it’s a day Wolverines and their family look forward to for years.

For the Kaner and Offir families, this one was extra special. Jack and Jacob are first cousins. Born 3 months apart, they graduated together from Staples High School 4 years ago.

COVID-19 shelved a trip to Ann Arbor. But it did not stop the celebration.

The Kaners hosted both families for a “social distance” lunch (the grandparents were there, far away). Everyone wore UM-themed masks, courtesy of proud grandma Lea Kaner.

The yard was decorated in maize and blue. Jonathan Kaner created realistic looking — but fake — diplomas for the grads.

Jack Kaner and Jacob Offir. Masks by Grandma.

Liz Kaner planned a surprise finale. Jack and Jacob’s Westport friends drove by blaring their horns, in cars decorated with streamers and signs.

Family members’ toasts were poignant. Many touched on themes of resiliency, and the importance of family and friends.

Jacob spoke of a cherished photo in his room, taken years ago with Jack on a roller coaster. That’s a great metaphor, he said, for how topsy-turvy their lives are now, in the pandemic.

Proud mom and aunt Liz Kaner noted that the celebration made people realize that sometimes you have to go “there” to appreciate what you have “here.”

No, it wasn’t the Big House. But it was a house in Westport — the town where the 2 cousins, and their siblings, grew up, grew roots, and earned their wings.

Hail to the victors!

PS: Jack graduated with a BA in economics, and a minor in Asian studies. He’s hunting for a job, after an offer from Hilton Hotels was rescinded due to the coronavirus. Jacob majored in business administration, with a minor in computer science. He’s been hired as a technology consultant for PwC.

Everyone got into the UM act.

12 responses to “It’s Not “The Big House.” But For UM Grads, A Westport House Will Do.

  1. Lee Bollert '79

    Congratulations to you both! Go Blue!

  2. Sandy Lefkowitz

    Congratulations to a family for creating celebration amidst uncertainties.
    It is great to share in their joy!

  3. Jimmy Izzo

    Nice piece Dan-

    Congratulations to Jack and Jacob! Well done. A shout out to all 2020 graduates and their parents as well. Not the celebration any of us anticipated this year. Very cool to see all the improvised ways our nation has gone about continuing the celebration of life milestones.

  4. Pete Wolgast

    Congratulations to Jack and Jacob!

    Go Blue!

  5. Susan Hopkins

    CONGRATULATIONS Jack and Jacob! Well done. Kudos to your wonderful Mom, Aunt, family and friends who helped celebrate this milestone. No, not the Big House. You may already know, however, faux diplomas in hand, that there truly is … No Place Like Home.


  6. Jacque O'Brien

    What a grand way to celebrate such a major event! Congratulations to Jack and Jacob and to their families!

  7. Becky Ruthven

    M go Blue! Congrats.
    i am so glad to know there are UM grads locally. My grandfather was the Pres of UM for the longest tenure in history, My brother and I also went to grad school there. Always so proud of the institution. BR

  8. Fred Cantor


    And, if it will make you feel any better, I remember very little about my college graduation ceremony 45 years later. (And that failure to remember is not related to drinking or drugs, since I did neither.)

    The overall experience and the lasting friendships are what matter in the end.

    PS as the son of an Ohio State alum, I am curious if you still think highly of Jim Harbaugh.

  9. Ginny McGovern

    Congratulations Jack πŸŽ“ and Jacob πŸŽ“!!! What a wonderful celebration your proud families hosted. Wishing you both well in your future endeavors!

  10. Barbara Wiederecht

    Congratulations to Jack and Jacob as well of course to their families. While not as originally hoped/planned it will still be memorable. My son Christopher, Staples 2009, graduated last Friday virtually from Michigan’s Ross School of Business. We watched from all parts of the country. And who knew what a virtual graduation would look like, even my son who did his undergrad at Wisconsin and definitely has biases, was impressed at the alumni that Michigan included in the Ross graduation-Tom Brady, Jim Harbaugh, new bball coach Juwan Howard and of course Stephen Ross. And of course a virtual band performance of Hail to the Victor:) As I told him, a virtual graduation didn’t change just how proud we are of him!

  11. Cheryl Bundy

    Congrats Jack and Jacob!!! I hope this is the first of many celebrations to come! And where did you get that cake? I am looking for one just like it and I’d love to give someone the business!! Thank you!