Archive for Monday, May 20, 1996

WALK DOWN THE HILL FEATURE

May 20, 1996

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The walk down the Hill took 40 minutes, but the memories will last a lifetime.

To hear Katie Meier tell it, the idea of walking 840 feet down a crowded sidewalk with four of her closest friends was the sole reason to attend Kansas University.

Her goal became reality Sunday afternoon, when Meier strolled through a crowd of friends, family and 10,000 others atop Mount Oread, closing five years of work on her pharmacy degree.

"This is everything," she said before the ceremony, clutching a beer in one hand and a bottle of Tott's champagne in the other. "This is why you come to KU -- to walk down the Hill."

More than 4,000 graduates made this year's walk, closing the book on another academic year. Jayhawks have made the annual pilgrimage since 1924.

Graduates from a dozen schools and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences managed to walk, wheel or even get carried down the Hill in two lines, from the Campanile to Memorial Stadium.

The significance of the lively pomp and circumstance -- graduates sported Frisbees, roses and rubber duckies atop their mortar boards, while others carried fishing poles and tassel-toting dogs -- wasn't lost on those ready to enter the work force.

Jennifer Garrett, who earned an architectural studies degree, said she enjoyed Sunday's spectacle much more than her previous graduation, from the University of Pennsylvania.

"At Penn, it was more like, `You graduated. You better be serious,'" she said. "Here, it's for the students. It's not for the Ivy League school and their faculties."

But don't forget the parents. Karen Shamblin, of Springfield, Mo., drove 250 miles to see two of her sons graduate: Michael Roberson, from law school, and Douglas Roberson with a degree in political science.

"It's the greatest day of my life," said Shamblin, who graduated Saturday with an accounting degree from Pittsburg State University. "This is Mother's Day for me right now."

Shamblin carried a disposable Kodak FunSaver camera to capture the moment, while many others went with higher technology. Camcorders dotted the sidewalks, and accommodating graduates stopped to mug for the cameras.

Kelly Johnson had more on her mind. She called her husband, Mark, on a Motorola cellular phone while walking down the Hill, with explicit directions for fixing bottles for their 6-month-old sin, Trevor.

"It's been a big day," the newly hooded nurse practitioner said. "We had the baptism this morning, and now this."

Greg Gurley counted the walk among the biggest days in his life. The former KU basketball player, who played in the 1993 Final Four, left campus Sunday with a degree in business administration.

His brother, Dan, also graduated Sunday, with a medical degree.

"This is something I'll never forget," Gurley said, holding a cigar butt in his left hand. "We've got 6,000 people, all walking down the hill. It's just something that happens here, at the University of Kansas. It's just a great time in my life."

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