Now they are looking ahead

(Photo by Jeff Wingo ('80, '95M)

Photo by Jeff Wingo (’80, ’95M)

JMU dad and double-Duke Jeff Wingo (’80, ‘95M) posted a picture on Facebook from this past weekend’s graduation on the Quad. It’s a look at a collection of decorated mortarboards — a salute to the individuality of each student. (To see many more decorated mortarboards, check out JMU’s Facebook page.)

It’s also a view of their backs, as they leave JMU and go out into the world. As we watch them leave en masse, they are looking forward.

Every year graduates leave behind their shadows in the minds of their professors, in the organizations they joined, in the friends they made, and the classes they attended. One professor told me that it was a bit sad watching the students leave — those he had nurtured and befriended. He’ll miss them. Graduates also leave behind proud parents who  believe in their futures, parents like Jeff and Michelle (’79) Wingo. But the time had come.

What graduates leave behind, however, is far less than what they take away. They walk away with sharpened talents, earned knowledge, rich experiences and unsullied dreams. With these, they enter a new phase of their lives — and new worlds ready for shaping and changing.

Some will head to Wall Street or D.C. to work 80-hour weeks to “pay their dues” as their fields require.  Others will take their talents to inner cities or creative suites or classrooms. Jeff and Michelle’s son, Owen Wingo (’13), will take his B.A. in musical theater  to New York to face auditioning and the roller coaster of dreams and hopes that is the nature of the theater business. Some will find purpose in nonprofits. Others will find it in technology, science or industry.

Some will venture to other worlds, like Will McLaughlin (’12, ‘13M) and Becky Blecksmith (’12, ‘13M), two English graduates who will move to China to teach English.

All of them take with them  the optimism of youth, something that is intense, infectious and irrepressible in the typical 20-something. Few could persuade them otherwise. And who would want to? They believe in the promise of the future. This week they are energized and excited at their prospects for finding jobs, creating their futures and finding their places in the world.

Eventually, they will discover, as every alumnus already knows, life isn’t always what you expect it to be. Sometimes it’s better. Sometimes it’s harder. Sometimes it’s disappointing. Sometimes it’s wonderful. But our hope is that they have all graduated with enough moxie to handle whatever life brings. Most importantly, we hope they have learned what a meaningful life should look like, and that what they bring to the world is not just themselves, not just talents, not just drive and ambition and hope. Life is not a simple pursuit of personal fame and fortune, but a desire to find and carry out ways — small, large and in between — to change the world.


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....

One Response to Now they are looking ahead

  1. Mark Thomas says:

    This is a wonderful article. Graduation ceremonies are very happy and slightly sad occasions when you work in higher ed. You are always a little sad to see some great students leave, but it is also an event full of optimism for the future. I think you have captured this quite wonderfully in your article. And the photo is just excellent!


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