Brown University, Tufts University, Wellesley College, Middlebury College, American University, University of Virginia. Two senior males. All the rest senior women. And there were more. And all of them women. And all of them with honors. All to be celebrated in a special way, not just for graduating from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, but for graduating with special recommendations.
So it was on Sunday, June 7 when our family celebrated our granddaughter’s graduation in Troy, N.Y. What a marvelous and inspiring, warm and personal graduation it was. The class size was about half that of the Vineyard and there was definitely the same small town atmosphere. Much like the annual senior biographies in the Vineyard Gazette, each student in Katherine’s class at Emma Willard, an all girls school, was lionized and lampooned by the school president for the legacies they were leaving. The day was blue sky, the temperature perfect. The graduates came from Botswana, Korea and Saudi Arabia — and Maine, Montana and Massachusetts (our granddaughter).
As I sat and watched and listened, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the one demon in my craw that has been with me for all my 70 years. I went to junior college and received no parental encouragement to get a four-year education. My brother had gone to all the best schools and I was a girl. I’m still working on my college degree. It will be a symbolic and joyous day in our family when I get it — half a century late. As for Katherine, a girl just like every other member of her class, there was never any thought of not going to college. Every girl in her class is continuing her education at some school, somewhere.
While I listened to my granddaughter and met her friends, they proudly announced where they were going. Katherine is headed to Franklin and Marshall, her parents’ alma mater. Her friends are going to Brown, Vassar and Swarthmore. Oh my God! Was I jealous? Yes, jealous. But oh so proud and full of love for her, of course. And, yes, I would like to be her age and have that opportunity. Or better yet, I would like to be my Vineyard granddaughter, Emma. Her parents laugh when I tell them that. They will do so much to sacrifice, plan and inspire Emma to get the best education she can because they know how smart she is. Thankfully, it’s no longer about being a boy or a girl. It’s about a brain and a mind and a soul and a psyche and a future. It’s about her as a person of special talents who can be anything she wants. It’s the greatest gift a parent can give to a child.
As Katherine gets ready for her summer job to earn some college spending money, she realizes how lucky she is. She has been given the groundwork and the foundation to go on to a great college and keep going on — and keep going on. I know she will be great wherever she goes or whatever she chooses to be. God bless this era we live in where women can be just that — anything they want. Don’t many of us of the generation of the forties and fifties often wonder what we could have done or been? If all of us had had the opportunity or been of a culture that thought all women were the most treasured and special people there are? Sure, we have all accomplished so many things in different ways. But when it comes to that one phrase, formal education, I can’t think of anything better in life to start a girl on her way.
Sue Lamoreaux is a seasonal resident of Edgartown and lives the rest of the year in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. She is an occasional contributor to the Gazette’s editorial pages.