I got a nice invitation to speak to the graduates that were conferred with PhD’s and MSc’s in UCC recently. Such events are special for all involved and it was a nice challenge to get a realistic but upbeat message to the graduates and their parents. I prepared a text for the event at the request of the University(click here to view) The most important theme was to stress the significance of having highly trained individuals and this cohort was ideal for such a message. Ireland says it needs is what is de-humanisingly described as human capital and those who come through the fourth level system are an essential component of our hopes for the future economic glories of the country. But a graduation day goes far beyond the handshaking and speechifying. I have written in the past for EMBO reports on reflections on graduation day (click here to view EMBO reports September 2006). In that editorial for EMBO reports I referred to graduation day as being an emotional event. The Cork visit made that even more vivid. The ceremony in Cork started with a colourful parade through the quad. As the graduands passed by parents beamed but as the column of gowns moved into the graduation ceremony a mother and two children stood isolated and tearful in a huddle. I could only reflect that the missing male figure was severely missed at that moment as the tears did not seem to be fully joyful.
Then at the ceremony itself there was a further moment that brought a gulp. Many awards are made in abstencia but one that this ceremony was made in abstencia that had to be collected by the father of a deceased student. One can only imagine the flurry of thoughts going through his mind at that moment one couldn’t avoid thinking of the profound sadness of a life ended too soon and then looking at the recently graduated individuals it was impossible not to hope that all of them remained smiling in the future as they were on that day.