By Breanne Smith
My first weekend as a freshman at Ohio University included a gathering in the Convocation Center with all of my new classmates to hear professors, administrators and President Roderick McDavis, who was starting his first year in the role, impart words of welcome and wisdom. Afterward, we followed the Marching 110 up Richland Avenue and passed through the Alumni Gateway onto the College Green.
I almost missed my opportunity to shake the president's hand as I craned my neck to read the gate's inscription: "So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge wisdom and love."
Four years and a lifetime later, I'm once again on the College Green with a gathering of classmates and am proud to say that I have grown in each of the areas mentioned on the gate.
The first Senior Farewell Ceremony, hosted by the Senior Class Council, has attracted students who also look more knowledgeable, wiser and loving (there's a lot of hugging) than they were four years ago. Traces of anxiety from freshman year are still visible, but instead of worrying "Will I fit in?" or "Will I be able to handle college courses?" the question in students' minds seems to be "How can it possibly be time to leave OU already?"
We do our best to ignore the temperature, which has soared to more than 90 degrees, and scarf down perhaps our last university meal together: burgers, hot dogs, baked beans and quick-melting ice cream sandwiches.
President McDavis, having once been a senior Bobcat himself, scans the maudlin faces and seems to sympathize.
"I've worked at four universities," he says. "Never have I seen so many seniors want to stay, asking to have one more quarter, one more class. I'm lucky ... I get to have homecoming every day."
For perhaps the first time, I am a little jealous of the president.
My mood doesn't improve when the Singing Men of Ohio lead us in the Alma Mater, and I swear I see star athletes, computer geeks, Student Senate members and even my cynical friends start to tear up.
We're able to laugh a little, though, as the "Top 10 Ways You Know You're a Senior" are announced (my favorites include seniors getting upset with freshmen for not recognizing the void caused by the Oasis closing and seniors referring to the student center as "new" Baker, even though "old" Baker is officially closed).
The "Most Recognizable Seniors" are announced as well, and I'm proud to say I did, in fact, recognize a few. Walt Williamson, Interfraternity Council president and holder of about a million other positions on campus, is introduced as the most-recognized senior.
Aaron Brown, BSJ '01, is the keynote speaker. His encouragement to form a self-brand in order to better market ourselves as job candidates and in other roles is informative and probably will be helpful in my future. Still, my mind can't help but wander to how much I hope I am in his position in a few years, returning to campus as an involved graduate interested in helping students take advantage of all their opportunities.
It's also at this point that I realize how well the event programs work as fans, as the sun has shifted to my face.
I tune back in when Brown catches my heat-fried brain's attention with unusual words of advice: "Get sneezers. Sneezers are people in your life who will 'sneeze' good things about you onto other people."
I'm still pondering this analogy, which even Brown admits is semi-gross, when champagne flutes are passed around and filled with sparkling grape juice for the toast, led by Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith.
Even my second helping of ice cream (a rather mushy Fudgesicle) can't boost my spirits as my friends and I join the line of seniors marching across the green and back through the Alumni Gateway.
We're each handed a gift, a gold and green commemorative coin reading "Ohio University Class of 2008" on one side with the image of the Class Gate and "Welcome Ohio Alumnus June 6th, 2008" with the image of Konneker Alumni Center on the opposite side.
I once again come close to missing my opportunity to shake the president's hand as I raise my head to read the gate: "So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen thy country and thy God."
As I study the faces of the seniors surrounding me, I hope that in future years we will be able to return, and I can proudly say once again that we have been true to the gate's words.