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Wittenberg Graduation

by Lionel E. Deimel


On a gray May day

In Ohio state,

You’re poised, at last,

To graduate.


From Wittenberg,

You’ll be a grad—

Forever marked

A Luther lad.


We first attend

The dining hall,

Where brunch awaits us,

Friends and all.


The ceremony

In the Hollow

Has been rained out,

And so, we follow


Students, teachers,

Moms, and dads

Who’ll, in the gym,

See kids turn grads.


The banners lead

The black parade;

Some prayers are said

And welcomes made.


An author adds,

In prose and rhyme,

Some wise advice

For grown-up time.


Next, guys and gals,

In caps and gowns,

Come forth with joy

And banished frowns.


Then all march out

To stand and wait

For photo ops

To celebrate.




I spent May 17, 2003, at Lutheran affiliated Wittenberg University, in Springfield, Ohio, where Christopher Klukas was graduating with a BA in English. Chris has been a best friend of my son Geoffrey since they were in elementary school. I wrote this poem after the commencement ceremony and read it to a group of friends and family gathered for a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant. The last stanza was finished just before my salad arrived at the table.

For those who attended commencement, no further explanation is necessary, but, for everyone else, some annotation is in order. The first event I attended was the Commencement Brunch in the student center dining hall (nice architecture, mediocre food). In clement weather, commencement is held outdoors in Commencement Hollow, but, on this graduation day, there was a constant drizzle. The ceremonies were moved to the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Center (affectionately known, apparently, as the H.P.E.R.C.). Most visitors sat on bleachers on either side of a basketball court. (I must say that the contoured, molded plastic bleachers were the most comfortable I have ever encountered.) The ceremony was largely unremarkable, save for some distinctly Lutheran touches, but the commencement address, by author Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), was one of the best and down-to-earth addresses I have ever heard. Ms. Viorst recited verses from her book You’re Officially a Grown-up: The Graduate’s Guide to Freedom, Happiness, and Personal Hygiene and interspersed them with additional comments addressed to the graduates.

I think Chris appreciated the poem, which is, of course, dedicated to him. I changed a couple of words of the poem then next day, by the way.

— LED, 5/18/2003

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