Early yesterday afternoon, Eliza Donovan graduated from Lehigh University.
It was not the ceremony she envisioned. The 2016 Staples High School alum left campus in mid-March. She and her classmates finished their college careers at home, clouded by COVID and a changed world.
Commencement took place virtually. There was a cappella music, a slideshow, and a symbolic conferring of degrees.
Almost as soon as it was over, Eliza really graduated.
She’s lucky to have a fun-loving, creative family, with 5 siblings and ton of nearby cousins. She’s lucky they all love Lehigh (her father Dan and uncles Dave and Doug went there too). She’s lucky they wanted to celebrate in style.
So at 3 p.m., Eliza’s extended family assembled in their back yard. There was a program on every seat.
“Pomp and Circumstance” played. Eliza marched in. Her brother Johnny welcomed everyone, and delivered a commencement speech. He wished her well as she went off into the world — though he reminded her to wear a face mask, and stay within her safe social bubble.
Eliza’s father gave a speech too, then presented the diplomas — er, diploma. (It was his old one, with her name taped over his.)
She was cited as valedictorian. Hey, she had the highest GPA of any graduate at that ceremony.
Eliza’s mother Nicole gave the benediction.
It was the way a graduation should be: short and sweet. And very personal.
There were no honorary degrees conferred on wealthy contributions. No one had to yell “Sit down – I can’t see!” No one passed out, sitting for hours in a hot stadium.
And when it was over, Eliza — a championship diver — started a new tradition. She dove into the pool.
Then — as the “graduation program” noted — the proud graduate’s family invited everyone to a celebratory reception.
Her whole family was there.