Chrysalis opening

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly.

Image via Wikipedia

A few years ago alumna Sue Haley (’79, ’97M) told me a story that I’ve never forgotten. She and her family were walking in the woods of a local park when they came upon a tree that was covered top to bottom with monarch butterflies. Paused during their long migration to Mexico, the butterflies covered the tree in massive numbers, creating a shimmering tower of orange and black. She had never seen anything like it before, and although she noted the exact tree and returned to the forest on the same  day the next year, she never saw it again.

This coming Saturday, the December graduates of the Class of 2011 will gather similarly one last time on their own personal migrations out into life. They will never again assemble this way. Afterwards, they will migrate all over the world, likely to every continent, and they will take the promise of change with them. No other week on campus better represents the potential for positive change than this one or hints at the changes that will result from this educational migration.

The years spent in college are some of the best of  life, maybe the best. In some ways, we spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate the experience by keeping in touch with close friends, by reliving the Madison Experience during Homecomings and local Freshman Send Offs. This rekindles that feeling of belonging, those sweet and challenging moments when we were being transformed into citizens.

For the December graduates emerging, whose wings are now unfolding and drying, it’s time to fly. But like butterflies, they will forever hold somewhere deep in their hearts an instinct to return. Some graduates will return, but some may never set foot on campus again. But even those whose lives remove them from the physical campus forever will still continue to migrate back, if not physically, then in remembering.

As they fly on, as they discover that perfect place where their lives will unfold, we are eager to know how they are changing the world, for they certainly will. Some will find greatness, even fame and fortune. Some will toil in anonymity. Still others will struggle through strong head winds. And some will soar above storms. But all will carry with them that instinct for knowing where they came from and a certainty that they are part of Madison forever.

And to the graduates of the Class of 2013: As you open your wings and fly, as you find that passion that inspires you to change the world, tell us about it. Remember this address — I’ll put it in bold letters for you —  You shouldn’t even need to write it down, but you have to stay in touch.

It’s instinct — the Madison instinct to never forget “home.”


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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