Great expectations

I spent my morning at the 24th commencement of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, at the lovely Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora, Illinois. I was invited as a member of the charter class, the class that had the very first commencement, in June 1989. I received the invitation as a member of the IMSA Alumni Association Cabinet — with this being the 25th year of IMSA, there was an attempt to get representatives from every one of the 24 graduating classes.

IMSA is a pretty special place. They draw students from the entire state of Illinois, and put them together for three years. What happens there is a lot of academics, a lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of interactions. There’s something about belonging to a place like that… there’s a connection between anyone who is or was there, kind of like the elite colleges, but perhaps even more so, since this takes place during the last three high school years.

Graduation at IMSA is full of lofty ideas. There are high expectations. With a principal who is succumbing to ALS, perhaps someone in this year’s class will be inspired to find a cure, or at least a treatment that allows people to survive in meaningful ways for longer beyond the diagnosis than most currently get. There are alums who have succeeded in nearly any aspect of life that you can think of. And there are alums who have found success in raising a family. One of the speakers today, a young man named Kyle Glasper, spoke of a dream in which he was sitting in the audience 25 years from now, watching as his daughter walked across the stage. I’m not sure that he knew that a few rows out, there sat Melvin Bacani, class of 1990, and his daughter, who will likely walk across that stage next May, as a member of the class of 2013. And I thought of my eight year old son, who will already talk about wanting to go to IMSA, and who is on track as of second grade, as much as such things can be measured in one so young. And I noticed two (or was it three?) sets of twins in this year’s class, and wondered about my three-and-a-half year old identical boys, who seem to be taking after their big brother.

Nobel laureate and IMSA founder Leon Lederman is officially retiring this year. I remember 23 years ago, when he addressed our class (as he had several times previously, but his first time as a Nobel laureate) and told us to move to Paris and fall in love with two people at the same time. I think we were advised to have lunch there with a Zen Buddhist, as well. He didn’t speak today, but he was in the audience. And I think I inadvertently followed the advice to fall in love with two people at the same time, too. Haven’t been to Paris yet, though I have done Berlin, Amsterdam, and Zurich. And if I haven’t had lunch with a zen buddhist, I’m pretty sure i have some as friends now… I also remember attending a lecture he gave at UIUC when I was an undergraduate. A number of us (IMSA alums) hung around to say hi before the talk began, and he either told us then that he would be on his toes knowing we were in the audience, or he might have actually said something to that effect at the beginning of his talk… (yes, this sort of thing is part of what it is, being an IMSA alum…)

Herr Dr. Stark is also retiring this year. He was there when I started. I never took German, but remember being taken to dinner by he and Sra. Lopez with Liz Doyle as a thank you for work service we had been doing. As I recall, we went to Fuddruckers…

Principal Eric McClaren was the commencement speaker this year, but he was unable to attend the commencement. (He was going to attend the reception afterwards on campus.) A video was put together using bits and pieces of other of his speeches and pictures of him at various events. The editing was superb. The sound was originally not functioning, which may have added some needed levity to the situation. It was absolutely wonderful to hear his voice again…

After graduation, I did not go to the reception, but went home to change so I could see part of my oldest’s first baseball game of the summer. He’s not much of an athlete, but he does enjoy team sports, so he plays in the rec league. I only saw one at-bat — he did not hit the ball, but he did a good job of not swinging at the many balls lobbed his way. He and his dad are spending the night at Waterfall Glen with the scout troop, so I haven’t heard how the rest of the game went.

I spent the rest of the day with my twins. Interesting transition — from a lofty graduation, to being with the very here-and-now preschoolers… But, I do have mommy’s boys, all three of them, so it was a good day, all in all.

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