Members of KU's class of 1996 trade in lab equipment, textbooks and pocket protectors for diplomas at the 124th commencement ceremony.
Today's the benchmark party day at Kansas University.
Honored guests will be 6,225 members of the KU class of 1996. They've been waiting at least four years for the university's 124th commencement exercise.
A flurry of campus activity kicks into high gear at 2:30 p.m. That's when family and friends witness the climactic march of about 4,000 graduates from Memorial Drive, past the Campanile and into Memorial Stadium.
"Some students who go down the hill are very solemn-faced. They've worked hard. It's a very sobering event," said George McCleary, chair of KU's commencement committee. "Others going down the hill are just as happy as they can be. They're done. They're out of here."
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said he was excited about anointing his first class of Jayhawk graduates with diplomas.
He wasn't always a big fan of this academic ritual.
"As a student, in fact, I didn't understand why I went through commencement ceremonies. But five or 10 years later, I realized why," Hemenway said.
He's observed enough pomp and circumstance to understand that graduation was an appropriate time to seriously reflect on the role of higher education in the creation of a learned society.
For all the commencement rookies, here's some advice:
- Grads -- Don't wear fancy clothes under that black polyester cap and gown. In this case, less is better. And be discrete with champagne and other refreshment. Save your energy for post-commencement romps.
- Mom and dad -- Beat the anticipated 90-degree heat with an umbrella. Consider ear plugs. An hour of "Procession of the Nobles" can be painful.
- Youngsters -- This event is dull for folks with a short attention span. Save yourself with a Game Boy, an Olympic gymnast Barbie, a book by Dr. Seuss or a Super Soaker XP-105. Look out for campus security.
After the graduates and approximately 25,000 fans are seated in the stadium, the KU band will run through "The Star-Spangled Banner."
John Hiebert, a Lawrence physician and chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, is scheduled to make introductory remarks.
Here's a preview: Education is a lifelong activity.
"Education is a process," he said. "It is important for us to realize ... that we will continue to grow and to learn."
Four KU administrators will follow Hiebert with a tribute to award-winning student leaders, teaching faculty, alumni and friends. In addition, the chair of KU's Alumni Association will invite the grads to sign up.
Hemenway will take a moment to deliver a farewell address. After each KU dean formally presents candidates for degrees, the chancellor will read the official declaration that transforms them into graduates.
The program ends with renditions of "Crimson and the Blue" and "The Invincible Eagle."
In case of rain
In the event of rain -- really HEAVY rain -- the outdoor exercise will be postponed at Memorial Stadium or moved to Allen Fieldhouse.
That decision will be made by KU officials at noon, with the verdict available on the Journal-World's telephone Access line at 865-5000, category 6645. If the phone's out of reach, get the word from Sunflower Cablevision or a local radio station.
Based on the hope the weather will clear, KU intends to direct graduates to assemble at 5 p.m. on Memorial Drive for the normal procession into Memorial Stadium.
However, if it's still raining, the graduates will be split into two groups for processions into Allen Fieldhouse.
A 3 p.m. ceremony would be held for graduates of KU's 12 academic schools. They are allied health, architecture, business, education, engineering, fine arts, journalism, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social welfare.
Graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the graduate school would convene at 7 p.m. for their graduation.
Remember -- regardless of the commencement location -- avoid headaches by parking and riding a KU bus. The buses will run from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
The loop route will serve the stadium, Kansas Union, Jayhawk Boulevard, Murphy Hall, parking garage, Burge Union and Daisy Hill.